For a game that doesn’t even exist, Half-Life 3 has certainly gained a tremendous amount of popularity in mainstream culture. We’ve seen recent hype-trains like No Man’s Sky and prior to that, Grand Theft Auto V have a steamroll effect on the gaming industry, but none have quite created a shroud of anticipation and hype quite like Valve’s secretive, if not non-existent third installment in their groundbreaking Half-Life series. From being the talk of the industry to becoming one of the most popular memes on the internet, let’s take a look at how Half-Life 3 impacted the gaming industry as a whole (and in some regards, popular culture) in ways we’ve probably never considered.
Half-Life 3 began its journey into the mainstream conscience with Half-Life 2: Episode Two, a continuing series of episodes that count as sequels to the original Half-Life 2. Episode Two ended on a major (and quite shocking) cliffhanger that left fans begging for a resolution, but alas, Episode Three simply never came.
Developer Valve lead many to believe that the final episode would bring an abundance of answers to the questions we all had, and while whispers of a third and final episode in the works made its way online, there was no concrete proof to suggest that it would happen. Eventually, Episode Three somehow turned into Half-Life 3, the legendary mythical game we all love to turn into memes. While this hasn’t been officially addressed or confirmed by Valve, it certainly hasn’t been denied either by Valve co-founder Gabe Newell, which adds more intrigue to the mystery.
With each year that passed by, Half-Life 3 became the hush-hush talk of every major gaming expo and convention, with many hoping for an announcement or an inkling of news. However, over a decade later and dodgy responses from Newell, the game has coined the “Half-Life 3 Confirmed!” joke as a reminder that fans may finally one day see their dreams come true. However, this has also paved the way for a very crucial part of what makes the gaming industry and popular culture itself so undeniably great and flawed at the same time: expectations and the hype that follows.
Half-Life 3 has inadvertently created a culture of enthusiasts who proudly proclaim anticipated games before they’ve even been announced. The most recent example was Resident Evil 7, with the six-year gap between the sequels leading many to believe any horror title Capcom put out held some sort of cryptic clue for fans to decipher (fortunately, this came to fruition with the tech-demo Kitchen actually being Resident Evil 7). Among the others that fell to this hype-before-confirmation trend was The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and most famously, Shenmue III. With no announcement comes a set of expectations from fans that may break insurmountable levels of hype for developers to deliver upon, and it may as well be the case for Half-Life 3 too.
It’s clear that no one at Valve is willing to tackle the task of developing Half-Life 3, judging by the enormous expectations already set by fans. Perhaps Half-Life 3 was in development at one stage in the past, but with each delay came even more ridiculous false expectations of grandeur that would give even the most talented developer cold feet. This is brilliantly illustrated by Smosh Games’ Honest Game Trailer for Half-Life 3 which satirically included the game featuring 4D capabilities, a vibrating fleshlight that… massages you while you play, and the game being announced by Barrack Obama at a UN meeting. If expectations have proven one thing in popular culture, is that the unknown will inevitably become the target of speculation, some theories more crazier than others.
Yet, we’ve somehow come to appreciate the fandom surrounding Half-Life 3. While many fans are still distraught, there seems to be this light-hearted acceptance that they may never receive it, so why not have a little fun? Half-Life 3 has created a phenomenon without even trying, or should I rather say, even existing. If anything, the non-existence of this game has actually brought gamers together under one consensus. This is very rarely seen in any existing video game, where there doesn’t seem to be a great divide in opinion but rather an unanimous stand in demand and anticipation (and thankfully not taken to extreme measures like the whole death threat debacle of No Man’s Sky).
After all of this, I still have a little faith left in me to believe we may one day see Half-Life 3. Facing reality, it’s simply a game too far gone, crushed under the weight of its own enormous expectations. As much as it pains me to say, perhaps Half-Life 3 should never be confirmed so we can save ourselves the trouble of going to war with each others conflicting feelings. Rather, let’s appreciate the good that this has brought in an industry where everyone is divided over the most rudimentary things. All it took is one person to laugh and the world laughed too. A piece of me thinks GabeN is laughing along.