Games That Made a Difference | Week 1 | Half-Life

February 8, 2019
Games That Made a Difference | Week 1 | Half-Life
Image source: Half-Life Steam page

Games that made a difference is a weekly series on GameBuz about games that, well, made a difference. These games made an impact in one way or another, storytelling, mechanics or real life influences. Stay tuned to your favorite mobile games news site for more.

Half-Life (1998)

Half-Life was quickly mentioned in week 1 of The lost art of modding and even then we talked about how influential it was. Today we take a closer look at the things that truly made the game stand out and make it an unforgettable title.

As Valve president Gabe Newell stated in an interview for The Cambridge Student:

"Our hope was that building worlds and characters would be more compelling than building shooting galleries".

Story Telling

Image source: Steam Store

You take control of Dr. Gordon Freeman and the entirety of the game is played through his eyes. The game doesn’t break immersion with cutscenes or text boxes and Gordon never speaks. You also never lose control of him, you can continue moving around when someone is talking to you.

This also brings us to how the story is actually told. There are no books for you to read nor does the game throw information at you constantly. You learn about what's happening and what you need to do from the many guards and scientists you encounter. Just by listening to the NPCs around you, bit by bit, you will get the idea of what's happening and what must be done. It makes sure that you know you’re not the only person in the world and that there are things happening you don’t see and aren’t involved in.

The Character

Image source: Half-Life Wiki

The strong and silent type, Gordon Freeman is one of the best-known video game characters in the world. Instead of being told you’re a super soldier or space marine or a special agent, you’re just a scientist. You have no combat training, your job isn’t to kill stuff, this is reflected in the fact that your first weapon is the now iconic crowbar.

The game even begins with you on a train arriving at your new job, just another day. Then, obviously, things go south and all of a sudden you have to fend for your life. It’s not a power fantasy, it’s an action horror game and it pulls you in.

Developer Support

Image source: Black Mesa offical Facebook page

Half-Life was expected to make 180.000 sales during its lifetime, it was even budgeted according to it. To the surprise of many, it took and held top 10 positions during the next 2 to 3 years. By 2008, 9.3 million retail copies were sold, only 9.2 million more than Gabe estimated they would sell.

This was widely credited to Valves support of modders and the community that was built around their game. Valve released a development kit and with it Team Fortress Classic and Deathmatch Classic as a way to promote it. The people loved it and developed games such as Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Natural Selection, The Specialists, Pirates, Vikings and Knights and more.

Besides the great mods, it received 3 expansions, a sequel with an additional 2 episodes after it, a port to the new Source engine and a 3rd party remake approved by Valve.


Half-Life was a breath of fresh air when it released. It brought new things to the table and took storytelling to a different level. It focused on immersion and not taking control away from the players. Not only did it not take control away, it gave players control of everything with the level editor and development kit.

20 years later, Half-Life has a huge legacy. It influenced modding and encouraged developers to allow their fanbase to tinker with games. Brought a new storytelling form to the table and gave gamers an unforgettable experience through it. It built the foundation for 2 of the most recognizable games today.

Half-Life truly did make a difference and we can still see its influence today.