At 343, we’re blessed to be able to come to work each day ready to play in one of the greatest toyboxes around. From creating new story elements and fleshing out characters, weapons, and worlds, to exploring the finer details of sandbox balancing and gameplay gymnastics, getting to call Halo a career is incredible in its own right. That being said, I’d be lying if I said that really any of those aforementioned attributes took the top honors as my “favorite thing” about working at a place like this. No, I think that podium spot is likely reserved for moments like we got to experience last week, where all of a sudden the real impact of what we do comes to light.
Our incredible long-time friends and partners at the Make a Wish foundation had recently let us know about a particularly awesome young fan named Nathan, who desired nothing more than to be able to hang out for a day with some of the folks who make his favorite games. I actually had the extreme honor of skyping in on the big screen of his local Utah-based Microsoft Store a few months ago to let him know “in-person” that his wish was being granted. Last week, Nathan and his amazing family (Mom, Dad, Nathan, and four siblings – math I can personally relate to!) joined us for a day that none of us will soon forget.
It kicked off at the Bellevue MS Store early in the morning, where a couple of Spartans from the 405th, a diamond-armored Minecraft character, a Campbell-cosplayed Cortana, and a nearly 7-foot-tall Master Chief (featuring the debut of an unbelievable new suit made by prop-master Phil Shinner) stood alongside a big contingent of Microsoft, Xbox, 343, Minecraft (and more) staff to welcome Nathan and his family for a fun donut and gameplay-filled morning. Later that morning, Nathan and crew made their way out to the studio for a day that featured learning to code with our friends upstairs at Minecraft, getting the lowdown on franchise history and universe details in the Halo museum, cake and ice cream homemade by 343 staff, a behind the scenes look at toy development, tips on how to stream and create content, and building a custom Forge map called "Central Point" with MP designers - which you can bookmark and play for yourself online.
We actually even held a legit BTB playtest session on the map (not gonna lie – it was pretty great right out of the box) with Nathan’s family and a host of 343 staff, a playtest that literally culminated in an epic 100-99 slayer match where Nathan got taken out by his own mom FTW. You can’t make this stuff up.
Needless to say, by the time Nathan and crew departed late that afternoon, we had all formed a pretty special bond with a pretty amazing family of fans. It was another reminder of what Halo is really about. Moments that make memories and a universe that forges relationships, and it’s an incredible honor to be even a small part of that process.