Half Life 2’s Cut Content

I’ve been phoning the content in for a couple days, and I apologize for that–yesterday I was hiking and today I spent most of my time watching The Dark Knight Rises (expect opinions on this tomorrow).

Anyway, this is a short bit linking you to this excellent piece by Joe Martin over at RPS about the cut content of Half Life 2. To be honest, I have never liked the game itself–it is boring to me–but I really respect the vision and design that obviously goes into every little bit of the game. Martin’s article explores a mod of HL 2 called “Missing Information” that restores quite a bit of cut content from the game. This includes environments, guns, enemy types, and mechanics that were left out of the final game because they didn’t fit the narrative or ultimate design style of the game. At the end of the article, Martin writes:

 [Missing Information is] more like a graveyard full of ideas there’s no point pining over. All that time I spent pondering what the game might have been like has been a waste, because the value isn’t in the ideas themselves – it’s the refinement of them.

Guiltily, I thumb open my copy of Raising The Bar and take a fresh look at what lays inside. A quote from Gabe Newell’s foreword immediately pops out: “It doesn’t matter what we cut, so long as we cut it and it gives us the time to focus on other things, because any of the options will be bad unless they’re finished, and any of them will be good if they are finished.”

And this makes me think about Kristeva’s notion of abjection (also I had several long conversations yesterday about it, so that might be involved.) I’ve touched on this before, but at the root I think there is something interesting about what is included in a game and what has to be sacrificed, kept out; Kristeva writes that abjection makes life liveable, and so I imagine that abjection makes games playable. The multitude of cut content in HL2 had to be created and then eliminated from memory–as much as possible–in order for the “true” game of HL2 to exist.

I think there is something to that.

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