The event was this: the release of Black Mesa. Otherwise known as a mod for a fifteen-year-old game. Otherwise known as a free mod, eight years in production, for a fifteen-year-old PC game. Half-Life to be exact. And people were excited. Good golly.
Quite how widespread the build-up was for this release is reflected by the main headline it earned earlier this month on the BBC News website, under their technology section. Now, take the time to re-read that previous paragraph in order that you can fully consider how wonderful this all is.
Naturally, it would be foolish to speculate over the motives or emotions involved in the publication of such a piece, but it demonstrates the prevalence of Half-Life as a memory in the minds of gamers in allowing it this sort of treatment, so many years on. Whether it was a slow news day at the Beeb or a news editor with a Valve-shaped heart, somebody thought it worth mentioning. My feelings are very much the same.
But what I don't intend to do here is simply congratulate the team on their successes - however deserved - or even explain to people why they should pick the mod up. Rightfully, no one needs any further recommendation beyond the following dialogue (and feel free to redistribute this in any way you like):-
Hello Sir/Madam. Do you like Half-Life? Perfect. In light of your assumed emphatic assertion, please head here.
No, I want this to be something more than a good job well done. It's an extraordinary achievement, yes, and I think there needs to be some lasting purpose beyond that.
So, my question is this: how do we maintain this success? From the Twitter buzz to the post-release reviews and the impressive national news coverage - how do we keep the ball rolling? And, along with all that, how do we break the trends that tie this broad genre to sloppy rehashings of already rehashed ideas? We've beaten World War II only to have our shores invaded by hordes of thick-necked future soldiers and, as they fall, a thousand zombie apocalypses rise in their place. I say, enough already.
This recent release should signal a revision - or a refresher at least - of what standards we should expect of our first/third person action/adventure games from this point onwards.
Black Mesa shows us, fifteen years on, exactly what can be achieved and what the future of video gaming can deliver. But we are that future. So we can leave the dumbed down and derivative behind now. We don't even need the distraction tactics of a playground sandbox to have a good time. We just want invention and evolution - all the entertainment that all the talent in the industry has to offer.
Or, in plainer terms, when the hell do I get to play Half-Life 3?