I’m going to be upfront with you guys. I’ve never played Halo. Putting me at the steering wheel of any sort of shooter game goes about as well as I imagine giving me a real gun would (read: poorly.)
But that doesn’t mean I can’t spot a badass female character when I see one.
Tales of Dr. Halsey’s greatness and not-so-greatness transcended the gaming realms and made me pop my head out of my safe, little Nintendo hole where we use magic and plain, old fisticuffs to solve our problems and try something new.
Originally, this article was supposed to be about Master Chief’s spunky A.I., Cortana, but as I quickly learned, you can’t talk about Cortana without talking about Dr. Halsey, so I thought it perhaps better to highlight the woman behind the blue, transparent, cyber-woman.
So here we go.
Name: Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey, MD, PhD (recognize the credentials, y’all)
“My work saved the human race”
– Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey
Game: The Halo series
Occupation: Chief scientist for the Office of Naval Intelligence, though she did at one point defect to the Covenant
Personality: Dr. Halsey is brilliant, unbelievably so, but that doesn’t mean she always has the best judgement. She has an IQ of over 200, but even that can’t always stop her emotions from affecting her decisions.
She harbors great loyalty and respect for her Spartans and her colleagues, but prefers the company of A.I.’s over anyone else (although she doesn’t always like that they overpower her intellectually). Although she demands absolute respect and obedience from the Spartans, she also calls all of them exclusively by their given names as opposed to their rank or Spartan tags and could tell who was who from really small details, such as their posture, even from underneath their MJOLNIR armor.
She also hates losing, evidenced by her frustration at not being smarter than the A.I.’s and her refusal to back down when she wasn’t allowed to communicate outside of the shield world when they were on Onyx.
Her guilt over the SPARTAN-II project follows her throughout her life and even leads her to completely change her world view, deciding that she cares more about what happens to her Spartans than mankind as a whole, which completely contradicts the entire basis for which the SPARTAN-II project was developed.
Because Cortana is developed from a copy of Dr. Halsey’s brain, a lot of her personality and mannerisms become clear in Cortana, such as their great fondness for John-117 and their confidence and smugness in their own intelligence.
Dr. Halsey becomes so easily engulfed in her work that she’ll often make a pot of coffee and forget about it until it’s long since gone cold and just resigns herself to drinking it that way. For this very same reason, her office tends to be very messy and unorganized.
Accomplishments: Creating and heading the SPARTAN-II program, developing and creating smart A.I.’s, overseeing the development of the MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor
Why she rocks:
Dr. Halsey showed exceptional intelligence ever since she was a little girl and has ever since. When she was young, she was sent to an elite academy for the gifted children of Endymion. When she was fifteen, she was already working on not her first, but second Doctoral Thesis and she supervised the creation of third-generation Smart artificial intelligences. By the time she was 18, she had been recruited onto Reach as a civilian consultant.
I could go on and on about her credentials, but one of the most important things she boasts to her name is the creation and launch of the SPARTAN-II project as well as designing the MJOLNIR armor system. The development of these technologies more or less ensured the survival of mankind.
Now, this isn’t to say that she’s infallible. In order for the SPARTAN-II project to take off and to raise the next generation of supersoldiers, she had to abduct dozens of children from their homes and put them through rigorous training. That’s pretty messed up.
She also fakes her own death, hijacks a ship, and kidnaps one of her Spartans in order to go to Onyx and hide in a pseudo-bunker to wait out the rest of the war in safety. Yikes.
But the fact that she’s a flawed character doesn’t mean she’s a bad one.
The fact that she took these children and sent them down the path to war causes her tremendous guilt throughout her lifetime. She feels great sorrow for having sent them into these battles and experiences immense grief when they die. She’s unable to see their deaths as “necessary sacrifices” for the cause, as she had to justify the kidnapping of the children in order to start the SPARTAN-II project.
Also an important aspect of Halsey’s character is how her outlook changes as time goes on. She goes from doing what she believes she has to do for the greater good of humanity to doing whatever it takes to protect her Spartans and save as many lives as possible without causing bloodshed.
Though this can be seen as a selfish decision, it shows a lot of growth in Dr. Halsey, who, earlier in her life, would abandon her own daughter for her work. Even if the character seems to move even farther away from what we’d classify as a “hero”, it’s a lot better than a character staying stagnant the whole time.
And speaking of, Dr. Halsey, just like everyone else, is subject to the age-old concept of age. She doesn’t remain young and beautiful throughout the series, she grays and she wrinkles and the progression of years shows in her. Sometimes people are reluctant to let their characters, especially female ones, show their age because that might drain some of their sex appeal and make them a less likable character, but to me, it just makes them more human and more relatable.
She also becomes disabled following a mission on which Requiem is destroyed, losing her left arm. I applaud the creators of Halo for being able to show that no one is safe from war, not even women.
Why you should play her game:
Halo is widely seen as one of the best video games series of all time. And even if you can’t stand first-person shooters and are awful at them (read: author), the storyline is super cool and complex and fun.
And it’s set in space.
Why we’re glad she’s out here reppin’ for the ladies:
My tiny, shriveled black hole of a heart grows three heart containers whenever a woman is responsible for the creation of something on which a game’s entire storyline pivots. Bonus points if it causes some mayhem and she has to deal with it emotionally.
You know those iconic suits of armor that Halo is known for? The important main characters who wear said suits and parade around in them going “pew, pew” with their lasers? Stamp all of that with “Property of Dr. C. E. Halsey, circa 2511″, baby, because that’s all hers.
There are enough old, white genius dudes with a chip on their shoulder dealing with the death and destruction caused by their inventions in video games and it’s rad to see a woman at the helm of all the angst instead, especially in a game this huge.
It’s always cool to see a female genius used in any game and it’s extra fun when she has the “married to her work” trope attached to her. So many people still believe that women are supposed to drop everything and take on the “mother” role when they have a child and to see a character who just can’t make herself leave her work, even for her own flesh and blood, is awesome.
Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey is a genius, but she’s also subject to her emotions and has to deal with the consequences of the choices she makes.
Dr. Halsey presumably got her name from a character with the same name, Catherine Halsey, in a 1943 novel called The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Ironically, the two characters are complete opposites in how they see the world by the end of their stories. Rand’s Catherine grew to become an altruist by the end, wanting to do what was best for the greater good of the majority, while Halo’s Dr. Halsey, who initially had this way of thinking, grew to only care about what happened to her Spartans and the people she cared about, regardless of what it could mean for the rest of humanity.
Hope you guys enjoyed this chapter of Another Castle and please remember to comment down below a character you want me to talk about next! Please? For me?
Another Castle will update weekly, which is just enough time to play all the games your new favorite character is featured in (you’ll be fine if you don’t sleep).