Even though football may be over with the culmination of the Super Bowl last week, everyone has a new sport to look forward to, and you can be the star player! It began as a side joke on a popular web series called “Red versus Blue” but has grown into one of the most well-known community contributions to videogames. I am talking about “Grifball.” After making its way into “Halo 3” and “Reach,” it has recently been re-released into “Halo 4” multiplayer matchmaking with new and interesting twists.
The games origins come from an offhand joke in “Red versus Blue,” a machinema series produced by Rooster Teeth, about how killing a slapstick character (Grif) as he carried the bomb (grifball) into an opposing base (in a hair-brained scheme I won’t go into) was the perfect basis for a sport; thus the term “Grifball” was born. The game is simple: in a large rectangular court eight players armed with either large Gravity Hammers, or Energy Swords face off in four man teams with two simple objectives. First, get the ball and score on the opposite end of the court. Second, kill the carrier by any means possible.
“Halo 3” saw the implementation of customizable maps, known as Forge Mode. This allowed for the creation of the first Grifball courts, and thus the sport came to fruition. The game was invented by Burnie Burns, the owner of Rooster Teeth Productions and the creator of “Red versus Blue.” After traveling around the office, the game branched into the Rooster Teeth community and was then noticed by Bungie, who made Halo franchise. They thought that since there was a community of players for this game already, and it was created within the games engine that it would be a perfect game-type in multiplayer matchmaking. 343 has taken the reigns of the Halo franchise and facilitated the recent return of Grifball.
“Grifball” was an instant success and hosted a community of over eight million players to start. The community has easily translated to “Halo 4” and finding a match is no problem at all. “Grifball” is a great example of why video games are great in my opinion, not only was it created outside of the development studio, but it has maintained over three games and even between two studios. It just shows that games are flexible and creative play houses that are no longer bound to what was shipped. Games can change and evolve to include the community even after the game has been released. Some games that exemplify this are “Trials: Evolution,” “Halo,” “Little Big Planet” and “Minecraft.” All of these games have in-game creation engines that give a level of player control over game design.
Malleability is what separates these games from the last generation of games. A player has the ability to control his or her environment and make their own adventure, play by their own rules. The games of old were stagnant and were only changed by a sequel. Games today have community generated content, downloadable content, the ability to patch and still retain the ability to have a sequel if they make enough money.
In my own mind, “Grifball” and the implementation of Forge mode marks the real beginning of the current generation of games, or the new golden age. I would be disheartened if these controls were left out of the next generation of consoles.
By: Sean Burke