Cognitive Dissonance and Half Life 3

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posted 8/16/2012 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
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Earlier this week a rumor surfaced that Valve was going to be showing off Half Life 3 at GamesCom .  These rumors pop-up around every major convention but this one seemed a bit more credible as the information was printed in somewhat official materials created by the folks behind the show. 

Upon reading this, I immediately felt an intense wave of cognitive dissonance.   Simply Psychology defines  Cognitive Dissonance as

“A situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance etc.”

In this case my desire to finally have Valve finish the plotlines of Half Life 2 Episode 1 and 2 is in conflict with the knowledge that this rumor is probably a fake and that we probably aren’t going to see any more adventures from Gordon Freeman anytime soon. 

In this case, the second feeling was right as the rumor were quickly shot down by Valve and while no one knows how that material made it into the GamesCom materials all we know is that there still isn’t  officially a new Half Life game in development.

The problem with this is that cognitive dissonance isn’t a good feeling; it’s actually a rather bad one as our minds begin to change our perceptions to resolve the dissonance.  The classic example is that while a smoker may know that smoking is bad for them, they will keep smoking with the thought that they might not develop lung cancer or any of the other illnesses from the disease. I'm not insinuating that not announcing Half Life 3 is as bad as smoking, but the concept is spot on.

In this case the happy thoughts about what will probably be a great game are now being offset by the negativity with the deafening silence from Valve about the future of the series. It has altered how I feel about the game. For me, the best example of this is that up until three years ago I had a yearly habit of replaying all of the Half Life 2 games back to back to back over the summer.


I stopped that a few years ago because playing the game was a reminder that Valve still doesn’t appear to be making any progress on finishing the game. Reaching that cliff hanger ending of Episode 2 reinforced that we haven’t seen any progress in closing that loop since it was released almost five years ago.  There’s still a part of me that wants to go back and experience the game again, but it’s hard to get excited about committing the 12-18 hours that a play through requires when you know that it just ends in frustration.

Our hardware editor, John Yan, has a theory that Valve is going to release the next Half Life game with the new version of the Source engine.  I tend to agree with theory as there’s no better way to market an engine than with a signature game.  With a new console generation right around the corner though, it doesn’t make sense to release that engine ahead of time so if you buy into that theory then we’re looking at least the end of next year before we would see the game.

There are other theories out there including ones that Valve just doesn’t care about the franchise anymore and no one is actively working on the game.  Valve’s lack of a company hierarchy means that people work on the projects they want to work on and there’s definitely a possibility that no one wants to work on a new Half Life game or not enough people want to work on it to get anything done.  Keep in mind Valve has their hands full with updates and maintain Steam along with all of their work on the Left 4 Dead games, Team Fortress 2, DoTA2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.  Personally, I find that one hard to believe but sometimes the crazy theories just make sense.

Of course, these are nothing more than theories and  the truth is probably lies somewhere in between.  Most of this angst will be forgotten when and if the game is released, but honestly I struggle to get excited about the possibility of the game anymore.   As someone who holds Half Life 2 up there as their favorite game of all time, this is a bit frustrating.  I’m not sure I’m as angry about the issue as Jim Sterling was a few months ago, mostly because my mind has forced me to stop caring about the game, which is kind of sad when you think about it.



* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.



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