Three Gates

Or, Why is this called Three Gates?

Three Gates features in Halo 3’s eighth campaign level, The Covenant. It’s an inspiring song with three movements: 0:00-0:45 has the iconic Halo theme, piano only, then with drums; at 0:45, only the drums and strings remain; finally at 2:00Leonidas Returns, taken from Leonidas, a movement from Halo 2’s Delta Halo Suite, which itself featured in Halo CE’s On A Pale Horse (interestingly, the re-makeBehold A Pale Horse plays during the level before).

This song actually isn’t my favorite from the Halo 3 soundtrack. That privilege rests with One Final Effort, though Luck certainly gives that a close run for its money, if only because that song opens the game so well. But it’s important that I mention both the way these scores weave in and out of each other across the Halo trilogy to tell you about Three Gates.

Halo 3 was such a big influence on who I am today. The large scope of the trilogy, expanding across three (five, if you include ODST and Wars, and now seven with Halo 4 and 5) games and tons of books and animated shorts, showed me how much I love melodrama and dire situations. Master Chief’s entire narrative – in the first trilogy as a faceless soldier whose shoes I could step into, and then through the books, as a lucky unstoppable force – gave me a love for triumphant victories. In all of the fiction I consume, these two themes continue to define my favorites, and laid the seeds of my faith in Jesus Christ.

Later on, Halo 3 would give me my first taste of online friendships and the realness of digital interactions – now part of my job description.

One thing I never got to share with them was my passion for the story of Halo. I’ll borrow a few observations from the dead Halo blog, Ascendant Justice to illustrate. I recommend reading Hindsight Halo 3: The Covenant for a clearer picture, but in brief, The Covenant is the climax of the game. Master Chief and human forces assault 3 shield generators simultaneously. Disabling the shield generators allows them to reach Truth, the Covenant leader, who wants to fire the Halo array. If fired, all sentient life in the galaxy dies. Near the end, the Flood, for whom the Halo array was originally built to stop, team up with Master Chief to stop Truth.

While this level and the previous one parallel memorable moments from Halo CE (a sniper insertion and a beach assault), the story has shifted the context of these situations. This beach assault isn’t a desperate attack to regroup and survive. Rather, it’s a surgical strike, safely commanded from orbit by Miranda. It’s also not centered solely on Chief – he’s only one piece, and the other two shield generator assaults matter just as much.

It’s worth noting the grand narrative behind the level: at stake ending the human-Covenant war, which has killed billions and pushed humanity to the brink of extinction. Unfortunately, also at stake is stopping the Flood infection without the Halo arrays. The sentinel reveals a final plot twist: the Ark produces more Halo rings and must be destroyed. Finally Miranda’s death is symbolic; her father died resisting the Flood in Halo CE, and here she dies saving them.

Maybe you can see why I love this series so much. Story elements weave in and out of each other across games, just like the music does. But I digress: I want to return to the first part of the level. None of these grand things could happen without the successful triple attack on the three shield generators.

These are the Three Gates. Woefully insignificant – what are three shield generators to mass extinction? – yet crucial. None of these grand story elements can happen otherwise. Even the music reflects that. It could not exist without the iconic Halo theme symbolizing so much to so many people, nor without On a Pale Horse and the legend making of Halo CE. Yet, the music is necessary now, as you play the level, to fully immerse and experience Halo 3.

If you asked me on a different day why I named this blog Three Gates, I would tell you I was just looking for a cool, relevant name. Instead I get to make meaning of it, weaving in different pieces of my life, from grand to minute. I feel as though I have three gates too – parallel, simultaneous events that are terribly important but impossible to see. Only when I look back will I be able to see how critical they are to everything unfolding around me.

So, I wonder what my three gates are. I sense deeply that my 20s are when I will face them, though not at the climax of life. I hope that as I write, the gates will become clear and I will have passed through.