No, no, no, no, no… of all the gaming news I didn’t want, this ranks at the top of the list. After promising on MULTIPLE occasions that split-screen co-op would make its’ long-awaited return to the franchise in Halo Infinite, 343 Studios finally confirmed the worst… after multiple delays, they are finally throwing in the towel. The split-screen co-op mode that has defined the Halo series over the years has been cancelled, an unfortunate victim of the massive scope of Halo Infinite’s open-world experience. I suppose I would be a bit more understanding if they hadn’t, you know, GUARANTEED us multiple times that they had learned from their mistake with Halo 5 and would NEVER ship a future Halo game without split-screen co-op again. Even after the game shipped this fall without this promised feature, I maintained hope that this was merely a setback… mostly because they TOLD us that it was still coming. The original target date of May came and went without any progress… but like the loyal Halo fanboy that I am, I kept the faith. I fully believed that 343 studios would finally deliver what I had been waiting for… the mode I had been promised. The mode I had patiently waited for, and the reason I have held off playing ANY part of the campaign for the last nine months. And just like that, my long wait is over… and I have nothing to show for it but a bunch of wasted time, dashed hopes, and disappointment.
The funny thing is that I am not mad… I am just disappointed. If 343 studios had simply been up front with us and said that the project was too big and the scale too complex to ever include split-screen play, I would have accepted it. And I certainly wouldn’t have waited all of this time to play it if I had known that my desired method of playing was never going to happen. To be fair, they confirmed that they are still working on an online co-op mode with a targeted release for November, but at this point my confidence in that commitment is non-existent… plus, that is still a poor substitute for the couch co-op mode I was promised. And now that I know that there will NEVER be a time in which I will sit down on the couch with the co-op partner of my choice and enjoy Halo Infinite in the way I had anticipated, I have a decision to make. Do I still want to play this game that has disappointed me so thoroughly even though I haven’t even started the campaign yet? I have played EVERY Halo experience since the beginning… will I allow this news to finally break my loyalty once and for all? Will this finally be the Halo campaign that I skip because I am too bitter to enjoy the rest of the experience?
Dealing with the disappointment that accompanies dashed hopes is never easy… but it is worse when it comes from a trusted source that was expected to bring comfort. As a life-long gamer, I am accustomed to being disappointed in the games I play in a variety of ways, and this is not the first time I was promised an experience in a title that didn’t make the final cut once it was released. But the reason this one is hitting me harder is because of where it came from… from my beloved and trusted Halo series. From the original release twenty years ago until now, Halo has been a place that has introduced me to some of my dearest friends, provided a place of refuge during some of my darkest periods in life, and to this very day is still something that I jump back into like a warm blanket on a cold winter day for its’ comfortable and familiar gameplay. It was a place I thought I could trust, and this betrayal cut me deeper than most games that over-promise and under-deliver because Halo really hasn’t let me down in this manner before… until now.
As a follower of Christ, I am well aware that I have chosen a path that is going to be filled with trials, tribulations, and setbacks (John 16:33). But I typically expect those battles to come from a place of opposition, not from an area that I expected to provide comfort and safety. “Friendly fire” is the most bitter of all damage to take, because the hurt comes from a place where we have let our guard down… a position where we had planned to heal and enjoy a brief respite from the war waging on the outside. David said it best as he bitterly reflected on his own “friendly fire moment”… a verse that also predicted the pain Christ would feel when He was betrayed by one of His own many years later…
Psalm 41:9 Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
Psalm 55:12-14 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together and walked to the house of God in the throng.
We all have these dark places where we have felt the burning pain of betrayal, and sadly for many of us it came from a place we should have been able to trust. This pocket of pain may be something we have learned to cope with, but whether it came from family, friends, relationships, spiritual leaders, or even fellow believers the damage that was done can often find a place of permanence that gets buried deep underneath the surface… a place the Bible calls a “root of bitterness”.
Hebrews 12:14-15 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.
These “roots of bitterness” may come from different places for each of us, but the result from each of them is the same. The seeds from these disappointments often get pushed down and become buried deep beneath the surface of our psyche, and we may even fool ourselves into believing that they have been dealt with because we don’t see them externally. But that is because these seeds found a place to hide and thrive underground, growing into a root of bitterness that secretly saps our strength and infects our fruit until we allow the Lord to reach deep down into the root cause of the problem and remove it.
Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Psalm 55:22 Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.
Many of the places in life that I thought represented safety and protection turned out to be traumatic experiences in disguise, and the most bitter moments of my life have typically come from these moments in which someone I thought I could trust turned out to be unworthy of that trust. And while I thought I had healed and moved on from these experiences over the years, I have found that there are pockets of mistrust in my life that I haven’t fully dealt with… roots of bitterness that produce sour, acidic fruit. The more I trusted the source of my pain, the deeper that seed got planted. I would disguise my disappointment with humor, sarcasm, or deflection because the roots of the pain ran deeper than I was prepared to dig. And like my disappointing Halo experience, I found myself prepared to simply withdraw from the battle because I felt like the only way to win was not to play. So… what do we do with all these sour seeds and bitter roots that have grown alongside us for weeks, months, and even years? How do we move forward from these places of pain without betraying our very real feelings of disappointment and hurt?
When life gives us lemons, the answer is not to make lemonade… the answer is to bring those lemons to Christ and let Him remove those seeds of disappointment before they become roots of bitterness that infect our lives and generate even more sour fruit. When we tell Jesus about our friends betraying us, He knows all too well what that feels like (Luke 22). When we complain to Him that the spiritual leaders that we thought we could trust abused us, He has endured that pain as well (Matthew 26:67). When our family doesn’t support us the way we felt that they should have, He can absolutely relate to that, too (John 7:5). Allowing these bitter seeds to fester without dealing with them will only leave a sour aftertaste to the fruits we generate… and trying to solve them on their own is an exercise in futility. Only the Good Physician can reach deep down into the roots of our pain, remove the source, and replace it with His peace… allowing us to generate fruit that is free of the poison of our past hurts.
Halo Infinite has let me down… but I am not going to allow this disappointment to steal my joy that I have had with this series or prevent me from participating in the new campaign, even if it is not going to be in the manner I had anticipated. And in our lives, the only way to prevent our past traumas from infecting our future with bitterness is to bring them to Christ so He can give us beauty for our ashes. We don’t have to allow these roots of bitterness to cloud our present or sour our future… these painful and unwanted experiences do not have the power to define us unless we allow them to. Let’s exchange these bitter roots for His peace that passes all understanding today… we can still finish this fight, and we can do it with a joy that only comes from surrendering them to the Lord who truly understands.
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