Welcome to Symbolism Saturday! For anyone new to Symbolism Saturday, this is a bi-monthly Saturday special that I originally started sharing on Instagram and Twitter. In these posts, I highlight an example of symbolism in pop culture in a bite-sized exploration. Today, we’re taking a look at a symbol from the game Half-Life.
What is Symbolism, You Ask?
In a nutshell, symbolism is a literary device where the author of a creative work (like books, video games, and cartoons) uses an object (like a bird, necklace, color, or, occasionally, person) to represent a complex or abstract feeling or idea (like peace, loneliness, death, or, occasionally, a person). If you want to know more, I have a post taking an in-depth look at symbolism and Over the Garden Wall.
In the first person shooter Half-Life, the player plays as scientist Dr. Freeman as he battles his way through an apocalyptic scenario brought on by a failed lab experiment a powerful organization. His starting weapon (and often most useful weapon) is his trusty crowbar, though he does receive other weapons and gadgets throughout the game. There are other key moments where the crowbar is the only useable tool in the game as well. Starting out with a crowbar may be more than just a game mechanic.
Crowbars are something common, something that most people have. As far as weaponizing one, it doesn’t take someone with a lot of practice to wield, anyone with enough strength (and possibly courage) could use a crowbar to fend off head-eating aliens. This starting weapon signals that anyone could be saving the world, not just this scientist. It just so happens to be Dr. Freeman saving the day this time around.
Dr. Freeman’s use of this weapon also serves a world-building purpose. It shows that in this dire situation, anything close-at-hand needs to be used for survival. In the fight against crazed alien insects, no tool is expendable.
If you enjoyed this Symbolism Saturday post, be sure to stop by for a new one every other Saturday. Do you have a favorite example of symolism in pop culture? Be sure to share it in the comments! You can also connect on Twitter at @Popliterary, or send a message on the “contact me” page.
And as always, if you have a literary device you want to know more about, or a game, comic, show, or movie that you want to see make an appearance on the blog, leave a shout-out in the comments!