Half-Life (video game)

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Video game fandom
Developer(s)Valve Corporation
Release date1998 - present
Genre(s)first-person shooter
External link(s)Official Half-Life Website
Related articles on Fanlore.

Half-Life is a series of first-person shooter (FPS) video games developed by Valve Corporation, with the first game being released in 1998. The series primarily follows the story of Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist who survives an experiment gone wrong and must save himself and others from various hostile alien threats.

All Valve-produced installments of the series have been met with critical and commercial success, with the first game being widely regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time. The series has gained a large fanbase, who have been responsible for creating many high-profile transformative works.


As of December 2022, there are five installments in the Half-Life series developed by Valve:

  • Half-Life (1998)
  • Half-Life 2 (2004)
  • Half-Life 2: Episode One (2006)
  • Half-Life 2: Episode Two (2007)
  • Half-Life Alyx (2020)

There have also been three spinoff expansions to the original Half-Life developed by Gearbox Software:

  • Half-Life: Opposing Force (1999)
  • Half-Life: Blue Shift (2001)
  • Half-Life: Decay (2001)


In Half-Life, the player controls Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist working at the Black Mesa Research Facility. An experiment with extradimensional crystals causes a "Resonance Cascade", opening a rift between Earth's dimension and a borderworld called Xen, from which hostile aliens teleport in and wreak havoc. Gordon travels through the facility and eventually into Xen to close the rift, ultimately succeeding. Gordon is then greeted by a nameless man (called "G-Man" in the game files) who puts him into stasis.

Half-Life 2 takes place approximately twenty years after the first game. Gordon awakens from stasis and arrives on an Earth ruled over by an oppressive alien empire known as the Combine. He joins a resistance led by former Black Mesa employees and one scientist's daughter, Alyx Vance, and proceeds to fight back against the Combine. Episodes One and Two continue this story.

Half-Life Alyx is the only mainline Half-Life game to not feature Gordon Freeman as a protagonist; its player character is Alyx Vance. In this game, set five years before Half-Life 2, Alyx is tasked with saving her father from the Combine, and stealing a mysterious secret weapon before the Combine have a chance to use it.

One of the other Valve series, Portal, is canonically in the same universe as Half-Life.[1] In canon, Black Mesa and Aperture Science are rivals. In Portal, Black Mesa is referenced as an easter egg in a presentation room of Aperture Science, and is also referenced in GLaDOS's song "Still Alive" during the end credits. In Half-Life 2: Episode 2, the Aperture Science logo is displayed on the side of a research vessel. Outside of these references, the two games do not directly interact with one another, though fans have made many theories about them.


  • Gordon Freeman: the main protagonist of the series.
  • Alyx Vance: a prominent NPC throughout Half-Life 2 and its episodes, and the main protagonist of Half-Life Alyx.
  • Eli Vance: A former Black Mesa scientist, leader of the Resistance against the Combine, and father of Alyx Vance.
  • Barney Calhoun: A former Black Mesa security guard and undercover member of the Resistance. He is the protagonist of Half-Life: Blue Shift.
  • Adrian Shephard: a member of the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit (HECU), a military task force sent to Black Mesa to kill everything there as part of a cover-up. Shepard is the protagonist of Half-Life: Opposing Force.
  • Isaac Kleiner: A former Black Mesa scientist and member of the Resistance. He has a pet headcrab named Lamarr.
  • Wallace Breen: The former administrator of Black Mesa and puppet leader of the Combine-occupied Earth. Serves an antagonistic role in Half-Life 2.
  • The G-Man: a mysterious entity which resembles a human man in a suit. He has no official name, with his nickname of "G-Man" coming from his designation in the game files of Half-Life.


The Half-Life fandom has existed in some form since the first game's release, given its instant popularity and widespread acclaim. It exists on a wide variety of platforms, ranging from YouTube and Tumblr to Steam forums.

The content created by the fandom varies wildly in medium and scope, from fic, art, and theories to machinimas, mods, and entire fan games based around the series. Some of these transformative works are viewed or played by remarkably large audiences, with some fan games getting attention from mainstream gaming news outlets.

As with many other Valve franchises, Half-Life has made its mark on meme culture, and some memes, such as "Half-Life 3 Confirmed" (referencing the near-mythical status of the cancelled Half-Life 2: Episode Three and poking fun at often-ludicrous fan theories surrounding its rumored release)[2] have become widely recognizable throughout the gaming community.

The modding community for Half-Life has been active since the first game's release, and has been credited with keeping interest in the game alive long after similar games fell to the wayside. Some mods eventually became full-fledged games in their own right; perhaps the ur-example of an ascended mod is Half-Life: Counter-Strike, which was acquired by Valve and was the genesis of the Counter-Strike series of games.[3] To this day, fan-made mods for all Half-Life games continue to be produced.


Like any fandom, Half-Life fans have created content for a variety of ships. They include, but are not limited to:


A prominent trope in Half-Life fanworks is muteness or selective muteness, particularly for the character of Gordon Freeman. Gordon is a silent protagonist, and appears to be canonically mute. Many fanworks keep their version of Gordon mute as well; some have him use sign language to communicate with others.

As Half-Life and Portal take place in the same universe, crossovers between the two series are common.

Example Fanworks

Fan Series

  • Freeman's Mind is a machinima series created by Ross Scott (Accursed Farms) that ran from 2007 to 2014. Shot in the Source remake of the original Half-Life, it gives Gordon an inner monologue and turns his blank-slate personality into a self-aggrandizing and neurotic one. A sequel series centered on Gordon's adventures in Half-Life 2 is currently airing.
  • Gorgeous Freeman is a machinima series (shot in Garry's Mod) created by Antoine Delak that ran from 2015 to 2018, lasting only three episodes. It is notable for its off-the-wall and vulgar humor.
  • Half Life VR but the AI is Self-Aware is a machinima/roleplay series that uses improv to tell a story within a playthrough of a heavily modified version of the original Half-Life. This series has gained a significant fandom of its own, and transformative works based on it have come to dominate the Half-Life shipping scene.
  • Mind Machinima series are various series that followed after Freeman's Mind became more prominent in the rising machinima scene, most of them being filmed in various Half-Life titles and mods. A few examples include Barney's Mind, Shepards's Mind, and the now-deleted Felix's Mind. Despite the machinima genre seeming like it has died off as of recent, new series are still being made such as Stark's mind.
  • Half-Life Full Mind Awareness is a machinima/roleplay following Gordon's various fan-made brothers. Such brothers include Felix Freeman from the Mind machinima Felix's Mind, John Freeman from the infamous fanfiction and Garry's Mod parody Full Life Consequences and Wyatt Freeman, who was briefly mentioned in Half-Life VR but the AI is Self-Aware.

Fan Games

  • Black Mesa is a fan-made remake of the original Half-Life developed by the Crowbar Collective and fully released in 2020. The game is a mostly-faithful recreation of the original game in the Source engine, with updated level design, music, and graphics.
  • Hunt Down the Freeman is a fan game created by Royal Rudius Entertainment released in 2018. It focuses on an original character named Mitchell Shephard (the brother of Adrian Shephard), who seeks revenge on Gordon Freeman. The game was critically panned upon release and has been at the center of some controversy.
  • Project Borealis is an unreleased game based on former Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw's 2017 "Epistle 3" blog post, which is believed to be Laidlaw's original plan for Half-Life 2: Episode Three.[4]


Fan Fics

Fan Art



  2. ^ "Half-Life 3 Confirmed", on KnowYourMeme.
  3. ^ "Dust to Dust: The History of Counter-Strike". By Zorine Te, for Gamespot. May 26, 2014.
  4. ^ "Marc Laidlaw’s coded Half-Life ‘fanfic’ is probably the closest we’ll get to Half-Life 3". By Adi Robertson for The Verge. August 25, 2017.