The Girl with the Halo Tattoo – By Kayla Garner

I’m often met with very surprised looks and strangled sounds of disbelief when I tell people that I had little to nothing to do with the guest selection for AVCON this year. Getting Steve Downes and Jen Taylor together is a magnificent achievement and when I think about it too long I get nervous shakes – like I’ve had too much coffee.

I understand people’s surprise though, my love for the Halo franchise is a significant part of my identity and most people know that because I have the symbol tattooed colourfully on my forearm for the world to see.

When meeting strangers it usually receives one of two reactions.

  1. “Is that a Halo tattoo? That’s awesome!”
  2. “That’s really pretty what does the symbol mean?”

My answer to the latter also receives one of two reactions

  1. “That’s really cool, I love the watercolour!”
  2. “Oh…” followed by an awkward comment

I would hazard a guess that a lot of people with video game or geek related tattoos experience similar conversations. Tattoos are already known to be a touchy topic and when you couple it with something that not everyone understands or appears, on the surface, meaningless it seems to go over a lot of people’s heads. When it happens to me I often don’t know how to explain better or I’m in a work situation which means the person moves on quite quickly. When given the time I often try to disperse the awkwardness by telling the person that it’s a connection to my family, which isn’t a lie, but it’s not the whole truth either, so I thought I might use the opportunity of our awesome new blog and the fact that we have the coolest guests this year to explain a bit about my decision and Halo’s impact on my life.

I didn’t own an xbox when it first came out. I was lucky I even owned the PS2 that I won in a Karaoke competition. By a luck draw I should add, not because of any inherent talent, but I digress.

It was actually my next door neighbour and best friend at the time that was lucky enough to get the brand new Xbox and a couple of the original games when we were about 10. We quickly determined Halo as our favourite because of its multiplayer capabilities. She was a lot better than I was and she quickly discovered ways of hiding behind spawn points and killing me as soon as I respawned, but I still found myself racing over there daily, and getting in trouble for trying to come over too early in the morning on weekends, just so we could play together. This continued for years and over generations of Xboxes and Halo games. She was a serial cut-scene skipper and we were both terrified of Hunters and the Flood, both of which seem much less scary when I play the games these days. Regardless, by the time my household got its first Xbox, Halo 3, Halo Wars and Halo 3 ODST were already well established and Halo Reach was on the horizon, but Halo had already had an incredible impact on my life.

    “I didn’t own an xbox when it first came out. I was lucky I even owned the PS2 that I won in a Karaoke competition. By a luck draw I should add, not because of any inherent talent, but I digress.”

Now is probably a good time to mention that half of my family – my father’s half, which includes my brother and sister on his side – live in Melbourne. Back in the 2000’s I used to see them for about 2 weeks every year, now I’m lucky to make it over there every 2 years for a couple of days, but on one visit in 2010 – I was about 17 – I arrived to find a shiny new Xbox 360 and a new family tradition of PWNING each other at Halo Reach multiplayer, which to this day I still think is one of the best Halo Games to date both in Campaign and Multiplayer. My best friend and I spent a lot of our time split-screening campaign so I was actually quite unfamiliar with the online multiplayer platform, but after an introduction to my siblings’ favourite game – Infection – I was hooked. We spent a solid 2 weeks playing almost every single day, once again there was always someone way better than me, and in this case it was my sister who was freakishly good with a shotgun. On one of my last days over there my brother comes to the lounge room and hands me my very own copy of Halo Reach, if my memory serves me correctly it was one of the first Halo games I ever actually owned. Suddenly I didn’t feel as far away from them, we could play infection and slayer and talk to each other all the time, which we continued to do, though admittedly less frequently up to when I was about 20.

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Now all this isn’t even to mention my senior years of High school where I introduced my Boyfriend to it and he would stay up all night trying to finish Halo 3 on Legendary, and when we found out our collective best friend had Halo Reach and we would all lay in bed playing and learning how to make custom games.

To this day, with the semi-recent release of Halo 5 and the recent release of Halo Wars 2 it’s a completely normal occurrence to have people over with some beer while we try to smash achievements or play warzone. It even connected me to my AVCON family during the 2016 twitch streams, even though we often played it just because it was a game that everyone had (and had remembered to update).

    “You don’t have to know everything there is to know about something, you don’t have to rank or be the best of the best, You don’t have to have played a game or watched a series from the very first instalment…”

Admittedly it’s always been the campaign story and the time I can spend with my friends and family that has been the pull for me, I can recite Halo lore to you all day every day but I’ve never been much of competitive player, and though the frequency at which I used to play did make me relatively good you may have noticed the trend in my story where there is always someone who is better at the game than me. Some people might say this means I’m not necessarily a true fan, but I think sometimes people get too judgmental about what a true fan really is.

You don’t have to know everything there is to know about something, you don’t have to rank or be the best of the best, You don’t have to have played a game or watched a series from the very first instalment, you don’t have to like the originals, you don’t have to read all of the books, you don’t have to collect all the collectables, you don’t have to know that that soundbyte you hear for 3 seconds in that one part is actually the creators voice only reversed and slowed down and strained through a million audio effects. You don’t have to have any of that for something to have had a significant impact on your life. You just have to know that you love something and remember that that connects you with millions of people around the world. That’s the beauty of our culture. That’s the beauty of events like AVCON.

Halo has shaped my life and connected me with friends, family and other fans for 15 years. This year during the 15th year of Halo and the 15th Birthday of AVCON I get to meet two people who are literally childhood heroes of mine and I couldn’t be more excited. I am so proud to be part of AVCON, and I will be proud of my Halo tattoo for the rest of my life, no matter how many awkward conversations arise in my nursing home when it looks more like a wrinkled sad eye. Be proud of what you love, it’s what makes you part of our community. I look forward to seeing you all in the line for autographs – I’ll probably be in it every day.

Comment List

  • David Rennie 21 / 05 / 2017 Reply

    Competitive players should never consider themselves bigger fans than those who don’t play ranked. I find that playing competitively can often drain the fun out of a game so there’s absolutely nothing wrong with playing more casually.

    Like yourself, I’ve made connections with friends and family through certain games. I played Halo with a group of friends when I was younger and to this day we’ll still get together and smash a legendary campaign on the newest Halo, as well as playing a heap of other games together. I also joined my first forum because of my love for Pokemon and made life-long friends over the 5+ years I visited the website, and recently, my obsession with Overwatch has pushed me to voice chat with online randoms –
    something I was never really comfortable doing before that game came along – and I made new friends as a result of that too.

    It’s these connections that bring me to events like AVCon and PAX, and I imagine the same goes for a lot of people.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    • AVCon Design 24 / 05 / 2017 Reply

      Thanks so much for the kind words David, We passed your comment on to Kayla and she was really touched. We’re glad something about her story resonated with you. Hope to see you at AVCON 2017!

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