Last summer’s initial reveal of Halo Infinite, a game meant to be the cornerstone of Microsoft’s next-generation Xbox, went poorly. What many hoped for was a vision of what games might look like on these fancy new boxes, but what we got was a look at a deeply unfinished game. The internet wastes no time in passing judgment and memes, and the response to Halo Infinite was rough enough to prompt the game being delayed a full year.
“We had the situation where, a year ago, we showed the game for the first time and obviously we got some stick for it, but one thing that came out of that was Craig,” said Halo Infinite associate creative director Paul Crocker in a recent group interview with Waypoint.
The meme that stuck—and stung—was Craig, an enemy featured in that initial demo that, frankly, looked like it dropped in from a Halo game released 10 years ago. The name Craig was not assigned by developer 343 or Microsoft, but according to Know Your Meme, came from a random person on Facebook. Craig like many memes, started as one thing—a way to zing the game’s disappointing visuals—and quickly became something else, like the friend who’s always looking out for you and your emotional health. You know, Craig!
Even in its more lighthearted form, though, it was ultimately poking fun at the game.
Microsoft’s social media strategy in the recent Xbox era has been pretty savvy, leaning into mistakes made by the company and acknowledging broader internet culture related to Xbox.
“It's one of those things that we've tried to embrace respectfully for the people on the team,” said Crocker. “A lot of this stuff was bugs; we just weren't finished.”
Though games became an extremely popular way to pass the time during the COVID-19 pandemic, the abrupt switch to working from home, resulting in a complete reworking of many established development workflows, particularly impacted big budget games. Every few days, another video game is delayed for weeks or months at a time. It’s the new normal.
And so, this is what Crocker means by “embrace respectfully,” given that whatever Halo Infinite’s faults at the time, it was a game made as its team tried to cope with COVID-19:
In that sense, Craig has come to represent some of what 343 has done with the past year; the game (and Craig) do look better. This comes amid a swell of goodwill towards the part of Halo Infinite that players have had a chance to mess with so far, the multiplayer that surprise dropped earlier this week. The campaign, however, will not arrive until early December 8.
Craig came up in my group conversation with Crocker and other members of the Halo Infinite development team after I asked people for their favorite piece of obscure Halo lore.
“There is stuff about Craig defined in the game, as well,” said Crocker, echoing what 343’s alluded to about Craig becoming more than meme. “That's just a way in which we're trying to embrace some of our more public missteps, but also try and take it into a new phase.”
“Honestly, that's been one of the coolest things for me,” said Halo franchise and narrative writer Jeff Easterling. “Simultaneously, we're working on writing an encyclopedia that comes out next year that covers 20 years of deep Halo lore. But also working in writing for [Halo Infinite] where we're having the intersection of little hidden strands of deep lore, but also making a really cool story that is compelling for everyone.”
And that deep lore, it turns out, includes Craig.