First-person shooters are not typically known for their compelling stories. Too often in games like Call of Duty or any other garden-variety shooter, the story takes a backseat to more bullet ricochets and gaudy explosions. Half-Life 2 proves that you can have a provocative, intense story without sacrificing equally exquisite gameplay. Through its unorthodox storytelling methods, likeable characters and excellent writing, Half-Life 2 builds an involving narrative that truly immerses the player in the game’s world and invests them in the characters’ futures.
Half-Life 2 puts the player in the shoes of Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist fighting against a hostile alien-controlled government that has all but enslaved the human race. Freeman and his allies join the human resistance in City 17 versus overwhelming odds. Armed with his trademark crowbar from the first Half-Life, Freeman combats the controlling Combine forces and ends the tyranny of the alien-instigated traitor of humanity, Dr. Breen.
Half-Life 2 does an excellent job of instantly throwing you into the narrative and explaining the situation without explicitly stating anything. Unlike most games that take away control from the player during cutscenes or change the camera angle, Half-Life 2 lets the player retain control and never removes him/her from Freeman’s perspective. This causes the player to see exactly what Freeman sees, and as a result, the player feels a connection to Freeman via shared experience. This unique perspective combines emergent and embedded narratives: even though what the characters say is predetermined, the fact that the gameplay view remains the same as it is during combat makes it feel as though it is all happening on the spot. The seamless transition between expository sequences and combat lends itself well to the game’s uncertainty, as players are never certain when a character will get separated from Freeman or when they will be ambushed. Freeman is also a virtual proxy for the player: he is completely mute the entire game, and the player never sees his face through the course of the game. Freeman is essentially a blank slate through which players can project whatever type of person they want to project. This method avoids potential conflict between how the character reacts and how the player wants or expects the character to act, and allows gamers to play as the type of person they would want to play as.
The narrative is never stated outright, but implied through the actions of NPCs. In the game’s opening train station, the maze of chain-link fences resembles an internment camp. Other citizens are shown to be in decreasing mental states or just barely hanging on: one citizen says to “stay away from the water… they put something in it, to make you forget!” and another paces back and forth while wondering why trains are always departing, but never come back. Just before the player reaches the train station’s exit, a guard knocks a soda can over and orders you to throw it away. Not doing so causes the guard to whack you with an electric baton, a staunch reminder of who holds the authority in City 17. In one particularly humanizing moment, a citizen embraces a crying woman who tearfully says that she “just can’t take it anymore.” Rather than explain the game’s premise via a tedious opening scrawl or a wordy monologue, Half-Life 2 showcases its plot with subtleties that provoke a tremendous emotional response from the player and establish the status quo that the player happily erodes over time.
Of course, Freeman can’t topple an entire extraterrestrial government alone. One of Half-Life 2’s major strong points is its well-written and appealing cast of characters. Freeman’s main allies are Dr. Isaac Kleiner, a resistance scientist, Dr. Eli Vance, Freeman’s former colleague, Barney Calhoun, a resistance informant who works with the Combine, and Alyx Vance, Eli’s daughter. Kleiner is a classically neurotic scientist, akin to Doc Brown in the Back to the Future series, whose stilted vocabulary and domesticated headcrab (a primary enemy in the game that attempts to eat your brain) cause the player to revel in his eccentricities. Eli is a sympathetic father figure who is forced to see his daughter in increasingly dangerous situations, and his feelings make the narrative events much more significant. Barney Calhoun is Freeman’s optimistic best friend, the kind of guy who jokes about Freeman’s signature crowbar and how he owes Freeman a beer.
While these characters could be seen as traditional character molds adapted from movies and literature, albeit molds that are executed excellently, Alyx is a character that completely breaks established conventions. Alyx is Freeman’s main companion, and is an amicable and charming comrade that wins over players’ hearts with her tough-as-nails exterior yet sensitive personal feelings. Her introduction into the game immediately causes the player to treat her seriously: after getting ambushed while unarmed, Alyx single-handedly saves the player’s life. As opposed to annoyingly useless sidekicks that fail to make an impact or even hinder the player’s progress, Alyx is consistently helpful and disposes of enemies with ease. Alyx defies conventional feminine stereotypes in gaming and beyond: she’s not a buxom floozy whom the player is forced to protect for the sake of gameplay variety, but a nimble patriot that the player is thankful to have. Alyx also has believable emotions that are put to the test during the narrative situations. With enemies and combat constantly pursuing the pair, their conversations are limited to brief intermissions in elevators or other transit. Thus, the game’s intense run-and-gun sequences are punctuated by character development that always leaves you wanting more. Alyx’s emotions reach a hilt when the Combine captures her and her father. She is fearless even when she is staring down Dr. Breen himself, and spits in his face when he mentions Alyx’s deceased mother. Alyx’s believability is aided by the game’s impressively emotive facial structures that coincide well with the top-tier voice acting. Alyx is necessary on a mere gameplay level as well: she is particularly skilled at hacking Combine computer terminals, and the player needs her tools to advance in the game’s world.
The teamwork between Freeman and Alyx is essential to the game’s core mechanic4of shooting through Combine areas and disabling terminals to get through an obstacle. Overall, Alyx not only breaks the stereotypical female mold, but is also an icon of progressive female characters in video games thanks to her complementary abilities and integral emotional connections with the player. Through making the supporting characters relevant both on a gameplay level and an emotional one, Half-Life 2 enhances the player’s connection with the plot and game environment.
The supporting cast is backed by exceptionally strong dialogue and writing. Half-Life 2’s writing shines in its little touches that highlight its humanity and sense of humor. In a early scene, Dr. Kleiner and Barney talk about the safety of their high-tech matter transporter, and Barney mentions “You mean it’s working? For real this time? … Because I still have nightmares about that damn cat.” Kleiner brushes off the remark, but Alyx quizzically cocks an eyebrow and repeatedly asks “What cat?” (In addition, an Xbox 360 Achievement/Playstation Trophy named “What cat?” is earned after the player purposefully breaks a smaller version of the transporter). Kleiner’s pet headcrab, Lamarr, also provides some much-needed comic relief. Lamarr frequently causes humorous trouble at Kleiner’s office, such as jumping onto Barney’s face (much to his dismay), and having Kleiner chase after him like a doting mother after her toddler. These tiny jokes go a long way in maintaining the player’s interest in the game’s slower moments, and simultaneously differentiate the game from uptight, overly serious shooters while emphasizing the game’s emotionally taxing sequences.
One of the game’s great narrative descriptors is Dr. Breen’s Big Brother-esque broadcasts that cover the landscape with audio propaganda. Through these lectures, Breen attempts to explain the benefits of being controlled by an alien force, while simultaneously revealing his underlying malicious motives. In a friendly yet patronizing manner, Breen says the suppressive fields that prevent human reproduction are only enforced to stop the evils of instinct. “Instinct slyly and covertly compels us away from change and progress,” Breen says, “Instinct, therefore, must be expunged. It must be fought tooth and nail, beginning with the basest of human urges: The urge to reproduce.” The fact that Breen is rallying against natural human functions reflects the cold and calculating nature of the Combine and their sophisticated weaponry at odds with the rebellious, underground characteristics of the human resistance. Breen embodies sacrifice and comprising with those who threaten and oppress, whereas the resistance represents standing up for what one believes in despite the odds of success. At its heart, Half-Life 2 is a classic David versus Goliath story, with Freeman and his crowbar replaces David and his slingshot, and the collective Combine representing the brute force and overwhelming size of Goliath.
Half-Life 2 creates meaningful play via its locked-in first-person perspective, through which characters are made more significant and seemingly spontaneous. These charismatic characters reinforce the player’s emotional attachments to their outcomes, and the player’s drive to complete narrative goals is strengthened by this compassion. Although Half-Life 2’s gameplay is frequently praised (and rightfully so), it is the connection between player and Freeman’s allies that separate the game from the rest. Half-Life 2 is a rare game that truly makes its characters feel like the player’s friends, and the narrative thrives on the player’s emotional investment. Half-Life 2 not only changed the video game industry with its physics engine, but also with its powerful storytelling that keeps the player invested until the final moments.
In 2004, Valve Corporation released Half-Life 2 (1). Seven years later, it is a landmark of single-player campaigns and one of the finest first-person-shooters ever made. It is widely regarded as one of the best modern games of all time, and was even named the best game of the decade by IGN UK (2). But why has it garnered so much recognition? Beyond the beautiful graphics and the unprecedented storytelling, Half-Life 2’s gameplay fosters an innate sense of curiosity that is extremely hard to replicate. Half-Life 2’s combination of sophisticated object interaction and complex enemies within a world governed by simple physics rules creates an emergent system that challenges players to do what is not explicitly stated.
In Half-Life 2, the player steps into the big shoes of physicist-turned-hero Gordon Freeman against the oppressive, Orwellian aliens known as the Combine. Freeman joins the human resistance in City 17 and shoots, eviscerates, blows up and crowbars zombies, giant insects and Combine soldiers. With the help of Alyx, the occasional sidekick and daughter of a fellow physicist, Freeman topples the alien government and their de facto ruler, the traitor of humanity, Dr. Breen (3).
Emergence is a critical trait for any game to be significant, and Half-Life 2 would not be as highly regarded if it did not pull this off well. Emergence, “a modest number of rules applied again and again to a limited collection of objects [leading] to variety, novelty, and surprise, (4)” is featured prominently in the game’s detailed object recognition system. Every single object in this game, whether it is a grenade or a cardboard crate, is given the same physical importance: nearly every object can be picked up and interacted with, regardless of its value in the gameplay. Freeman can play with a child’s tic-tac-toe set or a discarded doll that makes a sickening, distorted giggle when you pick it up. A warehouse may seem unremarkable at first, but the player quickly realizes that they can use the rotary saws on the walls as makeshift ammunition. With the help of the gravity gun, which allows you to pick up heavy objects and propel them at your enemies, a wooden table can become a deadly weapon (3). The sheer amount of usable objects in Half-Life 2 is staggering, and provides a playground where there are thousands of ways to kill your foes. Don’t want to use precious ammunition on approaching enemies? Use the gravity gun to fling a cinderblock at them, or construct a pyramid of crates to shoot your enemies from a higher platform. Even the objects that are too weak to cause any damage to enemies dynamically respond to bullets and collision, creating a chaotic and easily malleable environment. Half-Life 2 breeds a creative form of emergence through an unprecedented level of object interaction and consequence, and boasts a high amount of system outcomes to player actions.
One of the game’s major strengths is the way it subtly introduces a new gameplay object and its many possible features. A ceiling-based enemy known as a “barnacle” droops a long, green tongue just above ground level, and eats anything that comes into contact with it (3). A single barnacle is introduced as players begin exploring City 17’s trashed alleyways, and does not pose much of a threat on its own. Because players are not forced to leave the area immediately, they are given a chance to examine the enemy and figure out the best way to defeat it. The game explains the dangers of barnacles without boring the player through a long explanation. Once the simple rule of the sticky barnacle tongue has been established, the player is free to make his/her own conclusions. These skills come in handy later when, after narrowly escaping the clutches of the Combine, you find yourself in a slippery underground area that is infested with barnacles. Using the knowledge the player has gained before, the player has multiple ways to advance: either carefully avoid the barnacles’ tongues and shoot them before they get a chance to eat you, or thrust an explosive barrel onto one of the tongues and shoot it just as it reaches the ceiling. Barnacles are involved in increasingly complex scenarios later in the game, such as when you are forced to avoid their tongues in total darkness, or dodge their grip while battling stronger enemies. Even these stronger enemies are not exempt from the barnacle’s grasp: a keen player will notice that luring Combine soldiers into barnacle tongues leads to humorous (and ammunition-saving) results (3). The coupled relationships between barnacles, explosives and other enemies create different ways for the player to accomplish a goal, and these types of relationships are constantly present throughout the game.
Along with coupled relationships, the game features context-dependent relationships that can benefit or hinder the player. Hostile insects known as “antlions” are originally hostile, but after defeating the “mother” antlion, the player is given a special phermone-infused grenade that makes the antlions your allies (3). This is welcome fresh air for a player who has just spent the past chapter fighting the antlions, and establishes a new set of rules on how to combat the increasing amount of Combine soldiers. However, antlions that the player has not conquered yet will still be hostile, forcing the player to remain wary of the oversized insects. Some areas feature deadly acidic water that adds to the intensity of the player dodging barnacle tongues or headcrabs, and force the player to create makeshift walkways using a variety of objects (3). In the Citadel, the heart of City 17’s alien operations, the gravity gun is given boosted powers that significantly affect gameplay, allowing players to literally pick up soldiers and fling them at their comrades (3). These different contexts cause the player to use objects in inventive and gameplay-altering ways, opening up the possibilities for what an object can be used for and making sure there is never a degenerate strategy (that is, a strategy that is guaranteed to work. If a player discovers a degenerate strategy, they have no incentive to explore the game’s boundaries).
Through the combination of complex relationships between objects, their environments and themselves, Half-Life 2 easily establishes a sense of meaningful play. Meaningful play, which occurs “when the relationships between actions and outcomes in a game are both discernable and integrated into the larger context of the game, (5)” is accomplished via a satisfying damage indicator and progressing into the game’s emotionally-gripping story. When enemies take damage, they react with a dramatic burst of red or yellow blood (3). A particularly memorable damage indicator is cutting a zombie in two at the waist with a rotary saw, which gives the player an immense feel of power and gratification for their hard work. While the game does not feature a leveling system, players are motivated by the game’s well-written story and character relationships that truly make the players willing to help the human resistance. Shooting down Combine helicopters, for example, earns you the respect of an entire human colony and the ability to advance to your next thrilling objective (3). The player grows attached to Alyx due to her light-hearted nature and adept combat abilities, and the idea that someone would keep playing the game to view the progress of their relationship is not absurd. Half-Life 2 thrives on the quality of its relationships, both object-driven and character-driven.
Half-Life 2 has withstood the test of time, and its gameplay concepts still seem fresh and cutting-edge today. It is a game that actively wants players to test the boundaries of what they can do with what they are given, and rewards the players for innovative thinking. While a second play-through of the game may take players to the same locations, it is virtually guaranteed that no battle will be the same. Half-Life 2 endures as a pinnacle of the first-person-shooter genre thanks to memorable and dynamic enemy-object interaction, the contexts that alter their usage, and the game’s endless possibilities.
1 “Games: Half-Life 2.” Valve. Valve Software. Web. 27 Apr. 2011..
2 IGN Staff. “Best Videogames and Computer Games of the Decade 2000-2009.” Video Games, Cheats, Walkthroughs, Game Trailers, Reviews, News, Previews & Videos at IGN. IGN Entertainment, Inc. Web. 26 Apr. 2011..
3Half-Life 2, Valve Corporation, 2007, Xbox 360.
4 Salen, Katie, and Eric Zimmerman. “Games as Emergent Systems.” Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2003. 34-35. Print.
5Salen, Katie, and Eric Zimmerman. “Games as Emergent Systems.” Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2003. 158-59. Print.
3Half-Life 2, Valve Corporation, 2007, Xbox 360.
Alan Wake is a love/hate type of game. You either love it for its horror atmosphere, or decry it for its cheesy moments. Although I originally despised it for its B-movie dialogue and occasionally repetitive gameplay, I grew to love it for its legitimately scary mood and excellent pacing. While it has its flaws, Alan Wake is a noble attempt to do something unique in a video game—albeit with Stephen King-esque elements that are decidedly cliché.
In Alan Wake, the player controls the titular character as he tries to rescue his wife from a mysterious darkness that seems to corrupt people and objects to do its bidding. Adding to the intrigue are manuscript pages that Wake finds throughout the area that bear his name, but that he doesn’t remember writing. Armed with a flashlight and a gun to kill the “Taken,” people controlled by the darkness, Wake embarks on a journey to save his wife, the town and, ultimately, himself.
Alan Wake’s gameplay is one of the game’s strong points. Shining a light onto shadowy figures and dodging pick-axes is exhilarating, and the game’s misty forests add to the fear of a Taken being just around the corner. Even though the gameplay is solid, it can occasionally get repetitive. While there are different types of Taken that require slightly different tactics, it all basically boils down to shining a light on them and shooting them in the head. The game gives you various upgraded weapons, such as flares and shotguns, but I rarely found the need to use anything other than the starting pistol and flashlight. Although this is indeed a monotonous and degenerate strategy, somehow this method doesn’t lose its luster, and continues to be entertaining even after you’ve killed your 999,999th Taken.
One of Alan Wake’s biggest flaws is its jarring product placement, which is at best a nuisance and at worst a flow-breaker. Virtually every object in the game is trademarked, whether it’s the flashlight or batteries Wake is using (Energizer), his phone service (Verizon, which is ironic considering how often Wake’s calls drop. “Can You Hear Me Now?” indeed) or even his car (Lincoln). Contrary to some gamers who hate all forms of advertising in games, I believe that when product placement is used well it can add to the game’s character. A game like Crazy Taxi, for instance, uses advertising well in the sense that the brand names make the game feel more realistic. In turn, this “realism” is a nice counterpoint to the absurdity of the game’s physics and premise. Alan Wake, however, goes above and beyond what is acceptable. If the town of Bright Falls is supposed to be in the middle of nowhere, why are there 50-foot Verizon billboards on the side of the road? The game’s worst advertising offense occurs during a segment in which the lodge Wake is staying in is becoming corrupted by darkness. In the middle of the escape, Wake encounters a television. Television are littered throughout the game’s environment, and often shows parodies of The Twilight Zone called “Night Springs” that provide some much-needed comic relief. Turning on this particular television, however, brings up a commercial for something called “Mustang Drift,” followed by a 30 second Verizon commercial. And these both occur when Wake is supposed to be trying to escape his imminent death! These ads, even though the game does not force the player to watch them, completely break the flow and atmosphere, specifically the loss of self-consciousness. These ads make you fully aware that you are playing a game, and a greedy one at that. The player even gets an Xbox achievement for watching the ads called “Boob Tube,” which seems particularly fitting.
Another annoyance is Wake’s constant commentary on the game’s events. While he occasionally says something profound about his writing or marriage, he often states the completely obvious. When I’m staring at an old generator that has a power cord connected to it, I really don’t need Wake to tell me “an old generator had been connected to a power cord.” However, the narration is a still a nice cinematic touch to a game that revels in its horror movie mystique.
Although I give Alan Wake a hard time for its advertising and hit-or-miss narration, it truly does separate itself from the rest of the pack through its enigmatic storyline and consistently fun gameplay mechanics. As someone who gets too scared to finish games like The Suffering and Fatal Frame, Alan Wake does a great job of straddling the line between unbearably terrifying and curiously freaky. Alan Wake does a lot of things right, but a few fatal flaws keep it in the dark.
Chicago-based video game developer Double Cluepon Software is gearing up to release the alpha version of its new massively multiplayer online role-playing game Emerald Kingdom, infusing it with its own unique take on content and game design.
Microsoft. Google. Bungie. In the histories of many software company giants, you’ll find that they all have one thing in common: they started off in someone’s basement or garage.Double Cluepon Software, a self-described “underground” game company based in Chicago, shares the humble origins of these technological behemoths. This is where the similarities end, however: Double Cluepon Software is a decidedly different game company, one that values pseudonyms over egotism and clothes over the scantily-clad. Their new massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) Emerald Kingdom is a by-product of this unique design philosophy, and sets itself apart through its dynamic storyline, engaging characters, and willingness to give gamers features that they haven’t played many times before.
Just a note: saying that Double Cluepon values pseudonyms over egotism wasn’t an exaggeration. The company uses pseudonyms when talking to the gaming community to avoid creating a cult of personality that too many game developers create for themselves. Azrael, Double Cluepon’s “Chief Imagination Officer,” said that the game is more important than whoever is designing it. “By deemphasizing we who are personally, we want our work to stand by itself,” Azrael said, “I want people to look at or products and say ‘this is awesome,’ and not worry about us. We care about shutting up and making games.”
“A Life-Like Content Channel”
That said, shutting up and making Emerald Kingdom is Double Cluepon’s top priority. In production since around 2009 and “rapidly approaching Alpha staus” according to Azrael, Emerald Kingdom is about the state of humanity after a cataclysm that destroys life as they know it. The game’s title refers to the time period the game takes place in. Jocelyn, an artist for the game, describes the setting as “after the post-apocalyptic world, when people are starting to recover.” The game features a linear storyline that will offer different experiences and quests to the players depending on when they join. “In short an MMORPG should be in some ways, a life-like content channel,” Azrael wrote on Double Cluepon’s blog, “A person born in 1952, having gone through the 60′s will have different experiences than a person born in 1993. Why should a virtual world be any different?” Samael, a programmer, agrees that a rolling story is good impetus to get gamers to play. “They want to get in on the ground floor and see the events as they unfold,” Samael said, “It becomes a badge of pride for the old players and it encourages them to stick around as well as people to come in as soon as possible.”
Sprites: “Deities without being Gods”Over time, certain beings known as “Sprites” (not to be confused with the two-dimensional images of the same name) evolved to gain extraordinary powers. Amesha, one of Emerald Kingdom’s writers, describes them as “deities without being gods.” Sprites have the ability to impart “Marks,” onto players that affect their statistics, for better or for worse. While Beatrice the Sprite may give players the Mark of Beatrice to enhance their mental capabilities, a player caught griefing (annoying or harassing other players) may be given Cries’ Mark of Grief, which will alert other players to that person’s evil tendencies. A major part of the game will be exploring the Sprites’ motivations and personalities, and as such, the team has a strong bond with the characters they’ve created. “I knew that I had the characters when I started feeling an emotional attachment to them,” Azrael said, “These are our children.” It’s this connection, Jocelyn adds, that separates a character from a template. In contrast to many RPGs in which the female characters wear barely a stitch of clothing (perhaps to appeal to its, ah, masculine demographics), the team made sure that all its characters were adequately protected. “I’m not going into battle wearing a chainmail that only covers 10% of my body,” Amesha quipped.
Working off the strength of its characters, Emerald Kingdom will also have its own webcomic series called Twin Perrenial, which will help catch the player up to speed in the constantly-progressing storyline. Azrael said that webcomic is meant to have players feel like they are entering the game world, and that the webcomic will be an establishing point of the game. “Twin Perinnial is designed to get players’ toes wet,” Azrael said, “People will have “Ahh!” moments when they play the game after they read the comic.”
A World Without Numbers
Even with a constantly moving storyline, in-depth characters and a webcomic, a MMORPG must do more to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack. Established titles like World of Warcraft dominate the MMO marketshare (According to MMORPG Realm, 62% of MMO gamers play WoW) and show little signs of slowing down. So how does Emerald Kingdom set itself apart? It takes away the one thing that many die-hard MMO players hold dear to their hearts: number-based statistics.
A stereotype about MMO players is that they are overly obsessed about their avatar’s skill or level number (colloquially referred to as “stat whores”). Emerald Kingdom ditches the number-based system in favor of a rating and ranking system. While there will still be cold hard statistics behind the scenes, they will be invisible to the player. This system gives players more freedom to do what they want, when they want, without being locked into a predetermined character class. “The fact that you can make something fun and entertaining without focusing on number was a huge deal for me, Azrael said. “In order for an MMO to be progressive, you need to get rid of numbers.” Unlike other games, Azrael writes in the game’s forums, Double Cluepon does not expect you to kill off your character and make a new one if you want to take your avatar in a new direction. Eleial, Double Cluepon’s marketing director, notes that it’s not about weaning players off the number system, “it’s making them realize that it isn’t necessary.”
Escaping the Brand
Being an indie game company allows Double Cluepon to take risks that bigger studios couldn’t take—wait, “indie?” Scratch that. “Indie” is a four-letter word at Double Cluepon because the team feels like the term is being co-opted by megalith game companies as a brand. “It’s almost like it’s a genre now,” Jocelyn said, “You go to a gaming convention and they have an indie floor and it’s so, so broad… We’re trying to get away from that branding and say ‘we’re just passionate about making RPGs, but we’re not funded by any big source. We’re doing this on passion alone.’”
Regardless of the challenges posed by giant game companies and getting Emerald Kingdom off the ground (for most of the staff, this is the first MMORPG they’ve worked on), Azrael remains confident in his team’s abilities. “We have a lot of people here who are heavily invested, heart and soul wise, into making cool stuff,” Azrael said, “Indie applies to so many things… why would we compartmentalize ourselves? We’re a company that likes making stuff, and we’re gonna do it and we don’t care what anybody else says about it.”
Concept art courtesy of Double Cluepon Software.
The federal government narrowly avoided a government shutdown on Friday, but who came out on the winning side of Washington’s latest political tug of war? DPD takes a look at news reports throughout the nation to determine who got their way, and who was “cut” from the process.
- Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)
- Millions of computer users
Boehner may have been outnumbered by Democrats at the table 2-to-1, but by the way the final deal shaped up, you wouldn’t know it. The Speaker got $38.5 billion dollars in cuts, including $2 billion in a short-term stopgap measure running through Thursday as staffers put the finishing touches on his long-term deal (1). In an interview with Fox News, Boehner said that he and President Barack Obama “understand each other better,” and that Boehner had “developed a process” that will allow him to continue working with the Obama administration over the next two years (2).
Meanwhile, in the virtual realm, a shutdown threatened to furlough scores of people who work for federal contractors, including those who operate websites for the government. The furlough would have lingered until Congress passed a funding resolution — anywhere from a day to weeks. The financial impact potentially could have been in the hundreds of millions of dollars, underscoring the government’s keen emphasis on e-government to run basic operations, say industry experts (3).
- Congressional Democrats
- Washington D.C.
According to BBC News’ Mark Mardell, congressional Democrats didn’t come off as well as Tea Party activists and congressional Republicans (4):
They look like realists, but they’ve given a lot of ground. These cuts will hurt their natural supporters and undermine plans and projects dear to their hearts. The tactics were quite skilful but I can’t see the strategy.
Congressional Democrats are not the only ones in a precarious position. The D.C. government is “often financially beholden to the whims of Congress,” and against the district’s wishes, Republicans managed to ban it from spending its own funds on abortions or needle exchanges. Yet somehow “the GOP did find the necessary funds to restart the city’s controversial school voucher program,” says Charles Lemos in MyDD, which is both a “boondoggle for religious schools” and a pet issue for Boehner (5).