Sophomore BA in Game Design student Brandon Stam says he and Master Chief go back to the very beginning — back to the moment his mind first began forming memories.
“I’ll never forget, my earliest memory was when my brothers got Halo 2,” Stam recalls. “I’ve still never seen so much excitement out of anyone as I did in my two older brothers that day. I was 5 years old, so young that I didn’t really know what was going on, but sitting there watching, I was just like, ‘This is obviously amazing whatever it is!’”
Many years later, Halo once again emerged from deep within his subconscious. It happened one night during his first year at DigiPen, fresh off a successful “Xbox Throwback Bash” he’d thrown on campus that was inspired by DigiPen’s annual Fall LAN Party. “I was lying in bed trying to sleep one night and the idea just came to me: ‘What if I start a Halo Club? Oh my god, I can just do this, I can fill out the paperwork, get an Xbox and games from the library, and I can just do this,’” Stam says.
Now the founder and designated representative of DigiPen’s year-and-a-half-old Halo Club, Stam says the spur-of-the-moment decision has already taken him on some wild adventures. Every week at the same time and location on campus, Stam puts out an open invitation for students to come together, link up some Xboxes, and play any of the games in the Halo series together. Activities range from casual, nostalgic games of Capture the Flag in the original Halo: Combat Evolved to fierce bouts of Slayer in Halo 5: Guardians, to passionately fought competitive tournaments that leave players and spectators sweating to the very end. “Last fall we had an official Halo 3 tournament, and it was really intense,” Stam says. “During the finals we had 21 people lined up along the wall watching the final two people play.”
Stam, still a freshman when he started the club, says he quickly found friends and community through the group’s weekly meetups. One of those friends was Chase Mattson, a Halo Club administrator who joined Stam on a three-day trip last summer to Anaheim for Halo Outpost Discovery, an interactive Halo experience and convention held by the game’s current developer, 343 Industries. “We met so many amazing people from 343, made amazing friends, and did so many cool things. It was a great experience,” Stam says. Inspired, Stam and Mattson started reaching out to some of the 343 employees they had met on LinkedIn, letting them know about Halo Club. One of those employees was Laura Teeples, a UX designer on the Halo series who had recently delivered a special guest lecture on campus. “Chase talked to her, and next thing he knows, a studio-wide email got sent out to 343 from Laura saying, ‘Hey, there’s this Halo Club at DigiPen. They meet at this time. Get back to me if you need the details,’” Stam says.
Not long after the email went out, Stam’s appendix unexpectedly burst, sending him to the hospital. In true Spartan style, he ended up returning to campus less than 48 hours after his operation for that week’s big Halo Club LAN Party. Still slightly dazed from the surgery, he was surprised to suddenly meet and greet a steady stream of 343 employees who decided to join the club on campus throughout the evening, some staying late into the night. “Seeing 343 developers sitting down and playing Halo with all my friends was one of the biggest honors,” Stam says, summing the experience up with the pithy phrase, “First my appendix blew, then my mind got blown.”
While at Halo Outpost Discovery, Stam also met Jordan Price, one of Halo’s official cosplayers known for dressing up as Spartan characters Kat-B320 and Hazel-A302. “She streams on Twitch as SavageGiggles and of course plays a lot of Halo, so I told her about Halo Club,” Stam says. “Later she reached out and said, ‘Hey, our chat decided we should get Halo Club in on a livestream with Savage Squad,’ the name of her Halo gang. So we said, ‘Yes, let’s do it!’” Half the Halo Club joined SavageGiggles and the Savage Squad on her stream that day. “She had a little watermark on the stream that said ‘Tonight’s Guest: The Halo Club @ DigiPen.’ It was super fun!”
For 2020, Stam has his eyes set on another big adventure for Halo Club – a look at where all the magic happens. “We’re working on getting a Halo Club tour of 343 Industries,” Stam says.