I know this, as does anyone else who’s watched their fictional relationship unfold over the past ten years. Despite the risqué jokes and hints of secret desires disguised by mutual combat support, Bungie and now 343 Industries didn’t imply anything beyond a platonic friendship in their development of these two characters.
And yet Master Chief and Cortana’s connection is more than just a regular old friendship, and it definitely goes beyond a “best friends forever” situation. Their connection runs far deeper than either of these, lasting through years of battles and stress and danger, to the point where we gamers should press the pause button and ask how these fictional characters could teach us about our real-life marriages.
Chief and Cortana’s mutual respect is firmly established in Halo: Combat Evolved, and over the next few games and their subsequent challenges together, that respect quickly turns into unwavering trust. Though Cortana gives Chief directions and suggestions on what they should do next in their missions, she always has the right goal in mind, and he rarely questions her decisions. The only time he does so is in cases where he is not able to see or have access to everything her A.I. brain can, and even then, he ultimately ends up trusting her judgement.
In our real life marriages, respect and trust need to be built in a similar way, where through hard times we figure out how the other person interacts and mutually respect and trust each other to do what’s best for the relationship, not for the individuals involved. When someone asks us if we trust our spouse, we need to be willing to answer without hesitation, “Sir. Yes, Sir,” just like Chief answered Lord Hood in Halo 3.
Let’s not forget the other virtues that trust and respect can develop over time: dedication & loyalty. Chief and Cortana have arguably one of the best video game examples of these two virtues. Lord Hood asked Chief about his trust in Cortana because in Halo 2 she’d stayed to question the Gravemind, and now the Gravemind was mentally torturing her. Chief determines to save Cortana when he could have left her behind, rotting away under the psychological attack, but his dedication won out.
This concept that if you trust someone long enough you’ll be loyal to them is nothing new. Companies have been relying on it for years to build a customer base and draw them back to their products. Marriages are no different; the more you trust, the more willing you are to stay dedicated and loyal to this one person the rest of your life. There’s no reason for us to go looking elsewhere and break our wedding vows, just like Chief never once considered leaving Cortana behind, “because once [he] makes a promise... [he] keeps it.”
Finally, despite obvious flaws in one another, Master Chief and Cortana manage to work past these to defeat yet another enemy. A prime example of this is Cortana’s deterioration as an A.I., shown full-blown in an incredibly personal way in Halo 4. After being rescued from the Gravemind, she states, “So much of me is wrong -- out of place.” Chief doesn’t care, and Cortana continues to be wrong and make mistakes, eventually exploding in a fit of rage at Captain Del Rio of the Infinity. And yet the two persevere, working through Cortana’s malfunctions to the very end.
Oftentimes people go into marriage expecting perfection, and are severely disappointed when they realize their partner is, well, human. How many marriages would be saved if the individuals involved learned to look beyond immediate shortcomings and worked together to become better people and a better couple? Chief and Cortana made each other stronger individuals all the way to the end. As Cortana said, “We were supposed to take care of each other. And we did.” Modern couples should do the same thing.
The Halo games have been around for over ten years; sadly, many marriages last less than that. Marriage is by no means easy, but we don’t have to miss the guidance and principles that other relationships can give us to make it easier. Though fictional video game characters may not be the first place we think of to look to for marriage advice, hopefully Chief and Cortana’s relationship has revealed some truly useful marital qualities we can apply to our own lives. Here’s to many healthier, stronger marriages in 2013.
Bree Brouwer is a freelance writer, journalist, and blogger who loves investigating culture, pursuing geek enlightenment, producing videos & short films, and pwning noobs in multiplayer Halo. She is working on the launch of her blog, Geek My Life (www.geekmylife.net). Her desire is to create, discuss, and promote content worth consuming. Find her at www.breebrouwer.com and follow her on Twitter @BreeBrouwer or Facebook.