Artsy Games Incubator banner by Rosemary Mosco

Dying Too Often in Mel Lastman Square

I was pretty excited when I heard about a Half-Life 2 mod set in Toronto. It actually tipped me into buying a new graphics card after having fried my old one a few months ago. Now that I’ve played it for an hour or so, I’m less excited. It’s really awesome that the George Brown students who made it completed it and got attention for it, and as an exercise I think it’s great: it’s hilarious to see the photorealistic shots of the subway and the bike rings. But I have two problems with it so far.


On the micro level: but the first time we hear the word Toronto — ostensibly from a native who greets you as you teleport in — he pronounces both Ts. We pronounce it “torawno”. Kind of a big thing.

On the macro level: What made Half-Life 2 great and distinct is that instead of a cookie-cutter North American city like a lot of shooters it’s set in a beautifully decaying European city. I love Toronto, but it’s a fairly boring city architecturally, so to make an visually interesting game here requires thinking beyond obvious landmarks. I’m all for people setting their work in their own regions, and God knows I got my share of attention for doing that with my first novel, but Mel Lastman Square and Dundas Square are just not interesting places. They are recognizable to locals, and thus people are flattered and pleased, but they don’t stand on their own as game environments. I got pretty bored with dying in Mel Lastman Square, and I grew up in North York for crissake.

One Response to “Dying Too Often in Mel Lastman Square”

  1. Torawno? I’ve never heard it pronouned like that, and I live in Markham!

    As for the second point, I agree completely. Part of HL2’s popularity, aside from the character-based-in-game-storytelling, were the visuals and design. Toronto doesn’t quite live up to that.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Masthead: Miguel Sternberg | Design: Bob