The USS Quad Damage

Obscure pop culture references

Can you still call them pop culture references if nobody in popular culture would understand them?

Half Life 2 is often highly praised for the way they use story in a game. For all its achievement (and I do agree they did a brilliant job of exposition) I didn’t really like the Half life series all that much. Perhaps it was ludonarrative dissonance, perhaps because I would insist on jumping up and down repeatedly crowbarring all the characters when “story” was happening1, either way there hasn’t been much to win me over, especially when compared to the Ikarugas of the world. However, there’s one thing about that game which makes me chortle, and I figured some of you may have missed it so I’d post.

In HL2 the Doctor (Isaac Kleiner apparently, I wasn’t paying much attention) owns a debeaked headcrab named “Lamarr”. Now, the reference is particularly weak here, so it wasn’t until the doctor makes another slightly more obvious reference to Lamarr that I finally figured it out.

Hedy Lamarr was a Jewish Actress and Engineer. Correction, she was a hot Jewish Actress and Engineer. Her biggest credit, however, is her invention of frequency hopping, or spread spectrum communications. You know, the technology behind wireless networks and 3G, and probably everything else ever invented that was awesome. Originally it was used for forming secure codes so the Nazis didn’t find out.

The original patent talks about using a piano to play a tune and using that as the key to frequency hopping. This is not only adorable but it also makes CDMA technology easier to understand. Of course, now we use mathematics to generate codes, but that makes me a little bit sad that we don’t choose frequencies which would sound good on a piano.

By now I’m certain you’ve already joined the dots. The headcrab is named “Hedy Lamarr”. Hedy the headcrab. Ell Oh El-god-kill-me-now.

1 Incidentally for the part of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves I’ve played, I spent huge portions going "come on when do I get to play?"