Videogames' brief history is littered with near-epochal events. Like when Final Fantasy VII came to the first PlayStation in 1997. Or when 1989's Zelda II: The Adventure of Link foreshadowed Nintendo's success. There have been a lot of landmark games--from Doom to Grand Theft Auto III--that, by all rights, should have triggered a major pop cultural shift. But while those games rocked the geek world, they also stayed confined within it.

But the Next Big Game--Xbox's sci-fi action shooter Halo 2--is representative of the fact that videogames are growing ever more mainstream. The first Halo sold over four million copies, infusing a stereotypical videogame premise--shooting aliens--with nuanced, theology-tinged storytelling, astonishing scope, and slick multiplayer game play. 1.5 million people preordered Halo 2 (it's estimated the game made more than $80 million on its first day of release), whose hype promises everything the first game excelled at and more. But also telling is the pervasiveness of that hype: There's an MTV special on the making of the game. Halo 2 previews have been playing in movie theaters. 7-11 has Halo 2 Slurpee cups. Last Tuesday, stores opened at midnight so that gamers could buy the game as soon as possible.

But it's still just hype--and depending on how it shakes out, art gallery/videogame haven Backspace is going to be the place to be this Saturday. They're having a massive Halo 2 blowout, with six Xboxes (playing on four 32" TVs and two projectors) running the game--enough for 24 people to play at once, with players rotating every half-hour. Multiplayer action will be going all afternoon, followed by a tournament in which teams of four will compete for gift certificates to EB Games and Just Be Toys, Backspace game time, and copies of the game. It might be overstating it to say that the mainstream videogame revolution begins here, but it certainly is going to take a step forward. A big step forward. Carrying a gun, and looking for aliens to kill.

Halo 2 on Saturday at Backspace, 115 NW 5th, 248-2900. Multiplayer from 3-8 pm, $10; tournament at 9 pm, additional $2 per player.