Gordon Freeman is the primary protagonist of Valve Software's Half-Life franchise, epitomizing the silent protagonist character archetype. You see the world of Half-Life through his eyes; he is seen from a third-person perspective for only very brief moments in Half-Life: Blue Shift and Half-Life: Opposing Force. Throughout the series, Gordon's actions have had drastic, extensive, and catastrophic consequences across multiple universes within the Half-Life franchise.
Gordon was born in Seattle, Washington, is 27 years old and is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- MIT -- graduate with a PhD in theoretical physics. He had been interested in quantum mechanics from the very early stages of his life, but it was only after observing a series of teleportation experiments in the Institute for Experimental Physics in Innsbruck, Austria, that he soon became obsessed with the transmission of matter and the practical application of teleportation. His doctoral thesis on the teleportation of matter through extremely dense elements was entitled:
"Observation of Eistein-Podolsky-Rosen Entanglement on Supraquantum Structures by Induction through Nonlinear Transuranic Crystal of extremely long Wavelenght Pulse from Mode-locked Source Array."
After graduating, Gordon accepted a fellowship position at the Black Mesa Research Facility in New Mexico through the recommendation of Dr. Isaac Kleiner. There, he took part in experiments within the Anomalous Materials Department, and underwent mandatory HEV suit training.
At the start of Half-Life, Gordon inadvertently initiates a resonance cascade during a risky experiment within the Anomalous Materials Department of the Black Mesa facility by placing a sample of crystal into the energized beam of an anti-mass-spectrometer. Fortunately, Gordon was wearing a hazard suit, which saved him from the otherwise terminal emissions of the resonance cascade. Others were not so lucky, as the cascade devastated the facility and killed an unknown number of scientists and security guards during the event. The cascade had catastrophic repercussions, tearing holes in the fabric of reality between the human universe and the dimensional border world Xen. After many battles, Gordon manages to destroy the leader of Xen's armies, the Nihilanth, and Earth is supposedly saved...or so it seems. Unfortunately, Gordon doesn't learn the true repercussions of the events of Half-Life until the events of Half-Life 2. At the end of the game, Gordon is conscripted into service by the enigmatic G-Man, who, apparently, puts Gordon into temporal stasis.
When Gordon returns to Earth at the beginning of Half-Life 2, roughly 20 years have passed since he defeated the forces of Xen and closed the dimensional rift between the two universes. Gordon arrives on a train just pulling into a station at City 17, a ruined urban dystopia under the oppressive control of a ruthless trans-dimensional army called the Combine. It's learned that though the initial dimensional rift in Black Mesa was sealed, the death of the Nihilanth and the sudden closing of so many dimensional gateways to Earth caused massive portal storms to rage across the planet, attracting the attention of the Combine, which subsequently invaded. After joining the human resistance forces on Earth, Gordon learns that he's gained a somewhat messianic status among the surviving humans of Earth for his role in the Black Mesa incident, and is labeled by the Vortigaunts as "The One Free Man." His presence and actions on post-Combine Earth significantly raise morale among the survivors, who stage a rebellion against their oppressors after Gordon and Alyx Vance inadvertently trigger the destruction of the Combine prison Nova Prospekt. Throughout Half-Life 2 and its episodic sequels, Gordon continues to fight the forces of the Combine in an effort to free Earth from their occupation.
Origins & Concept
The name Gordon Freeman was attributed to him by Gabe Newell during a conversation with Marc Laidlaw as an homage to the physicist and philosopher Freeman Dyson. The texture for Gordon's head is the result of the combined references from four people. A very earlier model of Gordon, commonly known as "Ivan the Space Biker", had a full beard, which was later trimmed. Other variations of the One Free Man's concept featured several different glasses, a helmet, and even a ponytail.
Gordon Freeman has never spoken a word for the entirety of the whole Half-Life game series. This was an intentional decision from Valve, in an attempt to immerse the gamers in the Half-Life universe, with mixed results. By attempting to give them the sense that they're actually the ones interacting with the environment and being spoken to by the many NPCs spread out across the many in-game locations, players either feel as if they are Gordon Freeman, or wonder why they cannot speak to the characters, even to convey vital plot information.
References in other Games
Following the success of Half-Life and Half-Life 2, Gordon Freeman and his iconic crowbar have been popular among many gamers. In-game references and/or naming of characters as being Gordon Freeman, Dr. Freeman or just simply Gordon or Freeman have been seen in several games, such as: