Portal is heavily invested in the little things. Although the storyline is relatively simple, the attention to detail is unbelievable. The gameplay almost depends more on the details of the game design than on the actual storyline. Sure, the storyline drives it all forward, but what makes it all worthwhile are the little things. Let’s use the … Continue reading “It’s all about the little things”
Portal is heavily invested in the little things. Although the storyline is relatively simple, the attention to detail is unbelievable. The gameplay almost depends more on the details of the game design than on the actual storyline. Sure, the storyline drives it all forward, but what makes it all worthwhile are the little things. Let’s use the final level as an example.
I didn’t notice all of the details that went into GladOs’ personality until Alec activated the subtitles. I recognised when her voice changed when I played the level before, but I didn’t realize that it was an intentional part of game design for her voice to sound a specific way at a particular moment. For example, when you destroy the (incredibly adorable) first orb GladOs’ voice becomes “seductive” since she is trying to lure you in and kill you. Her voice immediately changes after the incineration of the first orb, which she claims held together her sanity, from the normal robotic voice to a confident voice convinced your death is near. That was pretty freaky! The orbs themselves were each given distinct aspects of GladOs’ personality since they make up GladOs. I was somewhat amazed when the subtitles were activated and the blue orb was citing a cake recipe! Why do they promise cake? What’s Chell’s backstory? Who knows, but hey at least they commit to the cake theme. In fact, the line, “the cake is a lie,” most likely exploded on the internet due to the player constantly running across the line throughout the game. This recurring theme is one of the most memorable aspects of the game – yes, it has to do with the storyline, but honestly just seeing it written EVERYWHERE is enough to make the player remember it. The emphasis on building the narrative into the game rather than neatly handing it to the player as a storyline allows players to piece his or her own storyline together. We never receive a clear storyline or backstory for any character nor the facility, but that didn’t really matter in the end. What mattered was the fact that you recognised that the cake was a lie and escaped the Aperture Testing facility.
The little things – the writing on the walls, the easter egg rooms, the ending cut scene – these all add to the gaming experience. The storyline is present, but it’s the little things – the attention to details -that make Portal memorable.
While playing Portal an interesting thought came to mind. I have a tool which allows me to bend space-time, yet I can’t make a whole THROUGH a wall. That’s a pretty useless space-time-manipulation-tool if I’ve ever used one. But then another, even more interesting thought came to mind. That’s the point! It’s a useless tool. … Continue reading ““The Gun Is a Lie” -MIsHOS”
While playing Portal an interesting thought came to mind. I have a tool which allows me to bend space-time, yet I can’t make a whole THROUGH a wall. That’s a pretty useless space-time-manipulation-tool if I’ve ever used one. But then another, even more interesting thought came to mind. That’s the point! It’s a useless tool. A lie. Just like the cake. However there’s one difference, the cake is a much more overt lie. The player is hardly fooled by the cake as incentive, especially since it’s a virtual cake which has no means of actually rewarding the player. The gun on the other hand is the obscure lie, the one we’re not supposed to notice, the one that’s meant to fool the player. Why it’s hard to notice the gun’s shortcomings is because unlike the cake, the gun is rewarding to the player. The gun is able to induce all sorts of good Ilinx and Agon feelings and its successful use is addicting. The player is awed and distracted by the gun’s pleasurable aspects that its confining nature remains subverted. Its confining nature being that its a tool that behaves in an entirely linear manner, within a set of rules, dictated by the authority of your circumstances, GLaDOS. This in turn spawned another interesting thought.
What if that’s the reason behind Portal’s widespread appeal? Its relatability, and more importantly its optimism (more on optimism in finale). Our lives are very linear in a number of ways, and in many circumstances we feel impotent and incapable of controlling aspects of our society, and even our own lives. We have our own tools which many times seem to act within the confines of the choices of a higher authority. A simple example (out of many) would be the illusion of choice in voting. It makes sense that due to the constant limitations we feel in our daily lives, that literally being put in a linear confined testing center, we don’t really feel too far from home. But more interestingly, is the optimistic aspect of Portal, which is what makes the entire experience a pleasure.
Chell is about to be incinerated, and the player must use their wits to escape imminent doom. The only available tool is as described earlier, good at bending time-space, but not so good at bending rules. However, with the now obvious realization that GLaDOS has cheated, the player can break rules as well. Grabbing life by the reins, the player is now liberated from rules, and the gun becomes actually useful to the player’s endeavor. In fact, only at this point of realization does the tool actually become the player’s, up until then, it was a tool of the system. Relating this back to the parallel to our own lives, only once a person becomes aware of their social limitations, are they actually able to break free from them. This awareness of one’s own circumstance and life is a necessary step for progress, and it is perfectly simulated in Portal, where the player uses their meta-awareness to save Chell’s life. For this reason, Portal is clearly not just a puzzle game, but a relatable experience with a (somewhat) happy ending.