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.
Chell soars across the room in her Air Portals and dunks into another blue portal! The crowd goes wild! “Bzzzt!” When I began my play-through of Portal I conjured up my past exposure to science fiction’s dystopian future subgenre through various tabs on my internet browser. Some of the included films were The Island (2005), Total Recall (2012), and […]
Chell soars across the room in her Air Portals and dunks into another blue portal! The crowd goes wild! “Bzzzt!”
When I began my play-through of Portal I conjured up my past exposure to science fiction’s dystopian future subgenre through various tabs on my internet browser. Some of the included films were The Island (2005), Total Recall (2012), and I, Robot (2004). These three films are similar in that they share a futuristic setting with a persistent skepticism by the protagonist of the “reality” in which they live in. Albeit Chell doesn’t talk (gameplay still in progress), there hasn’t been an indication that she is hesitant to progress. With GLaDOS’ constant bickering, it doesn’t feel as if Chell has any choice in the matter as GLaDOS continuously talks about progressing through the rooms as obstacles needed to be completed. Themes that were also included in my research of the genre were Artificial Intelligence, robots, advanced weaponry, distorting space and time, and bionic enhancements.
The interaction with the turrets during my gameplay reminded me of the game Azure Striker GUNVOLT (3DS). I would build a barrier using blocks and hide behind them until I was ready to make my move. Although Azure Striker GUNVOLT is a 2D platform game the game strategies were similar. The aesthetic choices were also similar. The backdrop in Azure Striker is a darkened cityscape and the chambers that hold the various bosses resembled the room structure in Portal. Interestingly enough, one of the bosses in Azure Striker uses portals to make their attacks.
The most important aspect of the game, personally, was the bionic leg enhancements on Chell’s legs. Without the enhancements the portal physics would be pointless. As a basketball fan, the joy in executing 360 degree spins into a second blue portal and soaring out of the orange portal was priceless. Did I mention I am using the WASD + trackpad combination to complete the game?
This notion of intersectionality between various media allows for deeper exploration and appreciation of a video game. Without an understanding of futuristic dystopian sci-fi or personal appreciation of air gliding in basketball, Portal would have been a mundane puzzle platform game.
As Kline describes in Digital Play, video games originated as “the play of an overwhelmingly masculine world, centered around themes of abstract puzzle solving, exploration, sport, and centrally, war” (107). He lists activities that society generally associates with men, and thus, makes the playing of video games a masculine activity. Portal subverts the notion of…
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As Kline describes in Digital Play, video games originated as “the play of an overwhelmingly masculine world, centered around themes of abstract puzzle solving, exploration, sport, and centrally, war” (107). He lists activities that society generally associates with men, and thus, makes the playing of video games a masculine activity. Portal subverts the notion of a gaming community meant for men by manipulating first-person identification.
In film, the viewer identifies with the camera and the perspective it shows, as though the camera itself acts as a character, that character being ourselves. Similarly, in video games that use a first-person perspective, the player identifies with the character they play. Since society takes video games as a male-dominated space, men generally assume companies make games for them, thus, in most first-person games, the player plays as a man. For examples, think Call of Duty and Bioshock. (I literally Googled “first person shooter male protagonist” and got a list of games that have female protagonists, which tells you how much male protagonists dominate the field.) Now, Portal complicates that identification by making the player-character, Chell, a woman. However, the player does not even see Chell throughout the game unless they go looking for her. Since the game lacks mirrors, the player must take advantage of the portals and fire them in such a way that they can look through one and see Chell. Otherwise, one could play through the entire game and not realize her identity, since there is no other indication of her gender. I think it likely came as quite a shock to male and female gamers alike that the character they were playing was, in fact, a woman.
The first-person perspective also prevents player’s from turning Chell, as a female character, into a sexual object. In third-person perspective games, while the player identifies with the player-character, there is a separation between them, as the player watches them, rather than seeing through their eyes. Hence, female characters from those types of games, like Lara Croft, often get objectified and sexualized. Objectifying or sexualizing Chell is incredibly difficult though, because the player is constantly seeing through her eyes. In order to sexualize her, the player must also, in a sense, sexualize themself. Additionally, Chell’s outfit prevents this sexualization because it covers most of her body, and makes her chest flat. It’s through the first-person viewpoint that Portal manages to subvert the first-person shooter genre, by removing the typical male protagonists.
When playing through Portal again, having already beaten it, a new thing that caught my attention was how easy it is to play and replay the game. I normally am one who doesn’t find much entertainment in replaying games, but playing Portal a second time through I feel as engaged as the first time through. And having read the Henry Jenkins article … Continue reading “Portal’s Replay Value”
When playing through Portal again, having already beaten it, a new thing that caught my attention was how easy it is to play and replay the game. I normally am one who doesn’t find much entertainment in replaying games, but playing Portal a second time through I feel as engaged as the first time through. And having read the Henry Jenkins article “Game Design As Narrative Architecture”, I think this replay value comes from the detail that is put into the game that adds to its immersive nature. The more I play, the more I feel I know about Aperture Labs, or about GLaDOS. Because the game is embedded with a strong presence of the environmental storytelling that Jenkins alludes to, it not only creates a better play through the first time, but also adds value and entertainment to the game past completion. In addition, the game designers did a very good job of using the environmental storytelling aspect of Portal to slowly tell the story of the game. It was easy to follow, but also very rewarding as each completed level not only meant a new terrain but also more plot information.
Another very unique thing regarding Portal is the addition of Developer Commentary into the game. You have to have beaten the game before accessing the game mode, but it is very interesting to hear comments from the developers as you go through the levels. For instance, on one level, a player found a short cut that bypassed the majority of the level. However, instead of fixing the “bug”, the developers rewarded the players for their ingenuity in discovering the short cut and left it in the game. And while this doesn’t necessarily impact the environmental storytelling or the embedded narrative in the game, it does provide some insight about what was going through the developers’ minds while creating Portal.
After 2 game labs, and at home sessions, this gaming session was the first time that I really enjoyed playing Portal. In just one sitting I played double the amount of total time I had previously played. I definitely become more immersed and invested in a video game after I have become familiarized with its…
After 2 game labs, and at home sessions, this gaming session was the first time that I really enjoyed playing Portal. In just one sitting I played double the amount of total time I had previously played. I definitely become more immersed and invested in a video game after I have become familiarized with its modes of play. I struggle with being thrown into new worlds on a whim and adopting the set of rules and goals specific to that place. I think this is part of why I don’t play many video games. However, I am glad that the required playing time for Portal has fostered a greater interest and appreciation in me.
This time around I did something I had never done before (nor seen anyone in class do.) I shot my portal gun at the video cameras in the test chamber. GLaDOS did not appreciate this. Each time I dislodged a video camera, she had something to say. Some examples are phrases like:
“For your own safety, do not destroy testing equipment.”
“Facility equipment may be vital to your success, please do not destroy it.”
She says these things very matter of factly, and they sound true (this is of course before she turns on the player.) This kind of programmed in response of the game increases the reality of it, allowing the player to move deeper into the space. It also reinforced this idea of surveillance. Even when I destroyed the cameras in a testing chamber, GLaDOS could still watch my every move and comment on it. GLaDOS is watching you, but it’s for your own good. This (GLaDOS’ unstoppable surveillance) is something that maybe could clue a player in to the ending of the game. It seems that the farther one digs in Portal, the more obvious and inevitable the truth of the ending becomes.
After dislodging the cameras from the wall, I attempted to pick them up and place them on a button to open up a corridor passageway. I was able to pick up the camera and drop them on the buttons, but one camera would not hold it down. I tried adding a second one, but that did not work either. In that particular test chamber (I can’t recall the number) I was unable to locate a third camera, but I’m wondering if a third, fourth, or fifth additional camera would’ve made a difference or if the game just doesn’t work that way. I was surprised that GLaDOS had no comment on my attempts to activate the button with the cameras as well.