“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. … 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.

Game Log #1 (Portal) – The Game About Games

As my group played through Portal during our game lab last week, it dawned on us that Portal is a game about games. Each level takes the form of a miniature puzzle game that the player must solve in order to progress. Furthermore, as GLaDOS chides the player and narratives the gameplay, it soon becomes apparent that … Continue reading Game Log #1 (Portal) – The Game About Games

As my group played through Portal during our game lab last week, it dawned on us that Portal is a game about games. Each level takes the form of a miniature puzzle game that the player must solve in order to progress. Furthermore, as GLaDOS chides the player and narratives the gameplay, it soon becomes apparent that your tests are a game to her as well. Despite GLaDOS’ monotone voice, her commentary indicates that she takes a sort of sick joy in watching the player struggle to solve her puzzles against their will. Therefore, the player spends much of Portal acutely aware that they are playing a game. GLaDOS’ comments like “this next test is impossible” solidify this fact, as the player knows in the back of their mind that the test cannot be impossible. Eventually, the game must be able to be completed because Portal is a winnable game. The player can spend most of Portal in this mindset, progressing forward with full knowledge of their role as the player of a game and without a true sense of immersion within the game’s world.

In this way, Portal lulls the player into a false sense of comfort. While the tests do increase in difficulty as the game progresses, the player still develops a set of expectations for the elements each level will contain (switches, turrets, cubes etc.). This, too, contributes to the player’s awareness of their role as the player of a game. However, GLaDOS’ attempt to murder Chell breaks apart Portal’s typical routine, and marks a major turning point in the player’s perception of their role within the game. At least in my experience, breaking out of the test chambers and progressing through Aperture Science’s abandoned back rooms marked the first moment in the game where I forgot I was a player. Instead, the shock of GLaDOS’ sudden betrayal rocketed me out of my comfort zone, and caused me to enter Chell’s shoes. Without the rules and GLaDOS’ commentary that had been so clearly and constantly present before, I found after completing Portal that the game’s final section engrossed me in a way that the earlier sections had not. For a little while, I felt like I was a test subject in the Enrichment Center that was no longer trying to progress through tests in some grander game. Instead, I was trying to survive.