While playing Portal, I kept harkening back to the narratological concept of implied author and implied reader. This idea, developed by Wayne Booth, addresses who the author, or game designer, thinks of while creating his or her work and who the reader, or game player, imagines the creator of that work to be.
In terms of implied author, Portal gets messy quickly. As we play Portal, GLaDOS is our narrator, the voice structured and created by the auteur of said game. Yet, in some ways, she can be the implied author as well. The implied author is “the author-image evoked by a work,” allowing for subjectivity when determining this implied author; this figure can be different for different players. If Portal truly convinces a player of its world, its rules, its design, GLaDOS becomes the implied author. The narrator seamlessly melds with the image the player has of the game designer. This melding is the sign of a truly immersive, intense narrative experience.
Yet, most likely as players, we know that GLaDOS is a construct of the game. While within the game, she is “the author-image,” we tend to understand that someone created her. Then, our implied author image begins to morph. When we turn on the developer commentary, it gets even messier. This commentary claims to be the true authors of the text, not some idea we have of the author. But, we, as players, can never truly know the author even if they present themselves openly and honestly within the gameplay. Their commentary slants our view of them; each commentary is “perceived and evaluated differently by each reader.” While they attempt to be objective commentators on the game they have given us, these comments themselves changeand alter our view of them as auteurs, thereby making them into implied authors rather than authors.
In relation to implied reader, it is unclear who the game developers had in mind when designing Portal. In thinking about our class of diverse, implied readers, considering we have a wide array of video-game backgrounds, it seems that Portal tries to access as many implied readers as possible. Perhaps, they did not consider who would be playing the game, but rather focused their time on the game itself, hoping that it would have something for a first-time player and an experienced player.