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.
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.