New Thinking.

In PC on July 9, 2009 at 6:37 pm


Portal- PC

I always think of the opening scenes to 28 Days Later while I’m playing Portal- the desolation, not the zombies. Much like Cillian Murphy’s character, as he wandered the abandoned streets of London, I’m watching the eerily empty observation rooms overlooking the testing areas and thinking: “Where is everybody?”. Whatever suspicions may arise, they are confirmed once you venture behind the scenes and find nothing but vacant offices; this place is deserted, either due to the Combine invasion, or the utterly barking machinations of GlaDos, but probably a bit of both.

There are obvious comparisons with GlaDos and,  gaming’s premier malevolent AI, SHODAN- as with System Shock’s self-proclaimed goddess, GlaDos isn’t just some final boss waiting in a room at the other end of the game, but a constant companion throughout your journey. Instructing, taunting, and deceiving you all the way, something about her just isn’t quite right, and what at first could be dismissed as technical glitches, or general quirkiness on her part, develops into clear signs that she is utterly mental, whereas SHODAN is an amoral monster with delusions of grandeur.

Portal affected me, but it wasn’t through the dialogue, the black humour, the bloody companion cube, the cake memes, or the world they had created in what was essentially an empty box. It was in the moments where you find yourself staring at an impossible puzzle and, in that same instant, your brain finally wraps around the required portal mechanics and rewires itself. What was impossible becomes trivial and, as the trailer says: “Now you’re thinking with portals”. At some point, on the second play-through, something crystallised and I had a revelation: I enjoy problem solving; from the elaborate dungeons of Zelda to the free-form nature of Deus Ex. This is why I play games.

Portal affected me, it helped me discover something about myself.

  1. I played Portal with my brother sitting next to me. I tried to make him laugh by using the portals in the laziest way possible. Walk? Pfft. Drop through a portal.

    I was actually ready to laugh and say “great game” when I got chucked in the furnace the first time. Thank the Nine he was there to reach over and hit the quickload button.

  2. I remember the furnace room because it played on my expectation that the game would come and save me…any second now, and that it took me more than a minute to realise that the “party attendent” probably wasn’t coming.

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