Thinking with Portals

I would like to talk to you about portals.

Imagine a device that allows you to open a wall, and through that opening is almost anything you want.  You choose where it opens up.  What an amazing thing.  How would you use this newfound power?  You could open a door that leads directly to your office, make that commute instantaneous.  You could eliminate the stairs when making that dreaded trek from the basement all the way upstairs to get the copy of Bubble Bobble that you left in your bedroom.

Well someone has created that world.

A few years ago Valve released The Orange Box.  This box contained five different games, all amazing in their own way…but none changed the way we think like Portal.  Legend has it that Portal was concieved and developed in part by a group of students, then picked up by Valve who developed it to what it is today.  I recently bought The Orange Box for the XBox 360, and though I already have it for PC and I’ve already finished Portal twice, I couldn’t be more excited.

For those of you who don’t know, and if you don’t I sincerely pity you, the basic plot of Portal has you run through a series of tests with the unseen GLaDos as a moderator.  I think it goes without saying that there are spoilers ahoy.

***(minor)SPOILERS AHOY!!!***

The thing with Portal is that you literally have unlimited possibilities for defeating this three hour (on average) game.  I’m playing it for the third time and I’m still coming up with new stuff…and not only that, it still fools me almost constantly.  Sure, you feel totally superior in the first few chambers, but slowly your badassery is wittled away by GLaDos and her funhouse.  There’s a point where there’s a chainlink fence with a locked gate…everytime I end up there I get stuck.  This door won’t open, what is happening here?  Why can’t I get it open?  Why haven’t they given me a weapon with which I can beat it down?  Then I kick myself as I fire a portal through the chainlink and sheepishly toddle through the one on my side. 


Portal forces you to think differently.  This being my third time, I’ve been spending an embarrassing amount of time trying to figure out the shortest possible route through each level.   I’ve also been having a lot of fun.  I find myself giggling at my director’s backhanded remarks and empty promises.  I find myself walking by the obvious, and rethinking the simple. 

So now when I have to get downstairs I contemplate the simplest way of getting there with the fewest amount of portals possible.  All because of this intoxicating game.

How about you?  How are you getting to work tomorrow?  How are getting to the store?  Forget your car.  There’s an easier way.

You see?  Now you’re thinking with Portals.


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