Portal. That is all. (But not really because I typed lots of other words about other stuff as well.)

I could present any number of reasons why I didn’t want to play Portal back in 2007/2008, but I’m not much in the mood for an extensive list right now, so here are two:

  1. Mass Effect
  2. First person perspective

My fiancé got The Orange Box back in 2007 primarily for Half-Life 2.  Team Fortress and Portal were just bonuses…and who the heck even knew what Portal was?  Some oddball video game involving portals and puzzles?  Yeah, that sounds like a a whole lotta not-fun.  By the time he got around to playing Portal it was mid-2008 and I was headlong into my Mass Effect addiction, and nothing, nothing I tell ya!, was going to divert my attention.

The Orange Box cover art © Valve (source)

Only then he completed Portal, and I’ll never forget the look on his face as he sat there listening to the end credits. “This game is fucking AWESOME!  You have GOT to play!” he said to me for the billionth time.  In fact, every time I fired up Mass Effect he was all like “Why don’t you play Portal?” And I was all like “Because I’m PLAYING Mass Effect for the 3rd time!”

At the time, I really couldn’t understand why anyone would not want to play Mass Effect.  This was the game that the human race had for centuries been working towards! The pinnacle of creation!!  THE APEX OF ALL THINGS IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE!!!

ME was even more awesome than this stack of delicious waffles. And waffles are at the top of the breakfast food chain, of course.

Okay, so I was a little obsessed.  But I really was enjoying my 3rd-person perspective action/adventure games, first ME, then GTA VI, and then Fable.  It was at least a year or more after Portal’s Game of the Year Award that I decided to give it a go.  I mean, even at that point the game was still making news and a sequel was rumored to be on its way.  Since I knew that sequel was going to be in our house no matter what, I figured I should probably be prepared.  But one thing stood in my way:  #2 on my list – conquering the fear I had developed of the 1st person perspective.

Wait a minute, you deride, didn’t you do a post on DOOM?  What kind of wuss did you become???

I’m not sure that I’ll be able to properly put into words the issues around this, but here goes.  I’ve explained a little before that I experienced about a 10-year gap in gaming between the early 1990s (when I played DOOM) and the early 2000s. Video games were just not a priority then as I was consumed by other thing like college, establishing a career of sorts, and drinking enjoying the company of others.  This not to say that I completely didn’t play anything for a decade; it’s just that I didn’t play very often.

An example of being social or a pastel-colored cult? You decide.

DOOM was the first 1st person shooter that I had ever played.  I had nothing to judge it against and no fear going in.  I didn’t think at all about the 1st person perspective – that’s just how the game was.  At the same time, I was also playing a variety of platform and fighting games on the SNES.  I don’t recall that I played a single 1st person game on that console, not that there were many.  Wolfenstein (goddamn Wolfenstein) comes to mind.  Others?

As time progressed, I continually gravitated towards console platformers and fighting games.  Sure, I played DOOM 2 because, duh.  And I tried Quake…both on our home computer, and I was only home occasionally.  And therein lies the key. By the time Quake rolled around, I was off on my own doing my own thing, and I didn’t own a computer that was anywhere near strong enough to handle gaming.  With that, computer gaming fell by the waist side, as did my journey into 1st person shooter land, and I stuck close to my SNES and N64 with Mario, Link, Samus, and the like in tow.

When I met my fiancé in the late 1990s, he was already a hardcore Playstation gamer.  One game that eventually made its way into his stash was Medal of Honor (1999).  One day, he prompted me to give it a go; and damn if I didn’t hate it.  In retrospect, I can certainly appreciate its historic place in the genre, but at the time, I did not enjoy a single second of it.  It was dark, I found the levels confusing, and I just wasn’t keen on the whole war thing.  I had become used to the bright, fun, laid back, simple, platform Nintendo games, and Medal of Honor was far from anything like that.  Unbelievably, I guess I had become all bubbly or something because that person just didn’t like all the wartime grit and nastiness.  So I left those games to the boys and continued on my merry Nintendo way.

I ♥ you all; except you, Pikachu…stop being all cute and stuff.

Fast forward to the early 2000s when we met up with friends who owned an Xbox, and I’m introduced to Serious Sam (2001).  Well, was it fun?  Hells yeah!! Now I don’t know that this was a particularly fantastic game, but it was pretty darn entertaining.  No war or grit here — well, some war I guess, there had to be a reason for all the bomb-throwing — this game was bright, colorful, fast-paced yet easy to follow, and it had decent controls.  (Hmmm…sounds suspiciously like a Nintendo game…)  And it was a 1st person shooter!  And it was a riot to play!  Were all Xbox games so fun?  We didn’t have one ourselves so I didn’t get to investigate this much further (though Munch’s Oddysee, anyone?…how about that strange gem?), however, we were both pretty convinced that we needed an Xbox 360 once released.

Still, old habits die hard.  Despite trying Xbox’s DOOM 3 on the 360, I still felt more comfortable with my warm, fuzzy action/adventure platform, and now RPG blankets.  In getting a DS and a Wii, I further insulated myself from any 1st person shooter trauma.  Even if a 3rd person perspective game offered 1st person playing, I never went that route.

But it had to happen eventually, right?  I mean, I couldn’t not ever again at least try a 1st person perspective game and be able to live with myself??

Fie upon this internal monologue and get on with it already!

Actually, life probably would have gone unchanged, but I’m glad to have finally given into Portal.  Sure, I was little wobbly at first and I had to retrain my brain to accept the things my hands were doing and my eyes were seeing; but I eventually got the hang of it.  And I was surprised at how enjoyable the experience really was.  My better half was not overstating things when he called the game fucking awesome, because it was nothing short of that.  And though it’s been written about quite enough, the end credits really did make it all worthwhile.

There are comfort zones and then there are comfort zones.  Portal’s not the first game to have taken me out of my seemingly comfortable rut and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  If anything, I completely credit video games for instilling in me the confidence try new things.  Shoot, they compelled me to write stuff on this here internet, which is something I never, ever thought I’d do.  I can’t say that I formulate the most-well crafted thoughts or sentences – I did intend for this to be a post on Portal and it’s not really that at all now – but if I had never tried at all, well…that would say a million times more about myself than I could ever write.

P. S.

Play Portal. It’s fucking awesome! (source)

9 thoughts on “Portal. That is all. (But not really because I typed lots of other words about other stuff as well.)”

  1. I usually like first-person games. I really feel like I’m in the game. But, I see how they can be odd (like Mirror’s Edge, which was funky). (I think I played a Medal of Honor game once. I, too, hated it. I didn’t mind the first-person, but it was dark and depressing and I don’t like war stuff unless it’s Halo and I got lost.) I am considering getting Portal because I hear GLaDOS is a great character. And it was just $20 at the store. It depends on if any other good games come out by the time I decide to get off my butt and buy it.
    By the way, of the Nintendo characters in that picture, I like them all but Captain Falcon. Can’t you see his nipples through his clothes? I know you can in SSB Brawl, which is upsetting. Actually, Mario’s always given me a weird vibe. I’ve never trusted that oddly proportioned man….

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    1. HAHA…Captain Falcon. I remember him from SNES’s F-Zero. Never had the game myself but a friend did – I played through it a little but I don’t remember his nipples. I’m sorry this was traumatizing in Super Smash Brothers Brawl – I hope you’ve since recovered. Less nipples is generally a good thing in almost any situation.

      Portal for $20? Do it! I know this summer is shaping up to be a pretty good gaming season, but if you can spare the $$, Portal is worth it’s weight in gold…er…dollars. Not quite, I guess. Um…unless you happen to pay for it with those “new” gold dollar coins — well…they’re probably a bit heavier in total than the game’s actual weight…and now I have no idea where this comment is going.

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  2. I keep thinking I should play Portal. But my issue with first person shooters is that they actually make me motion sick. I’m a lot better now, but when I first started playing Halo and Left 4 Dead when I got a 360 a couple years back, I had to take Dramamine prior to playing… and I still often got crippling headaches from it. I watched my cousin play Portal and thought I might vomit.

    But maybe I’ll give it a go anyway… since everyone says it’s fucking awesome.

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    1. I can see what you mean about motion sickness. Though you do have to be very spatially aware in Portal, your movements are made to be very smooth – there’s little camera shakiness and few distractions (well, GLaDOS is one thing, there are plenty of obstacles, but at least no one is shooting at you at least). When I started the game, I could only play for 20-30 mins at a time before my brain started to hurt. It took me a couple weeks to get used to the look and feel of the game, but it was well worth it. Godspeed and good luck should you decide to play it!

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