Science

You know, the kind for those of us still alive.

Starting things off with a summat spoiler-ific link is actually in service of the post itself, note. I imagine most of my readership would ask if Portal could be spoiled at this point; people have been asking that question, and assuming common knowledge, since shortly after the game dropped.

Me, though, I only played it back in March. I’d heard of it before, and understood that it was awesome. I knew enough to question the veracity of baked goods. Thanks to playing Darksiders, I’d even used a portal gun, albeit a fairly neutered one. I had a free copy of Portal from the Steam to Mac switch, but had never enjoyed access to a computer that could play it. When I did get a computer which could play it—the Magnificent Daltor, ‘pon which I type this entry—I started Portal immediately, but moved on to swordier pastures after a few stages.

Needless to say, when I came back to the game I finished it almost immediately. And talked about it. And felt my brain growing and warping underneath its influence.

I also knew that I had to get my lady friend to play it. That part of the plan took a while longer to bring into fruition. She’s pretty dedicated to the idea that she’s neither a gamer nor a nerd, despite all the indications to the contrary:

  • She loves Firefly more than I do, and I love Firefly
  • She beat Puzzle Quest before I did
  • She’s been an avid PoxNora player for two+ years, and has max level Avatars in multiple factions and several powerful decks.

I certainly admit that Stacey’s endured a ton of pressure from me; I tend to take any opportunity to put things that I enjoy in front of other people, so they can share in the enjoyment. I’m versed in explaining why they’ll enjoy whatever the thing is. And I’m persistent, and opportunistic, about finding chances to revisit old joys. Stacey puts up with a tremendous amount of that, which is to her credit. When I finally got her to play a game of Magic–which she’d offered to do as part of an earlier conversation–she was a little horrified at how much of the game’s mechanics she could immediately call to mind from my subtly and not-so-subtly dropping it into conversations over the last several years.

Anypants, Portal was recently free. Free again, actually. And that was awesome, so I bought it for Stacey using Steam’s awesome gifting program and the fact that I’d had the foresight to already create a Steam account for her.

She was frustrated, at first. She fought me on playing the game, and was irritated that I’d picked up a game for her—which went away when I explained it was free, but for maximum impact I didn’t do that until she’d been playing for a few hours.

Because, yeah, she played for a few hours. Then a few more. Then, on the second night, she meant to go to bed around 9 and didn’t make it to bed until 11 because she “had to beat this last stage” for three or four consecutive stages. She’d run into a puzzle that stymied her, exclaim loudly in vexation, and then refuse my help because she knew she’d get it. And she would.

I did offer assistance on a few puzzles, but I think only three overall, and mostly when demonstrating a new mechanic (dropping crates from the ceiling, long-shotting an orange portal down a hallway so you can make it across the winding hallway with its moving platforms, etc.).

She dominated the game. She learned about cake (and was deeply unsettled by the writing on the wall). She murdered turrets with abandon.

She hated cameras, and let them experience her hatred.

It was awesome. Letting her reach the end of the testing, without spoiling it, was a tremendous effort on my part which paid off magnificently when she muttered “Oh shit, I’m dead aren’t I?” and then immediately railed against that fate with a flurry of aptly-placed portals.

I’d always suspected, but was happy to confirm, that Portal is as fun to watch others play as it is to bull through oneself. Stacey got to confirm that too, just yesterday, when my younger brother dropped by and I plopped him in front of the game. With John, I bumped things up to the level after you have both portals, just so he could play with the mechanics. Again, John’s not much of a gamer, and what games as he plays have largely been thrust on him by me; I gave him Red Faction when it was on sale, because I knew he’d appreciate driving a dump truck through a wall then demolishing a building. I actually figured he’d love that more than me, because the few games he’s played are disproportionately sandbox, which are games I almost never touched before Red Faction.

Watching John play Portal was especially interesting because, despite having no tutorial (other than me mentioning the controls) he took immediately to the mechanics. He played differently than Stacey, in particular because he was less aggressive and had a harder time murdering turrets (though he got an awesome camera shot that dropped a turret and drew applause). However, I was immediately impressed because dude would not walk anywhere a portal could take him, and seeing some of the simple, unconscious ways he bounced through the levels was pretty great.

When he left, Stacey and I suggested he’d be getting the game but he shrugged it off and said he’d just play it when he visited. A few hours of Doctor Who (again, my lady doth protest her nerddom a bit much) later, I came down to the computer and saw a message from the man—Portal purchased.

Today, I returned from teaching my class to see the following text message, sent at around 10am: “Level 16.”

PS- It should be noted that, right now, Steam has Portal 2 at half-off.

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