Immersion: Portal (one little spoiler)

['Immersion' is a series which I am hoping to kick-start with my post on Portal. However, as I'm in the middle of a hectic diet of examinations 'Immersion' may simply wither away. Oh noes!]

Portalís Aperture Science Enrichment Center -- Valve's masterpiece of sparse, minimalist design -- is a deeply desolate place. A deeply inhuman place. Despite consisting of cavernous rooms virtually indistinguishable from each other, the Enrichment Center's neutral white walls belied a compelling, chilling story: its clinical white dťcor told a tale of desolation, suffocating claustrophobia and mind-warping loneliness; its omnipresent deathly silence a similar, but just as affecting, legend of loneliness. The Aperture Science Enrichment Center is, in short, a disquieting place.

As the game progressed, I felt myself being dragged -- physically and mentally -- into the Enrichment Center. I felt institutionalised, somehow -- I felt as if I was trapped in a nightmare while playing the game. Truly, the fact that a neutral, clinical laboratory had and still has the capability to send shivers down my spine is a testament to the talent of Valve's developers. This immersion can probably be attributed to the fact that the Enrichment Center, oddly, reminded me of my vision of my imagined mind as a child -- a sparse series of vast caverns decorated in a clinical white, lorded over by a slightly unhinged intelligence capable of, uh, flooding an occupied laboratory with lethal neurotoxins.

The inside of a nine year old's mind

The Companion Cube, in my opinion, was an example of the institutionalism I referred to earlier. It was, in plain terms, nothing but a large, dense cube. However, the Companion Cube became pointedly more than that to many gamers as the game progressed -- thisÖ object, a solid thing incapable of experiencing conventional human emotions and feelings such as pain, love, and hate. The Companion Cube wasnít even dead -- it wasnít capable of death, since it had no concept of death. It was, for all intents and purposes, void of any recognisable life. It was, essentially, nothing more than a utility: an insignificant means to a significant end.

Yeah... people dig the Companion Cube. In a big way.

Nonetheless, its eventual demise affected me deeply. I felt disgusted with myself after tossing the Companion Cube into the incinerator, to be licked by the flames. I did, in a small, logical, emotionally dead area of my brain realised that my betrayal of my best buddy was for the greater good; this cold logic core realised that, in order to progress, I had to incinerate my Number One Best Pal of All Time despite the wishes of my sappy, emotionally overwrought personality. I also realised afterwards that, as a fifteen year-old male, spending almost an hour debating internally over whether or not to toss an inanimate object into a digital fire is simply unacceptable.

The character of Chell also contributed towards the irresistible immersion which I experienced while playing Portal. Her presence was largely unexplained; her personality barely expressed. In fact, most people I know who played Portal referred to Chell simply as Ďthe chick in the orange boiler suití. However, her presence didnít really need to be expressed: we didnít really need to know who Chell was. All we, as the players, knew was that Chell was a woman simply attempting to overcome GLaDOSí fiendish physics-based puzzles and escape the eerily silent Enrichment Center. Chell is the perfect example of a protagonist who doesn't need a backstory; a protagonist who doesn't need any ulterior motive.

Kelly Baileyís sublime ĎSelf Esteem Fundí expressed the lingering loneliness of the Enrichment Center without a single word. The track was dark and brooding without being overly emotionally overwrought; it held a certain cold, aloof quality which instantly reminded me of Portalís white walls and the approaching claustrophobia which bore down upon me as I progressed through Portalís 19 chambers.

I don't believe that Valve intended Portal to be a chilling experience, but I cannot deny that it was. I don't know why Portal possessed such dark undertones. I truly empathised with Chell, Portal's protagonist. She displayed a show of bravery which I feel I would be incapable of demonstrating in such an oppressive setting: I feel that I would simply be driven mad and end up dead, lying in the middle of a test chamber under the glaring, unblinking eyes of GLaDOS, Portal's unhinged robotic antagonist.

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About Lord Death of Murder Mountainone of us since 2:06 PM on 03.18.2011

Iím Oran, a fifteen year-old gamer and Scottish native. Iíve been gaming for as long as I can remember and my love for the pastime has grown exponentially (HELL YEAH) since early childhood, back when I was allowed to crap in my pants and I wasnĎt mocked for my love of the Pokťmon games. The golden days.

Iím a thoroughly Ďmoderní gamer, and Iím a little ashamed of that. I am most comfortable with games from this generation and the previous, but Iíve played games from past generations, such as Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64 and a few of the Castlevania games.

I discovered Destructoid after purchasing Deadly Premonition, the cover of which boasts a 10/10 rating from Jim Sterling. I visited the website to check out the review, and accidentally stumbled upon the Community Blogs. Previously, I had been experimenting with GameSpotís blogging feature but I quickly tired of that and, thusly, the Community Blogs presented a perfect alternative.

Iím hoping to break into gaemz jarnalizm. I feel I have a serviceable command of the English language and I realise that I have plenty of time to hone my mad skillz, blud. I follow the gaming industry with avid interest and I have the ability to formulate convincing arguments; arguments which I take care to support with fact. Iím going to stop whoring myself out now, but if you know of anywhere a budding writer can test his skills -- other than Destructoid itself, of course -- then please let me know. I will love you eternally.

Obligatory list of favourite games (in no particular order):


Virtually every Pokťmon game

PC (thanks, bbain!)

Chzo Mythos
L'Abbaye Des Morts
Digital -- A Love Story


Burnout 2
Downhill Domination
Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil -- Code Veronica X


Destroy All Humans!
Destroy All Humans! 2
Deus Ex: Invisible War
Evil Dead: Regeneration
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Hitman: Blood Money
Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction
The Suffering
Thief: Deadly Shadows
TimeSplitters 2
Tom Clancyís Splinter Cell

Xbox 360

Alan Wake
Armored Core 4
Assassin's Creed
Blue Dragon
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Dead Rising
Dead Space
Deadly Premonition
Eternal Sonata
Fable II
Fallout 3
Fallout: New Vegas
Gears of War
Gears of War 2
Grand Theft Auto IV
Half-Life 2
Just Cause 2
Left 4 Dead
Lost Planet
Mirrorís Edge
Project Sylpheed
Saints Row 2
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion