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Waxing Poetic on the Zen of Gaming

This blog intends to look at the gaming phenomenon as a whole, its effect on societal norms, its value in education, and its place in our own day to day lives.

Author: rabbidfly

The cake is a lie...

Posted by rabbidfly Friday December 14 2007 at 1:45PM
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Portal has to be considered a candidate for the game of the year. It's genius lies in it's utter simplicity and  uniqueness. Every developer in the world must be looking at that game and thinking... "i could have coded that over the weekend". In a world of bloated budgets, missed deadlines, and increasing complexity in game design, Portal stands out amidst the giants as a delicious morsel of sublime yumminess.

HAL from Space Odyssey 2001 has finally been reincarnated as GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) - the maniacal and sinister AI with a soft and trusting voice.

"Dave.... I can't let you do that Dave..."

I also couldn't resist the urge to compare cake to soma in Huxley's Brave New World. How can a game so sparse on features evoke so many associations to other, larger works of art?

A new sub-genre may have actually been invented - FPSPG (First person shooter puzzle game).. You know a game is immortalized when it becomes ingrained within our own gaming culture. References to "cake" are appearing everywhere - in blogs, sigs and random postings. Outsiders to our little clique are just as amazed with the seemingly stupid reference to cake as they were with  teh intentional misspelling of words, or grammatically comical translations such as "All your base are belong to us..". My wife often looks over my shoulder and wonders how i can routinely find so much more substance and culture than i do in RL.

Portal isn't just a game. It is just another iconic Companion Cube in our expanding virtual world - a meme of cultural relevance that transcends mere gaming. An idea that travels faster than our collective ability to buy the Orange Box.

There is an inherent beauty in the type of simplicity that can rise above itself. As a powerful design principle itself, it seems to escape the majority of games out there, who instead, drown under their own weight of mediocrity.


Unshra writes: I agree (minus game of the year) Portal was very enjoyable and a good proof of concept short game. I also enjoy the humor through the entire game. "Please note, we have added a consequence for failure. Any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official testing record, followed by death. Good luck." I hope to see a Portal 2, however it is more likely that we will see the portal device placed into Ep 3 when we visit the Aperture Science vessel Borealis. ^_^ -Unshra Fri Dec 14 2007 3:06PM Report
Alienovrlord writes:

It should be pointed out that Portal required more than just a weekend of programming for its physics engine.  But the puzzles involving the engine (multi-portal jumps, falls and the like) were NOT the best puzzles in the game.    The best ones required thought, not timing and mouse-click skills, and those could have been programmed easily. 

The OP is quite correct in pointing out the beauty of Portal's simplicity.   But it should be remembered that well-crafted simplicity is NOT an easy thing to attain.    I would argue it is one of the hardest things in the world to attain. 

For example, it's easy to get an audience to care about a character if you have 2 hour movie, but try to get an audience to care about a character when you only have 10 minutes. 

Valve are masters at video game storytelling and like all good story tellers they clearly understand how to edit themselves.  It's no surprise that they could pull of such a brilliantly uncluttered game like Portal. 

Fri Dec 14 2007 5:24PM Report
ITSuperv writes:

I agree (plus game of the year).  Portal is  one of the most intelligent games I've encountered...its  non-stop, non-linear problem solving.  There's no bang and sizzle...but the brain never can't or "an unsatisfactory mark" may occur....and we definately don't want THAT!

Fri Dec 14 2007 7:43PM Report
damiansometh writes:

dude portal rocked.... and yay it was inteligent and in my view revelutionary showing gaming developer that gimicks dont work (timeshift)

Fri Dec 14 2007 9:49PM Report
soulwynd writes:

Portal is the game of the year indeed. Not because of game-play, even tho it was good, but because of GLaD.

And last I heard, Valve is making weighted companion cube plushies for xmas.

Sat Dec 15 2007 12:25PM Report
rabbidfly writes:

Lol soulwynd - you are the reason i posted this blog. I saw one of your 'the cake is a lie' posts elsewhere on this site. :)

Sat Dec 15 2007 4:20PM Report writes:
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