Portal: Play Journal #1

Posted: February 5, 2013 by tacohead30 in Uncategorized

Portal is a game centered around the player who must complete a series of in-game puzzles or “tests” as they are referred to in the game. Each level is represented in a new “test chamber” which contains a combination of toxic floors, moving walls, deadly balls of energy, switches, and most importantly, portals. Each level is prefaced and narrated by a robotic voice, often offering advice before a level such as, “This next test is impossible, make no attempt to solve it,” and “The enrichment center apologizes for this clearly broken test chamber.” The portals are the key to the game, often referred to as “Inter-dimensional portals” and come in two colors, orange and blue.  The blue portal connects to the orange portal, and vice-versa. The laws of physics, such as velocity and momentum, still apply when traveling through portals.

It isn’t until the 10th level or so that you gain access to the 2nd portal gun to control the orange portal and really get your hands on all the tools the game has to offer. The first thing I attempted was to launch myself into an endless loop, which was actually pretty hard to do. I shot a portal at the ground and the other at my feet and jumped it, but I guess I didn’t line them up perfectly, so I would only stay in the portal for a couple seconds, but after a while I got frustrated and shot the floor about 5 times with my portal gun and fell in and I achieved a perfect endless portal loop.

Picture of me falling in an endless portal loop.

Picture of me falling in an endless portal loop.

My favorite thing about this game is that the controls are simple and the idea is so intuitive, yet it is very enjoyable to play because it does make you think and figure out where to place portals and where to go at exactly the right time to get through to the other level. What I also love about this game is the ability to go off and just play around with portals and experiment like I did when trying to make a never-ending loop, which provides additional entertainment outside of the games true objectives of clearing the “test chambers.”

In my opinion, Portal fits perfectly into Huizinga’s theory of play, and fits all five rules. Play in Portal is clearly voluntary, the game play in Portal is not ordinary, play is limited to the confines of the “test chambers,” Portal is ordered in a series of “tests,” and Portal is really unlike any game I have ever played before. I grew up on a wide variety of games. I loved Madden, basketball games, RPGs, platform games, FPS games, RTS games, but I’ve never really tried anything like Portal. It really opened my eyes up to a new way of looking at games. When playing videogames, I am usually obsessed with the instant satisfaction of scoring a touchdown or blowing something up, but there is something very satisfying about having to experiment and think through the level like I did while playing Portal.

  1. suzannescott says:

    Your first paragraph is a fantastic overview of the game, clear and concise. Also, you do a nice job of creating a connection between the content of your post and your images. Where this needed a bit of fleshing out is in your application of Huizinga (both in terms of setting up these “rules” and working through them in detail). This notion that Portal is an atypical game is a fruitful jumping off point to consider the game properties Huizinga outlines, you just needed to give that section a bit more attention and analysis.

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