All entries for Sunday 07 March 2010

March 07, 2010

On Portal and spoilers

I’m trying to blog more often these days even if they’re not so long, just to get something down. Was hoping to do my big mega-post about Frank Turner and my break-up today, but that was somewhat derailed by ending up speaking to said ex for about five hours on MSN messenger. SPOILER: she has a new boyfriend.

So with that awful link out of the way, on to the topic at hand. I’ve always disliked spoilers: knowing what will happen in a TV show or film takes a lot of the fun out of it for me. There’s something about a real surprise that is always awesome. I remember way back when most people didn’t download TV, I’d seen the Buffy episode Seeing Red – it’s the one where Tara gets shot and killed. What was interesting was that I went to a Buffy convention a few days later, and they had the episode and were projecting it to a room full of a few hundred Buffy fans, none of whom knew what happened except for us and a few others. Everyone cheered when Tara appeared in the titles, and the palpable shock in the room when she was killed was electric. It was odd, knowing what was coming and seeing other people react.

Anyway, the second part to this is the game Portal. It’s a brilliant short game that involves puzzles based around shooting out two portals from a portal gun. Enter one, you leave from the other. The true genius in the game comes from Newton. Conservation of momentum. So if I jump off a ledge in to a portal on the floor below, I’ll fall in to that portal and then get flung out of the other one at speed. It’s a game I’d been looking forward to for a long time, and I played it within a few days of release, and found it utterly lovely.

These days, you can’t move for Portal references on the internet. “The cake is a lie” became a geek catch-phrase, and the thing Portal is most known for is that it ends with a Johnathan Coulton song, Still Alive. It’s an awesome song that reflects the events of the game, but I’ll wager that most people who play Portal these days will have heard the song before, seen it on YouTube, even played it in Rock Band, before playing Portal. I’m contributing to that by talking about it here, but it’s been three years now.

The point is, I didn’t know that song was at the end. I didn’t know it ended on a song. And the surprise inherent in that was wonderful. It seems the majority of people I talk to ended up only playing Portal because of the internet buzz around it (and because most picked it up almost for ‘free’ with the Orange Box). That buzz gave away this wonderful moment, that when discovered on its own made it almost the perfect game. Even though knowing the song doesn’t impact the game at all, it’s entirely after the fact, over the credits.


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