Since complaining that video game review are broken, I've gotten a lot of questions along the lines of, "Well, what do you like then?" One weekly criticism I can't get enough of is Leigh Alexander's Aberrant Gamer. Like any good critic, Alexander explores all of those feelings we had while experiencing a game that we otherwise might not verbalise (or fully appreciate), combing through the content for themes, subtext and symbolism.
This week she takes on Portal. For anyone who hasn't finished it or Bioshock yet, there are spoilers ahead. But the comparison she makes between player choice in each game...just read it:
The moment wherein Chell is riding a platform straight into a fire is, oddly, resemblant of the moment in BioShock when the player confronts Andrew Ryan - a protagonist you know nothing about is confronted with a crucial turning point in their self-concept, a person who has been a tool up to this moment has the chance to influence their destiny.
But wherein BioShock drew strength from the player's total lack of choice, Portal is illuminated by the sudden ability to make a choice - to use the Portal gun and flee the test course. And just about all of us probably experienced at least a brief moment, on that platform, where we would have ridden straight into that fire because we as gamers have not been trained to feel we have choices, and the sudden advent of realisation that you can escape is one of the most exciting, empowering things I've ever felt in a game. in one swift coup you feel sure of yourself, and relinquish all doubt that you are in danger from GLaDOS, and you go from being a computer's favourite toy to being human.
If you enjoyed that little tidbit, hit the link for a lot more thought behind what makes Portal so incredible and the Companion Cube such a tragic loss.
COLUMN: 'The Aberrant Gamer': HUGE SUCCESS_ [gamesetwatch]