Portal came about just as video game success and meta-awareness hit significant crests. Big money was being made, big ambitions yielded complex worlds and the big ideas about where the medium was going hung heavy in the air.
So it surprised everyone that 2007’s best game was a small gem of minimalism built around a singular, brilliantly executed mechanic.
Armed with a non-violent teleportation gun, the player matched wits with an infectiously snippy artificial intelligence named GlaDOS. She tries her best to lab-test you to death, and you manipulate gravity and spatial relationships to flout her each time. Simply put, the sense of wonder and of expanding intelligence imparted by playing Portal isn’t readily available in many other places.
Players came away from Portal feeling that video games, just like themselves, could solve their way through the world’s crazy tests. That, dear GlaDOS, is the real triumph.
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