Thursday, October 3, 2013

Comments & Questions on Marcuse and/or Portal

Post your questions/thoughts as comments to this post.  Again:  a paragraph is fine, or a couple if you feel so moved.  You are posting on a question, problem or topic of your choice.  Citing a particular passage is recommended but not required.

16 comments:

Adam Lewis said...

First of all I haven't played portal in a while but it is the same old story: I over complicate everything. Stage 4 and I'm trying to do some complicated move when they just want me to learn something similar for later. Typical.

Maybe the use of Portal as an assignment will become more clear to me this week in class, because I'm really not making the connection. Is it to consider the sci fi aspect of portals or maybe the seemingly decaying world around this game? Could it even be to consider the creepy-voiced drones? I guess I'd like to see what you all have in mind as well.

Marcuse is interesting as always if you can pick through the language which can be a lot to chew on and get something out of at times. Maybe my vocabulary just isn't up to the task, also a possibility. I must say that I enjoyed chapter 4, especially as far as the language of politics is concerned. One of my biggest problems with government is not right or left wing, its that no matter who passes an important piece of legislation, I need a lawyer buddy to explain it to me. Take the 900+ page healthcare bill. I don't even know where I stand on it necessarily because I don't understand it. I don't even have time to read it nonetheless figure it out! This brought my attention to the sheer number of laws on the books and how few of them I would understand if I read them. We kind of just take that as a part of our government when really the average citizen probably can't understand a word their politicians are putting into law.

Carmen Condeluci said...

As most of you probably realized by now, Portal is a pretty short game. It typically only takes people about 3-4 hours to reach the end on their first run, and, if it isn't your first rodeo, you can complete it in under two hours. Personally, I finished at right around 1 hour and 45 minutes, and I felt pretty good about myself until I learned that "non-glitch" speed-runs are only 14 MINUTES LONG. However, it’s truly not the short time in which you can complete the game that’s impressive, but rather what Valve has done with that time. Not only is Portal an exemplary instance of good game design (teaches the player as they play, gameplay continuously evolving and building on past concepts, etc…), but also an incredible feat of storytelling. In terms of narrative, the game accomplishes more within just two hours than what many games strive to create with forty.

Right out of the gate, your role in Portal’s story is clear: you’re a lab rat, held captive to run tests with an experimental, dangerous technology, accompanied by the instructions of a snarky AI, GLaDOS. Although the goal of reaching the end of each test chamber is simple and straightforward, it’s what is slowly revealed throughout them that is the driving force behind the game’s story. With every sarcastic and biting remark, as well as the wall writings of the test subjects that came before you, it’s quickly made clear that your journey through the tests is not all science and cake. Over the course of only two hours, Valve has successfully fulfilled details about the game’s setting, intricately developed the character of GLaDOS and Chell, and created a fiction that was deep enough to support a much longer, ten-hour sequel. Keep in mind, this is all done only through the voice of a mostly unseen artificial intelligence, making the accomplishment even more staggering. Valve, in a time where games like Mass Effect were boasting 100+ hour stories, showed the importance of quality over quantity, setting the stage for many of the much shorter and more clever “Indie” style games we see today.

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If anyone is interested in comparing thier attempts to the 14 minute, in-bounds speedrun, here's a link: Portal "Non Out-of-Bounds" Speedrun in 14:18

Matthew Schroeder said...

Do any of you ever get a little sad at the end of a really good book? I do all the time, but Portal was the first video game to make me feel that way. This game is what legitimized video games as an art form in my mind. I've played it so many times and every time I'm amazed at how masterfully crafted this game is. As a few others have noted, Portal is a very short game. And yet they are able to develop the story and characters to a greater degree than many novels I've read. GLaDOS's monologues are sometimes profound, sometimes hilarious, but always quirky. She is such a likable character, but as the story progresses you can't help but treat her with an ever increasing suspicion. Even after finishing the game, I find it difficult to dislike GLaDOS. This is starkly contrasted with Chell's complete silence, which prevents any real characterization, but helps to tune the story to each player. She truly is just a vessel for the player. Since she never speaks, there is no definitive point in the story where she realizes GLaDOS's true intentions. Some may have figured it out early, others could have remained in the dark until much closer to the end. It all depends on how attentive and trusting the player is. One person could play this and predict from the start that GLaDOS is the main antagonist. Another could potentially go the whole game without noticing any of the writing on the wall and be surprised when GLaDOS tries to kill them. This is why I love the video games (especially Portal) as a form of narrative. They can be static, with a definitive beginning and end, while still resulting in a different experience for each player.

Ronald Rollins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ronald Rollins said...

I've played through Portal a few times, and admittedly I fell into the trap of playing through it as fast as possible.

The criticism that follows in no way means I dislike Portal--it's a good game and very fun, but it feels fairly restricted in the sense that it expects you to follow one or two methods of solving each puzzle and progressing entirely linearly. The story is also primarily revealed to you by GLaDOS through dialogue. If all dialogue were stripped out, I feel like few people would feel a story there. One that that makes games unique as a storytelling medium is that they can tell a story without telling, and you can carve your own path.

A series I feel is particularly good in showing and playing a story is Metroid, where the worlds are entirely non-linear and there's a very clear and apparent story even with little to no dialogue. But that's not really related to this post.

Jason Wald said...

For everyone who uses Steam, I would recommend the game Antichamber. Similar in feel to Portal, a review of the game just about sums up my major issue while playing Portal, namely that "The most tenacious, infuriating obstacle you’ll face throughout the game is yourself," (PC Gamer). That being said, I walked away from the game wanting more. Often the hardest part of the game was simply figuring out where you were supposed to portal-jump to next, and I wanted information about the silent protagonist.
Also, the song at the end was awesome.

Carl Santavicca said...

One of the first things I noticed when playing Portal is that the main character is female, as well as the voice of the AI guide GLaDOS. I also couldn't help noticing that GLaDOS made mention at some point during the first few levels of the Aperture Science bring your daughter to work day. As an avid gamer for a long time, probably longer than most of my classmates, I can remember when the only female character in a video game was the "Princess" that needed saving: i.e. Pauline in Donkey Kong, Princess Peach in Mario Brothers, or Princess Zelda in Legend of Zelda. I like that the gaming industry has recognized the female protagonist such as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, and Chell in Portal. Compare this to the lead female role in Modern Times; whom we see clearly the main means of support for her family and we realize just how relevant that movie still is today.

Tolu Dayo said...

This was my first time playing Portal, and I must say that on my first few runs, I found it to be quite challenging and frustrating, but all the same it didn't deter me from trying harder. I simply googled how to play portal, and from a few tips that i got off the internet, I made some decent headway. I think the most interesting thing I found about Portal is the quickness at which you have to make a decision or the hole that was opened is closed, or how i just always seemed to be in the same four walled room. I don't really know yet what to make of the game or the connection but so far, it has been interesting trying to figure out how to play this game. From Marcuse the one part of the book that caught my attention is in chapter 4 where he addresses the government and the way that they always address issues using big terms, that may mean one thing to the public and another to them. This just seems to hit home for me with the government right now, and how there are so many interpretations to the actions that they take. I was also wondering if anyone thinks that we could find a comparison between this concept in One dimensional man. and DADES?

Joseph Hastings said...

This was my first time playing Portal, and after playing the first couple levels, I found it slightly boring and slow. It just seemed like I was a lab rat doing simple and easy tasks that were not very amusing. Then the levels started getting much harder and were challenging to me, which is what I had initially wanted. Eventually I was just trying to go through the levels and see how fast I could complete them, many of which took several minutes. Overall I found Portal enjoyable and it was a good mind simulator. I really enjoyed how little directions there were making the player figure things out on our own, which is very rare in video games today. The one thing I did not like however was that it only seemed like there was a very few amount of ways to complete each level. I would have found Portal much more enjoyable if there were many different ways to complete each level.

Caleb Radomile said...

I played Portal 2 when it first came out and it enticed me to buy the first one on Steam, but I never got around to playing it until this class. It was surprisingly short when compared to the second one while still managing to deliver the same experience. However, playing the game for a class made me think about the game more. Rather than just seeing the game as a puzzle, going room to room while listening to GLaDOS's witty remarks, I tried to analyze the game and it's setting. Chell is given no background, no personality, and our perception of the world is what GLaDOS makes it. She appears just to be the narrator at the beginning, but as the game progresses, we see that she is the true antagonist. With that said, I'm still having trouble, as others, with coming up with a connection between the game and our readings, but I'll try my best to make sense of it in this week's blog entry.

Brianna R. Pinckney said...

Chapter 4 of Marcuse caught my attention when he talked about his dislike for the government's abbreviations of certain organizations. Now that it has been brought to my attention, there are quite a few acronyms I don't know the meaning of; and I bet that's exactly what our government hoped for. Other observations like how officials are presented to us as "your congressmen" add personal touches hoping to appear more approachable to the public. Another interesting part revolved around how the purpose or portrayal of art has changed. Art used to represent a rebel or someone going against the norm whereas now, it is depicted as someone who is following a movement or a current trend.

Abby Peters said...

I am not a big video gamer, so playing portal was a new experience for me. I got a few tips from friends that play the game often to get me started and then I was off. I surprised myself with how into the game I was getting. Sometimes it was frustrating, but being able to figure a challenging level out was rewarding. As for the game part, as a newcomer I didn’t find myself compelled to get through the game quickly like others seemed to feel. I was satisfied with getting past a level and I enjoyed exploring the game along the way. On one level I found a room where someone had lived with writing all over the walls saying things like “the cake is a lie” and a bunch of tally marks.
Marcuse is still extremely challenging for me. I find it hard to extract meaning from the text at some points. Of the parts I did understand, I liked Marcuse’s view on how the mechanization of industry did not make anything easier on the laborer but instead changed the way of the “slavery” as he calls it. I liked this bit because he goes on to explain how physical labor was swapped for mental labor. I think that this allows for more opportunity for lower-labor classes to receive an education and increase their mental capabilities.

Sarah Ayre said...

Portal was an interesting experience. I found it puzzling and mentally a challenge, although I did expect that. I personally enjoyed the signs that were placed throughout the levels that while at first seemed just amusing, also provided the dual purpose of showing the player what to expect out of each level. Having not played portal before, and having only watched someone play portal too, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the game. I was also very surprised to note that the main character of the game was a female. I did not get far enough into the game to actually see why I was being tested and who was actually doing the testing, but I enjoyed the experience. I got stuck on level 15 and hope to continue my adventures soon.

Marcuse was not as an enjoyable experience for me, however. I think that his points about language are quite interesting. Thinking about the way that people in power, especially politicians, manipulate language to sway their audiences is something that is definitely still prevalent in society today. I know many people who believe in a political party or figure based on a few choice words this individual has used to represent them self with, whether this is accurate or not. Marcuse's bit about talking NATO was especially interesting to me because I have heard this term used and still before reading this piece would not have been able to tell you what it stood for. The shortening of words is a trick that politicians use that I just hadn't thought about before.

I think Adam raises an interesting question too, which I found myself asking too. How does portal relate to the class? One potential relation could be that in this world the technology is in control, and it is more important than the world outside, which Adam also mentions. Seeing the emphasis we put on technology and devices in today's society, this is a disturbing thought. Taking this even further (and this makes my brain hurt a little) I wonder what Marcuse would think of the game. It seems to follow with his idea of technology being used to control people, which he mentions in chapter 3. Technology in control definitely can be seen in portal, as every level that I reached was controlled by the technology. I hope to have more time to play portal and might have to go back and reread Marcuse a bit more closely to see if more connections pop up.

Jared DiSanti said...

Being a player of mostly sports games, Portal was a new experience for me. It is really the first game in which I found myself laughing quite a bit due to GLaDOS. The computer controls were sometimes frustrating but all in all the game played well although tedious at times.
My favorite part of the game was the inner argument asking about the "realness" for lack of a better word of androids. GLaDOS does her best to replicate a human but the game often makes her malfunction which is probably saying that androids can never be humans. The companion cube was also hilarious to be but also a genius point by the writers.

ajq5623 said...

After reading Marcuse I've been left with some important thoughts but also some confusion. Particularly I am not clear on why (and how?) Marcuse shifts from talking about consumerism and "higher level culture" to sexuality in chapter 3. I found the parts about consumerism to be quite interesting and profound but I can't seem to find the relevance in the parts about sexuality. It is very possible that I need to go back and read this section again but it seemed like a drastic switch of content to the point that it seemed irrelevant. Obviously this stuff is in there for a reason so it's a shame to misunderstand it.

Nikki Moriello said...

When I read Marcuse, I can't help but feel like I'm just reading the strings of thoughts that just pop into his head. He rambles on about so many different topics and sort of relates them to what his main idea is sometimes but not always.
However, I find his discussion on art in chapter 3 to be especially interesting. He focuses on the alienation involved with artwork and claims, "prior to the advent of this cultural reconciliation, literature and art were essentially alienation...they were a rational, cognitive force, revealing a dimension of man and nature which was repressed and repelled in reality." I can buy this, that art does expose the dimension of man who cannot be accepted in reality. But you would have to discount all realist art. Marcuse goes on to argue that, "the developing technological reality undermines not only the traditional forms but the very basis of the artistic alienation-that is, it tends to invalidate not only certain "styles" but also the very substance of art." This is where he loses me. I understand that the examples he uses, Madam Bovary and Romeo and Juliet, are tragic art pieces of "historical essence," but I don't think that the emergence of technology invalidates the alienation in art at all. On the contrary, I think technical advances allow us to develop new arts that still include the essential aspect of alienation as well as several other ideas.