Portal: entry to useful skills

Watching a player [who has worked (without cheats) through the game] playing “Portal” creatively was an experience of fascination and awe for me.  ( If you want to see how the game looks,  I Twittered a link to a page with an advertising video for it a while back.)

The game involoves aiming a “gun” at certain classes of surfaces.   Left /right mouseclicks give access to make the blue /orange portal.  The player can have only one of each open at a time.  If ve enters a portal ve exits at the other with the same velocity relative to the surface of the portal, so falling two stories into one on the floor can hurtle ver out of one on the wall.

The playing space is, of  course, filled with delightful ways to die, and has a charming AI talking to the player  as ve is “tested”.   Watch it too long and you start talking like her … and it is terribly easy to watch too long.

At one point, the player has to set up a portal high on a wall, and its partner on a floor in a distant room to which ve can dive from a height.  Ver acceleration must be enough and the wall  portal at the right height for the ballistic curve to carry ver to a small walkway high over a pit of acid.  Oh, I didn’t mention the acid?  I’m thinking like the AI …

At least it’s high enough for the player to meditate on the value of good spatial skills as ve falls to (yet another) death dissolve.  (And you can’t get me for that pun, I’m far away now … love the net.)

Just fun?  It certainly isn’t anything the educational system assesses.
And it ties in strangely to what I was reading on “Subjectivity, choice and virtual death in digital media”.


Throughout the game the player uses mental mapping, vector recognition and ballistics prediction skills, and scans the environment for useful / dangerous things.  The mapping gets very complex in the large “training facility”.

These are the skills for things like  military and emergency services’ remotes’s operators,  laparoscopic surgeons,  and resistance to confusion in strange cities.  They also will be useful for an activity not yet here:

With knowledge stores represented as virtual space, the links between areas of knowledge, theories, and individual authors will be complex architecture like this, with distant places having “portal” links.  These players will find navigation easy.  How will you go?


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