Portal 2 is not a perfect game from a diversity and inclusiveness standpoint. There are definitely a few moments where it gets things wrong, but there are also a lot of things that it gets right. Most notably (and like its predecessor) it features two strong female characters in Chell and GLaDOS, neither of whom are in any way sexualised. It not only passes the Bechdel Test; it blows it out of the water.
However, this isn’t what impressed me the most about Portal 2. What did impress me most was this comment, from within the game’s developer commentary:
Project Lil is our codename for an internal push to make our comments more accessible to the whole Valve community. It was pointed out to us in mail from a fan, that in some of our previous commentary, the designers referred unfailing to the gamer as a “he”. Although in natural speech most of us normally tend to say tend to say “they” and “their” rather than “he” and “his”, some stuffy, over-active minion of the grammar-police went through and revised all those usages to make them confirm to an oppressive, gender-biased rule. However, research shows that “they” and “their” is a perfectly acceptable and even older form and we’re happy to fall back on it and let people talk the way they normally talk, and screw the so called “rules” that alienate our fans. Thanks, Lil.
This comment, made by writer and designer Marc Laidlaw, can be found in test chamber 13 in chapter 3, for anyone who wants to go and check it out for themselves. (I’ll also note that I transcribed it manually, and may have introduced some errors in doing so. These are my fault and not Valve’s.)
The thing that I love about this is not just that they’re making an effort to be inclusive, but also that they’re willing to admit that they got things wrong in the past. Admitting that you got something wrong is seldom easy and usually takes some degree of courage, so I always cheer a bit when I see things like this.
This is also direct evidence that developers like Valve are learning, are improving, and are willing to engage with us when we politely point out problems we see in their work. I can’t see that as anything other than fantastic news. Thanks, Valve!