Tag Archives: Portal

DLC 2013: Your Holiday News Roundup

Whew! I hope everyone’s had a good holiday. Now it’s time to get back to it, though. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) not much in terms of videogame news has happened over the holidays, so we haven’t missed too much.


  • There weren’t any big releases in the past two or so weeks, but here’s a handy partial calendar of 2013‘s big upcoming releases. (GameInformer)
  • Well, a game called The War Z (you have one guess as to what it’s about) was released on Steam and then quickly pulled because of controversies such as vague descriptions, suspicious microtransactions, and being very similar to the popular (and free) Arma II mod DayZ. Here’s a summary of the kerfuffle (Kotaku) and an open apology from creator Sergey Titov. (WarZ Forums)
  • Here’s a Minecraft mod that turns creepers into anime girls a la visual novels. (Minecraft Forums) Kotaku’s Patricia Hernandez has some interesting thoughts about it.
  • Sony has filed a patent application that could make it so its next home console doesn’t play used games. Such a move could decrease piracy, but would also be a severe blow to retailers like GameStop who trade mainly in used games. Sony’s stock shares have dropped in reaction to the announcement. (Gamasutra)
  • Microsoft says they’re going to make a big Xbox-related announcement at E3 2013. Who doesn’t think they’re finally going to unveil their next-gen console? (Gamerant)
  • Oh and here’s a trailer for the Devil May Cry reboot. What do you guys think? (GameInformer)

Side Quests

  • Gamasutra took a look at just what the hell “mid-core” means anyway. They also polled some designers and Twitterers and got some interesting results.
  • Kim Swift, creator of Portal, wrote a blog post this week in the wake of the #1ReasonWhy movement talking about how the best way to bring diversity into the games industry is to empower  kids to make their own games. And, possibly, exploding lemons.
  • Unwinnable’s Steve Haske writes about experimenting with the world of Dishonored in an article entitled “Abuses of Power.”

Bonus Levels

  • From the comic book world: Gail Simone is back on Batgirl! The super-swell Tumblr blog DCWomenKickingAss has lists of the best and worst of DC Women for 2012.

Extra: Cheats and Hacks

Every gaming blog worth its salt (except this one, natch) has loads of “Best/Worst of 2012″ compilations. I’m kind of over the “Best Game” sort of lists–but some of the other lists are interesting or thought-provoking. Here are some of our favorites:

      • The best games of 2012: A far cry from 2011′s heights (Metacritic)
      • 50 Games that Defined the Year (Gamasutra)
      • Indies met challenges, learned lessons in 2012 (Gamasutra)
      • “Someday we’ll be living in the Matrix” and other thoughts from the industry in 2012 (Kotaku)
      • The Best Achievements and Trophies of 2012 (GameInformer)
      • 2012: The Games that Might Have Been (Gameological Society)

Portal 2 developer commentary

Chell, crouching

Unusually among game heroines, Chell is complete non-sexualised. (A white woman of slender to medium build with somewhat messy dark hair. She has bare feet, wears an orange jumpsuit, has braces on the back of her calves, and carries a handeheld portal device, which looks like a futuristic ray gun.)

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!

Gender, Sex, and Meaningful Avatars

Samus Aran from Metroid Prime 3 Corruption, in full armour

Samus Aran from Metroid Prime 3 Corruption. She's fully armoured and appears to be in mid-jump.

At Infinite Lives there’s an intriguing post from Jenn that discusses the notion that self-created player-characters/avatars such as your character in Fallout 3 may be more difficult to identify with than pre-determined, blank slate, player-characters such as Faith from Mirror’s Edge, Samus from Metroid, and Chell from Portal. The main thing that the latter three protagonists and games have in common is not only that the heroines have very little personality as expressed in their respective games’ plots. Also these three games have very little dialogue compared to Fallout 3 and games of that ilk, as well as having comparatively little interaction between the avatar and NPCs inhabiting the game world.

So what does this mean for the player experience and identification with one’s character? According to Jenn, one of the differences is due to the fact that, while one may create a character that is female or male sexed, the experience you have in Fallout 3 is the same in terms of your character’s gender. Continue reading