OK, now that we are past that awkward moment as I broke the hearts of everyone eager for me to play a PC game, allow me to explain why I chose to play Portal tonight. You see, on Twitter the other day, EverydayGamers.com posted a question for their podcast wondering what games we have loved after giving them a second chance, because the first time we didn't like them. I responded with: "Portal, and there is a funny and sad story behind it as well."
Well, listening to their podcast today, they read my response, and then almost challenged me to write about the funny and sad story on my blog, because I had left my initial answer at that, and well, curiosity is always the best way to rope people in. So, here we are, as I am about to share one of the darkest and most embarrassing gamer stories I have. Brace yourselves, and feel free to mock me afterwards, as I realize I probably deserve it.
I bought this game on XBLA a few years ago, mainly because it was drastically marked down. I really had no ambition to play it before then, but a buddy that I worked with insisted I play it, because apparently it was the best thing ever. Since it was on sale, and knowing that I was probably the only one in the world to have no idea what this game was even about, I went on his recommendation and picked it up. "I've wasted a few bucks on worse things," was my thought as I purchased it. Remember folks, this was a smash-hit PC game before Xbox, and I wasn't exactly in the know when it came to PC gaming. When it came over to the Xbox via The Orange Box, I paid it no attention, because really, they were all just PC games ported to a console. My interest level was at an all-time minimum.
So I started up the game. First thing I remember thinking, which I remembered tonight, was how messed up it was to make you start out in a human cage for several minutes with no way of escaping until it chose to let you out, all while watching a clock with no abilities other than "jump." If it's possible to feel claustrophobic in a video game, that's it. You pretty much feel dumb right off the bat because it seems like you should be able to do something to get out, but alas, you cannot. Just sit there with a disembodied robot voice talking to you.
Waiting. Jump. Jump. Waiting. Waiting. Jump. Until he mysterious portal opens.
SO I played through the first couple of rooms, getting a hang for the basic principles of the game that would prove to be instrumental in getting through the game. You know, like placing blocks on pressure-activated switches and such. Everything was going fine, no problems. Game was playing pretty much how I expected it to. No hiccups, but no real excitement either. Then I get my hands on the Portal Gun. And that's really when the story begins.
You see, I made it through the first, oh, two rooms or so with the gun. Then I came to a test chamber that would forever haunt my gaming psyche. There was an orange portal that I just came though, and two gaps, both with stairs only on side, with the exit on the other side of one of the gaps. All I had to do was cross that gap, somehow, and advance.
Well, as it turns out, I had not wrapped my head around how the Portal Gun, or the portals for that matter, worked or what physics were behind them. I kid you not, I spent well over a half of a hour in that room trying to cross the gap, and I could not get. I finally got so mad at the game and the inability to figure out what should have been an easy first part of the game, I quit it and vowed to never return. A few dollars down the drain.
A few weeks had passed, and my buddy at work asked how I was liking it. I revealed to him that I hated it, never wanted to play it again. He asked why, of course, and I told him it was due to my frustrations with the unsolvable problem. I tried to explain which room I was in, since he had beaten it several times over the years, but I couldn't explain it well enough. I'm sure he thought I was much, much farther into the game than I was, based on me actually being stuck. I resulted to sketching out the entire room on a white board we had in our shop. I located the portal I came though, where I needed to get to and why I couldn't figure out where to place the blue portal to make it happen.
I probably took as long explaining my problem as I spent actually trying to solve it. When it finally clicked to him what my problem was, he gave me the most dirty, disapproving look one gaming friend could ever give to another. Seriously, it was like just erased his maxed out WoW character by accident or something. It was bad. I knew what that meant, too.
It meant I was stupid. So stupid he felt bad for even having to tell me how stupid I was. He drew out the solution, but I didn't get it. He drew it out again (with different color pens and all), and I still didn't get it. Now he was confused how I could still be confused.
Then it clicked. I almost wish I hadn't asked him for help, because of how stupid I felt, and how much of his time I wasted because of my stupidity. I'm pretty sure I still owe him to this day for it, actually.
You see, up until it all clicked and the proverbial light bulb turned on, I had thought, for some reason I will never be able to fully justify, that you could only exit through the orange portals and only enter through the blue portals. Yes, you read that right. I associated the colors of the portals with the the direction from which you came or went through them. So basically, the only thing I had to do was shoot a blue portal on the wall next to the exit and then walk back through the orange portal, and I would have been well on my way. But because I thought I could only exit through the orange, I was trying everything I could think of to place the blue portal in spots that I could fall through, coming out of the orange portal and then trying to somehow make it over the gap. I can't even truly explain what I was doing or what my mindset was at the time, because of how ridiculous it was.
Once I discovered you could come and go as you please through either one of the portals, despite their color, I saw that game in a whole new light. I think I ended up beating it in one sitting the next time I played it, just so I could scream from the mountain tops that I had beaten it. I honestly don't even think the puzzles ever really stumped me from that point on, and even the boss fight went smooth. Finding out that idiotic yet crucial information about how the portals worked made me feel like Bradley Cooper's character in the movie Limitless - pretty much an unstoppable wrecking ball.
So playing tonight, I wanted to kind of relive the worst and most embarrassing memory of gaming that I have. Well, the most recent one at least. When I got to that room, I just looked around and couldn't believe I ever got stuck in there. If I had just bothered to try to walk through the orange portal, all that could have been avoided.
I played past that part tonight, of course, as I had pretty much forgotten everything about the game because of that one room. That one room. It's a fun game, no doubt, but Portal 2 was way better. I'm sure I will be playing that sometime this year as well.
Oh, and remember, the cake is a lie. But unfortunately, my stupidity is not.