Level Zero #1 - Searching for gamer cred with a portal gun

by - Thursday, February 23, 2012

currently: busy with more writing.

So next week, university starts for my very full on third year. [insert sad face here].
But hey, call me hard working: I've already written stuff for AUT's Debate Magazine, with more pieces lined up to review and write (I'm working on something right now as we speak.)
So as a lead up to what useless articles and pieces I'll be submitting for this year, have a look at my first column piece that you can read in Debate's 2012 summer orientation issue.

Level Zero - Searching for gamer cred with a portal gun.
Column #1

I have a collection of video games at home, and not to brag, but I’m pretty good at them. I’m quick with the arrow keys, I know how to rack up the high points, and I’m fantastic with reaching those achievement levels. Sound impressive? 
Apparently, it’s not. Because playing Angry Birds, Singstar and The Sims 2 doesn’t account to anything according to gamers. To gamers, I’d be a person riding a dorky tricycle while elite gamers ride their shiny motorcycles around me. 
It’s a shame because I have a lot to say on those darn pesky green pigs. But when standing in a circle of gamers, they’re more interested in discussing weird World of Warcraft minerals or the things that they shot up in Minecraft last night. (I’m making that up; I don’t even know what you do in those games.) 
So this gives me two solutions. One, find a new circle of people to stand with, or two, actually learn how to play these games so I actually have some clue what their saying.
I don’t know why, but learning to play games seemed like the more appealing option. Maybe it’s the fantasy of being able to earn cool points in the nerd realm (I suck at earning cool points in the real world.) Or maybe it was the idea that boys would forget my lack of cooking skills as I distracted them with my ability to take down virtual evil robots and zombie gorillas, if such a game exists.
So, with a Steam gamer account installed, I started with a video game that was suggested to begin my “gamer” conquering journey with: the 2007 computer game of Portal. For months, I had heard about the phrase “the cake is a lie” but never understood what it truly meant. Playing this game would allow me to finally figure out what those circle of gamers kept talking about.
I’ll admit, Portal sounded easy. It’s basically a puzzle game where you have to get from the start point to the end point on each floor, with only a Portal Gun in hand to teleport yourself with. No bloodshed, no assassins out to get me – just learning how to solve the puzzle, and I like puzzles (it’s why I play Angry Birds.) The Portal Gun is intensely fun to play with too; I tried to create one of those endless trails where you keep falling through the portals in a never-ending loop of amusement.
And although you’re the only person in the game, the friendly computer voice GLaDOS guides you through all the levels. Everything was just so nice and polite. Even the little laser robots (called turrets) were apologetic when you had to kill them to get past, telling you “no hard feelings” or “I don’t blame you” as they died. Every time they would say that, it made me feel so guilty, like I had squashed a forgiving sympathetic kitten.
It took a while to get to the end of the puzzles (you need to know the law of physics for this game) but I made it, expecting a celebration and the virtual cake that GLaDOS promised. But when I did reach the “end”, I finally found out why everyone said “the cake is a lie”; because (SPOILER ALERT) GLaDOS tries to kill you in a fiery furnace. What kind of twisted up game leads you on for twenty levels before it ends up killing you without virtual cake?
I have to confess, after that false ending, I had some help with finishing the rest of the game properly. But your virtual persona feels violated and alone after being tricked by the artificial intelligent program that tried to kill you (or maybe that was just me who felt that.) So in this first “gamer’s conquest”, this video game has taught me a few things about games:
One – don’t trust the robots even if they tell you to.
Two – don’t pity sympathetic laser shooting turrets.
And three – games make promises but then try to kill you when you go look for virtual cake. Darn robots.

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