At one point about a year ago, I was thinking of writing a Sexualized Saturdays post on Portal, but when I discovered that our own BrothaDom had already written that article, I cursed the whole “great minds think alike” thing and moved on. But something about Portal kept refusing to let me drop the idea of doing an article on it and I think I finally figured out what it is: GLaDOS is, arguably, an unsung feminist icon.
Admit it, even after all the attempted murder… you still kinda want to give her a hug right? (Image via The Portal Wiki.)
Much of the media discussion of Portal centers around the awesomeness of Chell as a groundbreaking example of “female as generic default” for a game protagonist… because she is! But, mostly in Portal 2, there’s a whole lot more narrative devoted to GLaDOS’s backstory and the way it changes the emotional tone of her relationship with Chell. Along the way, we get a narrative about who and what GLaDOS really is, which takes her from being little more than a gameplay mechanic to a truly deep and memorable character. The main story arc in which that transpires is one in which Chell and GLaDOS confront a patriarchal system that has turned them both into pawns in an infinite game and where the cycle of violence brought by abuse is a central theme.
(TW: Discussion of abusive relationships and violence against women.)
As a genderqueer person I’m fairly certain that my own experience with slash fanfiction differs somewhat from the norm. Only recently have I begun reflecting on how formative both writing and reading fanfiction was at a time in my life when I felt isolated and frustrated by my own seemingly incongruous feelings. Knowing now that there are a surprising number of people for whom the gender binary doesn’t hold true, I like to think that for some small portion of the fan community fanfiction has been an important tool for self-discovery, as it was for me.
Lycanthropy also serves as a metaphor for the inherent state of physical transition and transformation that is a defining part of puberty. For most able-bodied, non-chronically ill people, puberty is the first time we actively feel out of control of our bodies (potty training notwithstanding). The changes are sudden, violent, bizarre; simple changes in height are nothing compared to the fundamental, irreversible changes to the character and nature of our bodies that happen during puberty. It’s rooted in the same basis that makes all body horror so terrifying—the involuntary changing of and lack of control over the body.
More footage for the new Super Smash Brothers was released the other day. It was completely full of hype, and I would be lying if I denied how excited I was. All of the characters looked cool and badass and everything looked good… except for Samus. For some reason, Zero Suit Samus (an armorless version, focused on speed) was wearing high heels. Cue some questions.
I love the Portal series, especially the sequel. The gameplay is solid, the narrative is pretty funny, and it has a great atmospheric soundtrack. But I always thought the series had a little more to it. I found the games’ takes on gender to be interesting and subversive.
It’s the new year, and I feel excited about video games. I am excited about the mountain of games I acquired as presents and with gift cards, as well as games coming out later this year. For as much as I love good games, I am sad over how many of my friends and family just don’t enjoy them the way I do. Whether they lack interest or skill, it’s always difficult to share this part of my life with them. That’s why I’m trying to think of new ways for me to try and share my gaming experience with them.
There are of course the games that are fun to play with a group despite the challenges of the game. Games like New Super Mario Bros. U, Call of Duty, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 are great because, due to their tendency toward bullshit difficulty spikes, the whole group enjoys the accomplishments of even two players finally beating a level. Plus, the shared suffering leads to lively conversation. Other games which have narrative arcs which tend to appeal to those outside of the medium are always fun to pass and play, even if some people are terrible. These games include Alice: Madness Returns, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Resident Evil 5, and they tend to be just as fun to watch as to play if you are already invested in the subject matter. Hell, some games are such a spectacle that it’s fun to pass and play without any narrative context. Call of Duty and Halo attract droves of casual players who only play in groups. Any of these are fine, but I feel my repertoire lacks a certain “universally appealing” punch. So imagine my delight and excitement as I realize a way to better involve more people in the same games I already love. Continue reading →