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Still Alive

Ok, usually I just post movies, but this time I need to send a warning ahead: If you, in the future, plan to play the game Portal and don't like spoilers, then don't read on and skip the movie - you'll be seeing it anyways... Oh, and don't read the explanation too...

These are the end credits of Portal which basically blew me away (see below):

(written by Jonathan Coulton (http://www.jonathancoulton.com/))

Here's a little background information:

Portal is a 3d ego puzzle game. Using the perspective every shooterfan will recognize at once (actually using the fine Halflife 2 graphics engine) it manages to be really tense and at times rather scary without any spacemutants out to eat your guts, guns and crowbars...

The game drops you right in the middle of a variation of the "Cube" theme. You know: weird, underground labyrinth that forces you to solve tests and puzzles to (maybe) get out. In this special case though the authors dropped the cast of rather one dimensional cutout clichees that ruined the whole series except for Cube Zero.

You're alone. And the labyrinth in this case is a test lab of some kind, with you acting as the labrat, so to say. Sometimes windows in walls offer views into what obviously seem to be observation rooms, but there's no humans to be seen. The employees of Aperture Science, the name of the company running the lab, seem to have their day off.

Oh, did I say you're alone? Sorry, I have forgotten about GlaDOS - she's the local Artificial Intelligence, in control of the whole lab complex, who communicates to you via loudspeakers in the walls. She gives advice to you and explains some of the tests.

I *have* to tip my hat to Ellen McLain, the voice actress playing GlaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System). By now it's not such a big deal anymore to cast actual actors for voice roles in computer games - but Ellen is just fantastic. She really breathed life into a figure you never get so "see" until the very end of the game - and with some clever postprocessing effects I actually was *sure* she was an actual synthesized voice.

Oooh, GlaDOS... Not too far into the game you get the first few signs that suggest she might have gone HAL. In the beginning it seems she's just messing with your head a bit as a part of the test scenario. But over time it becomes clearer and clearer that, where she a real she, she'd be wearing her knickers over her head and entertain her singing potato friends for teatime.

And what is it with the cake? For some reason, she seems to think that for humans all things nice come down to cake. At the end of the tests there will be a party and cake. It sounds silly, but when you're the type who like me really immerses into a story if it's good you will start to actually WANT the cake. You earned it! It's your CAKE!

(if you don't believe that a computergame can start a cake cult of it's own then google for "Portal cake" or "the cake is a lie!" and see for yourself...)

Then there's the big finale - you finally meet GlaDOS face to face (so to say) and do battle with the computer that went cuckoo (featuring some immortal lines with both terrible revelations and hillarious jokes) and then there's a biiiiig explosion and you shortly come to your senses on the surface, lying in the grass, with bits and pieces of GlaDOS raining down around you before you finally loose consiousness... And THEN the credits sequence above runs.

Wow. That so blew me away on so many levels at once... Let me explain:

First and easiest: I really like the song, it's an upbeat tune with a lovely little melody. The other reasons are a little more complex. One is, that at the end of a really good game (and believe you me, Portal *is* great and deserves all the attention and awards it gets) I'm in a ... hmmm ... fragile emotional state. On one side I'm all exited and hyped because I *beat* the game (yeah!), on the other hand I'm also a bit sad (awwww, it's over!).

And along comes this tune with it's lyrics that at one and the same time are really funny, really sad, AND make you go "WTF?!?". Thanks to Ellen, who also sings this tune, the "Go ahead and leave me, I think I prefer to stay inside..." bit sounds so lonely, sad and misunderstood that you'll be prepared to forgive her everything. I had tears in my eyes, actually.

Then there's the jokes in the lyrics - GlaDOS is a lab computer, so she has to do science! The Black Mesa Line, right after that sad bit, completely got me by surprise and cracked me up. Black Mesa is a rival company to Portal's Aperture Science it seems from some evidence you find allthrough the game. Which in itself is one of the coolest inside jokes - Black Mesa is the company in the center of the activities of the game "Halflife" and directly responsible for what happens to Earth afterwards, causing the Invasion by terrible alien forces.

Last but not least there's the "what the *bleep* just happened now???" effect: You just have thrown the central personality core of GlaDOS into a fiery furnace, finally defeating the mad, murderous AI bitch. But SHIT - somewhere below your feet there's a huuuge storageroom (nice reference to the end of "Raiders of the lost Ark") FULL of copies of that damn thing! (And there IS A BLOODY CAKE! *AND* the weighted companion cube is still alive! (don't ask, that one's even weirder than the cake obsession, but I *love* the weighted companion cube)). And isn't that song just her way of saying "Nyah! Nyah! Nyah!"?!? And WAS she mad after all or was even THIS and her "final" destruction just a part of that bloody test?!?

Now I can't wait for the next part... XD Valve, makers of Portal, seem to have leaked that we might learn more about the relationship between Aperture Science and Black Mesa in the future, even hinting at merging the two game universes closer together... We'll see...

Jolly good fun for sure. XD