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Behind The White Wall

Aperature is known for their innovation in science...their health standards are a little lacking though

 

Be warned, there are spoilers concerning the Portal series ahead.

 

For as long as I can remember, I've been a story person. If a game, book, or movie has a sub par, or weak story, it becomes very difficult for me to continue on with the subject. A good story is like a drug for me. It allows me to leave behind the world I'm in, as well as the problems that are on my mind. Something that often gets overlooked when it comes to a story are the little plot threads that remain off of the set path. Let me explain.

 

You know those little audio tapes that you pick up in games like Arkham Asylum? The ones that give a little more depth to the character's that are apart of the story that you're traipsing through? Those are the plot threads that I speak of. They're like these little nuggets of intricacy that you can pass up without a second thought if you're not careful, which could result in you missing out on an incredible story arc.

"I'm just not sure how to make this A.I. anymore overpowered..."

 

One example I have for you all is the Rat Man story arc from Valve's Portal series. Rat Man is actually a former Aperture scientist by the name of Doug Rattmann (creative right?) who has become trapped within the white walls of Aperture by Glados after she murdered his co-workers with a toxic gas.

 

I'll make it a point to stop right here. That little paragraph right above this one, just added an entirely new layer to the base Portal story. Can you imagine how frustrating it must be to know that players are sauntering past this major plot thread without a second though? I mean, if I were a writer for these games, and I sunk hours of my time into a plot thread like this I'd be a little irked that it wasn't getting any recognition even though it's as investing as the main plot line.

 

Continuing on, Rat Man is the entire reason that Chell is still alive at the beginning of Portal 2. After the events of Portal, Chell was left laying outside Aperture after defeating Glados, and Rat Man sacrificed his freedom to bring her back inside the hell from whence he came (The reason being that the Portal games exist within the Half Life universe and the events of Half Life were occurring during Portal, and Rat Man felt it was unsafe for her out in this world).

 

Rat Man essentially acted as an off screen guide for Chell, but that isn't what made his story so alluring. He sacrificed himself for her. He drug her inside a cryo-chamber and stored her for a safer time later on down the road. Well the life support system malfunctioned within her chamber and he was forced to wander through a room filled with turrets while he was on his way to turn on her life support. He suffered a fatal shot to the thigh, and managed to keep himself alive long enough to activate her life support. His fate is unknown at this point, as he left her with a message that read, "Sleep well."

Is it possible to mention a Portal game without mentioning cake?

 

A story like this warrants it's own installment in the series. In fact Rat Man's story received the comic book treatment, in the graphic novel titled "Lab Rat". This is a story that could have been it's own game, as it's as deep and engrossing as the main story arc. It deals with Rat Man's impeccable loneliness, his descent into insanity, and serves as a bridge for the Portal series' many twists and turns.

 

His story is told in the games on walls, through distorted radio signals, and even a song in Portal 2. It's so tough for me to swallow that a story this deep is often missed by the audience. Something his story accomplishes, is that it adds even more darkness to this often lighthearted story that we've all come to know and love.

 

My sister, for example is a massive fan of the Portal series but wasn't aware of Rat Man's existence until I had her proof-read this blog. She immediately purchased the comic, and hunted down the hidden story that was imbedded in the Portal games.

 

What's my point in writing this? Well it's to convince you - the audience - to take another look at your surroundings. To search for these well developed stories that often get left in the dark. When you're playing games like Bioshock and you come across a curious little audio tape, take a listen. You just might enjoy what you hear.

All these Riddler trophies but not ONE damn audio tape

 

We all celebrate massive releases like Arkham City, and the stories that they tell, but we sometimes fail to see the things that add more depth, and immersion to the game itself. These intertwining arcs are the product of a groups of hardworking men and women and the amount of love and detail that they put into their stories, and it's disappointing to me that some players miss out on the chance to experience these expertly crafted plot threads.

 

When you're gliding through Arkham City, or trying to find your way through the maze that is Rapture, just stop. Take a look around, smell those literary roses, and add just a bit more to your experience. More often than not you'll walk away from the game satisfied with what you've found.

 

As for those of you who play through the Portal series, take some time and peek behind the white walls. There's something there waiting for you.

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