The Portal 2 Experiment

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In an age where we are drip fed the latest news, games, films, TV etc, I’m trying to do something a little different. Keeping myself in the dark.
I first played The Orange Box in 2009 and after having the pleasure of playing through Half Life 2 and its still 2 episodes for the first time and finding myself frustrated that the Xbox 360 version of Team Fortress 2 was a pale imitation of its older PC brother, there was one more game left in the collection for me to play. Of course, that game is the much loved Portal. While it may be short, it’s a brilliant little physics puzzler and happens to have a great villain in the form of GLaDOS. Because of the Internet, I already knew that the cake was a lie (or was it?) and the love of the Companion Cube, but for the most part I went into it relatively fresh. I knew the game was about portals and I had watched a friend play the opening 10 minutes or so but the best part for me was after gaining satisfaction from finishing a difficult puzzle, I would go into the next level having no idea what to expect.

Hype has a strong influence on us but often it can have negative consequences. Take for example the recent acclaim over the new Dead Island trailer. I haven’t watched it yet for two reasons. Firstly I’m not that interested in the game right now despite it having zombies and secondly, I don’t want to watch what is ultimately a CGI trailer and get unrealistic expectations only to be ultimately disappointed when the game does get released. And I don’t mean that for just Dead Island, the same will apply to any person who’s excited about any product of a particular medium. Dead Island has every potential of being a great game, but the opposite also rings true. After all, I’m the guy who’s only just finally given up on Sonic for good after the abysmal Sonic 4.

Back to Portal, I was obviously excited when we all found out that Portal 2 was being made, (Despite Half Life 2: Episode 3 still being in production) since I enjoyed the first game a lot. I thought to myself at the time though, would you enjoy a game or ignore its faults more if you went into it relatively fresh? So after reading the initial Game Informer feature, I decided I would do my very best not to read or watch anything about Portal 2.

And that’s just what I’ve done. All of my knowledge of Portal 2 comes from that first information we got. I know it’s got a co-op mode and there are some new toys to play with, but aside from that, I know hardly anything about the game. I haven’t watched any of the trailers (aside from the amusing Valentine’s Day video) and I specifically try and avoid articles about the game, incase I find out something that happens in the game that I would much rather be surprised by when I play it. Of course, it’s impossible to have a full media blackout of the game, as some information I will find out about, like the release date or the PS3 version having Steamworks and a free PC version (so jealous).

Blogging about media however doesn’t lend itself well to trying to avoid information. If I’m writing a news post for the website then I will usually check my RSS reader for what the latest news is and inevitably I’m going to find out details about the particular media I’m reporting on. After all, it’s there to inform you, the reader. I’ve noticed though that some websites are particularly dispensable of information about a game or whatever that I would want to find out in the game rather than beforehand. Kotaku (who I’m only using as an example here, regardless of my opinion about them) posted about an easter egg in Halo: Reach only a few days after the game was released. It was nothing that had a huge effect on the plot, just a cool little nod and yet, I would rather have accidentally saw this when I was playing the game.

I’m not trying to demonise Kotaku for this. While I wouldn’t have posted it, they obviously thought it was something that their readers would want to know (or would get them hits). The point I’m trying to make is that while it’s nice to find out some information about some new upcoming thing we like the look of, we shouldn’t know every little aspect about it, whether that is from the developer of that thing or from the media reporting on it. You wouldn’t go into a film or book knowing every little aspect about it. Most people will see one or two trailers or in the case of books, the blurb.

The Portal 2 experiment has been going well so far. Whether it will pay off or not is one thing ,but it’s been nice to have an air of mystery about a sequel to a game I thoroughly enjoyed. So next time there’s a game coming out you like the look of, maybe try and avoid some information?

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