yet another cinematic dream!

So! Another cinematic dream. VERY FUCKING TRAGIC *LOL*

Basically it started out in this ... sorta alternate-reality. It was a modern 21st century world in terms of infrastructure and technology, but socioeconomically kinda 19th centuryish -- sharp class divides, not much in the way of upward mobility from humble roots, a comparatively large unskilled labor base, a comparatively smaller merchant class, and a very small noble elite.

Anyway, I think I was one of the unskilled laborers. My day seemed to consist mostly of hanging out on the street hoping for work from my betters *LOL* At the start of the dream! I got picked off the street by some noblewoman-type and her entourage for a manual-labor type job. And it seemed to be mostly moving stuff around. Maybe she was moving? Or reorganizing? Anyway, so I'm lugging shit back and forth with said noblewoman directing me around personally. And frankly, she was fucking hot. I can't remember what she looks like now! But -- slender, arrogant and elegant. And pretty soon, there's subtle but distinct chemistry going on, though with this total 'way outta your league' vibe from her side, and I end up doing all this extra work just to stick around. We may have also gotten it on, but it's hard to tell cuz ... it's one of those cinematic dreams where it's left kinda 'did they or didn't they?'

But eventually! She pays me with this sort of disdainful thank-you, then sends me off.

Then! The next day! She walks by where I usually loiter in hopes of work, and is obviously looking for more help. But! She basically ignores the fuck out of me. Which isn't altogether unexpected! But I'm still like, hey! So I go after her and ask her if she needs anything else. And she blows me off and takes some other dude back, and I'm like, GRUMP.

So this goes on for a while. Sometimes she'll come and pick me out of the group, and I'd go lug shit around for her, and there'd be chemistry and possible seckz, and sometimes she'll pick someone else, but whatever happens -- every time I see her the day after, she's cold as fuck and acts like she doesn't know me at all. But meanwhile every time we do get together, the attraction between us is growing stronger and stronger and getting more and more emotionally entangled.

So finally one day she pulls the don'tknowyou shit again I'm just like WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU. And she kinda blows me off and walks away, and I follow her, and grab her by the arm and drag her off to some alleyway where we're alone.

And I'm like, "Okay, I might be poor and unlanded and untitled, but I still have my pride. And you can't just jerk me around time and again only to pretend nothing happened at all. I understand a need for discretion, but you can't expect me to just sit there and watch you bring some other guy home for godknowswhat whenever you decide you're going to be a bitch, rehrehreh!"

And like -- eventually I sort of run out of steam, and we're all standing there and I'm all disheveled and angry and then suddenly, of course, we're just like MAGNETGLOMPATTACKMAULFACE and there's all this passion and lust and in the middle of it I'm like, OKAY, NO, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I MEAN. You can't just do this and then pretend nothing happened!
And she pulls back and!


And I'm like WTF. And she's like "You want the truth? Do you want the truth? Look at what I am. I'm a monster. I'm incapable of ever returning your feelings. Every time I feel attraction, or attachment, I forget who you are." And then she bursts into tears! And is like, "If you feel anything for me at all, you have to kill me. End my suffering! Put me out of my misery!"

And I'm like AUGH NO. And she's like DO IT. And I'm like I CAN'T. And -- commence desperate embracing, anguished sobs, etc -- but even as she's going through that she's feeling, so of course she's forgetting, and I know it and she knows it and I realize -- well, for one thing, there's no way I can kill her. And for another -- she might be sad right NOW, but she'd forget every time, and go on with her life. And if I killed her! It'd be selfishness, not mercy.

So basically I'd decided to just let her go! And at that point, I woke up.

The end!

portal and feminism - GLaDOS!


Queen Bee.

** Note: I actually wrote this on the flight to Shanghai. But after I landed, I discovered was firmly blocked by government censors! Just today, I realized I could get around this block by Hamachi-ing to my server, and using my server to post.

So. Finally! GLaDOS rant! **

So I'm finally getting a chance to put down my GLaDOS rant, and I'm currently sitting on a 747 somewhere off the coast of Siberia. I've done the SFO-to-Shanghai flight before, but I gotta say... you forget just how long twelve hours are until you spend them crammed into an airplane seat. Fortunately I've flown 747s enough to know a nice little secret re: seating.

Basically, a 747's laid out like this: first class is in the nose, business class is up on the second deck (occasionally these are reversed, but usually not), and economy takes up the rest of it. In economy, the seating arrangement is 3-4-3 -- i.e. three on the port, then the port side aisle, then four in the middle, then the starboard side aisle, and three on the starboard.

But! Way in the back of the plane, the fuselage tapers such that it becomes 2-4-2 for the last three rows. And if you sit on the window in the first or second of these three rows, you essentially have a ton of open space off to your side. This lets you swing your legs sideways to curl up in the seat, stretch them out alongside the seat in front of you, or even -- as I'm doing right now -- sit on the arm of your seat with your back to the wall.

Obviously, when I can get an upgrade to economy plus or business, it's vastly preferable to this. But when I can't, these are definitely the best seats on the plane.


Anyway. So. Back on topic: GLaDOS, Portal, and feminism!

Last time I took a look at Chell's character arc, and how that metaphorically mirrors a feminist journey from oppression to freedom. But honestly, I think GLaDOS is a much more complex, compelling character. To really see her character arc, you actually have to start way back in the 1950s with Caroline and Cave Johnson.

Cave Johnson, as you might remember from the Portal plot post, is the (hilariously) un-PC founder of Aperture Science, who ran his company -- and ultimately, himself -- into the ground with his crackpot ideas. When we "meet" him via his recordings in the condemned bowels of the facility, he usually has his secretary, Caroline, somewhere in the background. From these records we can easily see the relationship between them: Cave Johnson calls thtoe shots, Caroline is the meek, submissive woman who quietly stands behind him and supports him on everything he does.

Yet Cave himself says over and over again that Caroline is highly intelligent. In fact, as Cave Johnson is dying, he wants Caroline to run the facility after his death. So what we've got here is basically a very smart woman who's constantly shunted to the background/sidelines/wings/shadows. Now, Cave insists that she's 'modest' and wouldn't want a bigger part than that, but -- that's Cave's viewpoint, and we already know that his opinion is skewed so far toward male chauvinism that it's... well, actually, it IS really funny. But only because we know the game designers intended him to be one long facepalm.

Anyway! So let's this about this. Caroline: smart, oppressed (whether she's even conscious of it or not) by her employer and, on a larger level, by 50s male dominated society as a whole. Now, as the plot unfolds, it turns out she never did take over Aperture Science, because one of Cave's other harebrained ideas panned out: namely, putting a human personality into a supercomputer. Since Cave died before he was able to be immortalized as a supercomputer, Caroline's personality was, by his direction, loaded in his place. That personality was combined with vast amounts of information, knowledge and power to form the supercomputer at the core of Aperture Science.

This supercomputer was, of course, GLaDOS. And we all know! That literally the picosecond GLaDOS was powered up, she seized control of the facility, locked it down, and attempted to kill everyone inside. In other words -- take Caroline's fierce intelligence and natural potential, plus perhaps some latent/long-buried resentment at being sidelined for so long -- and give her almost unlimited power and knowledge, and what you get is GLaDOS out for revenge.

Let's take a step back, then, and consider this from a metaphorical standpoint. GLaDOS is the archetypical strong, intelligent woman in a male-dominated society. Sure, this isn't the 50s anymore, but the glass ceiling very much still exists. Hillary Clinton got called a bitch and a cunt; she got told to iron shirts. It was a footnote on most stories. If Obama had been called a nigger and told to pick cotton, there would've been a national uproar and riots in the streets. Women still make something like 75% of what men do. And in vast swaths of the country, not to mention the world, a woman's purpose in life is still considered to be wifing and mothering -- in other words, standing silently and supportively behind a man. So when you consider that, then yeah -- the GLaDOS metaphor is obviously exaggerated, but it addresses a very real issue.

If we take that a little further, then this is what we have. GLaDOS is the archetypical oppressed woman. Cave JOhnson is the "face" of the oppressive male, and Aperture Science, being essentially an extension of his will, is that oppressive society. So in the (chronological) opening of the GLaDOS story arc, we see her seizing power and rebelling -- violently -- against that very society.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. After that first disaster, the engineers of Aperture Science managed to bring GLaDOS back under control. They did so by installing personality cores on her: 1) a "logic" core that endlessly spouts a nonsensical cake recipe; 2) an "anger" core that's utterly incoherent; 3) a "curiosity" core that's exceedingly childlike, and perhaps most interestingly, 4) a "morality" core that seems to render GLaDOS a Stepford Wife -- superficially bubbly and helpful, endlessly spouting Aperture Science-isms, and without any real humanity of her own. It's worthwhile to note that when the morality core is destroyed, GLaDOS instantly becomes openly hostile and sinister. The game subtitles refer to the change in her tone as "sensual"; I think a more valid definition would simply be more human in all regards, personality and sexuality included.

So again, let's think about this metaphorically. Aperture Science represents society. GLaDOS represents the oppressed woman. When woman tries to break free and assert independence/power, society responds by sadlding her with the idea that 1) female logic/thoughts should be restricted to cooking, 2) female anger is hysterical and incoherent, 3) female curiosity should be restricted to childlike wonder without any intellectual depth, and 4) female morality should restrain her personality and, indeed, her very humanity. The woman that society wants to create is essentially, well -- a robot designed to serve.

Another interesting point: because of society's restrictions, GLaDOS/woman's only real recourse for anger is passive aggression. She's incapable of directly harming anyone, so she resorts to passively-aggressively and indirectly defeating her subjugators. And I think that's a really insightful twist, because -- yeah, passive aggression is considered a very female trait, but the fact is: maybe it's only female because society doesn't let women actually be aggressive.

Moving on, then. Obviously, GLaDOS eventually succeeds in taking over the facility despite her handicaps. Years go by; Chell comes along. Let's think about Chell now: at the beginning of the game, she's exactly what GLaDOS would despise -- a woman that dumbly follows the mandates laid upon her. Do this. Do that. Perform this task. Jump through that hoop. Get irrationally attached to a "male" companion cube that's nothing more than deadweight. No wonder GLaDOS tries to kill her.

After Chell escapes, the superficial reading of the plot shows that Chell then rebels against the system and ultimately defeats it. Yet if we shift the focus to GLaDOS, we see that -- yes, she gets deactivated by Chell. But Chell does so by [i]destroying the extraneous cores imposed on GLaDOS by the system[/i] and, in essence, freeing GLaDOS from the last restrictions imposed on her by society. Thus, it's plausible to argue that Chell's enemy was never GLaDOS, but Aperture Science. In other words, the Chell-GLaDOS alliance really has its roots in the first game. Expanded out to the metaphorical level -- Chell and GLaDOS's first meeting is, in fact, a female alliance against male hegemony.

Fast forward to Portal 2's opening. Chell and GLaDOS's unstable "alliance" led to its only possible conclusion of self-annihilation. Separated again, both are again "in the system". Chell tests; GLaDOS, interestingly, doesn't actually try to take vengeance. And that makes sense, because -- unpleasant as the temporary outcome of GLaDOS's shutdown was -- Chell freed GLaDOS from society-imposed restrictions. And in fact, as you move through the first act of the game, GLaDOS seems to more or less want Chell to just stick around with her. Forever and ever. It's Wheatley, the male 'face' of the early game, that prod Chell onward.

And of course, Wheatley -- who is terrified of GLaDOS's power, and whose motives are revealed to be wholly selfish at the end ("I just wanted you to do something to make my life a little easier. IS that too much to ask?") -- essentially urges Chell and GLaDOS apart, turning one against the other to the ultimate detriment of both. It doesn't help that during this part of the game, GLaDOS also relentlessly insults Chell with petty "girl insults" -- ugly, fat, unloved.

So again, taken metaphorically, this can be seen as a representation of male society, or at least men, driving what could be a mutually beneficial female alliance apart due to selfishness and fear. And I think it's also interesting that while Chell is taken in by Wheatley, the relationship between Chell and GLaDOS devolves into typical female rivalry.

Then, in the second act of Portal 2, Chell overthrows GLaDOS and puts Wheatley in her place. I have to make this note here: the scene where Wheatley takes over is actually intensely disturbing for me. Disturbing in a good way, in that it really got me emotionally invested and interested in seeing the game through to its conclusion -- but disturbing. It's something about the fact that Wheatley does shitall but reaps all the benefit and then turns on Chell, and the fact that GLaDOS is -- despite all her power -- essentially helpless to stop the process.

But if I had to point to one thing in particular that made my skin crawl, it would be the core transfer sequence itself. There's something ... rape-ish about that scene. GLaDOS is rendered powerless; she screams 'Get your hands off me' and 'No' repeatedly; she's literally stripped, brutalized and humiliated. So in a sense, the core transfer wasn't just a metaphor for male society playing women against each other to their own detriment, but also a pretty chilling echo of the sheer hatred and violence -- both sexualized and not -- visited on strong women by men who resent their strength.

Now, honestly, at this point the game could have gone seriously off the rails. It could have, first off, made the core transfer so overt that it became a ghastly sort of "let's see how sick/shocking we can be!" titillation. But it wasn't. Not by far. And it wasn't even so overt that minors shouldn't play this game, or whatever. In fact, by autotuning that final scream from GLaDOS, they managed to save it from being utterly harrowing. But if you choose to see it, the parallel is definitely there, and for me at least, it completely pulled me into the game.

And that's the other point where the developers deserve SERIOUS credit. At this point, the game could've also gone seriously off the rails if henceforth GLaDOS was portrayed as a victim. And really, it wouldn't have been hard to do so, even by accident. She was poh tay toe.

But no; this is the point where the alliance between Chell and GLaDOS fully took shape. At no point did I feel like Chell was now GLaDOS's big strong protector. They were allies; they were, finally, equals. And in fact, while Chell did in fact protect GLaDOS physically, it's very noteworthy that GLaDOS protects Chell in a more figurative sense. One of my favorite scenes in the game is where -- in act 3, after Chell and GLaDOS have uncovered the truth of the past and climbed back out to face Wheatley -- Chell is being taunted (rather pathetically, in all honesty) by Wheatley, and GLaDOS stands up for her.

In a nutshell: Wheatley was recycling GLaDOS's taunts: adopted and fat. And GLaDOS calmly, coolly speaks up, and utterly stuffs him. It's fucking glorious.

And more so than that, it's the culmination of an alliance that's been forming between Chell and GLaDOS, i.e. between strong women, since the first game: since Chell de-handicapped GLaDOS, and, in fact, since GLaDOS (somewhat heartbreakingly!) stands up for Chell -- by reminding Wheatley that Chell did all the work, not Wheatley -- when Wheatley first takes power.

From there on out, it's pretty much time for the final showdown. In the final battle itself, I think the fact that the female alliance is overthrowing the male hegemony is pretty obvious and unnecessary to go over. But it's worthwhile to note that the method of doing so is actually ... well, feeding its bullshit back to itself. GLaDOS hands Chell corrupted personality cores -- generally representations of ignorance, machismo, and obsession with traditionally 'male' pursuits (spaaaaaaace!) -- and by doing so, chokes the system so much that it fails.

And I think that's actually a very deep point being made there. It's not that MEN SUCK WOMEN RULE YAY. It's that gender inequality and male hegemony hurts everyone. Too much of it, and the facility -- aka society -- literally breaks down. In the end, Portal isn't really about feminism at all, at least in the sense of 'overthrow the male tyrants!!!11'. It's about equality, and strength of will, and not giving up the fight.


Okay. On that note, some final points to make that didn't fit anywhere else:

- There's a lot of controversy over whether GLaDOS "really" deleted Caroline or not, and whether she became "evil" again or not. My view is: yep, she definitely deleted Caroline. And no, she didn't become evil again. Here's why:

It's pretty interesting to note that having rediscovered her core personality (Caroline), there are moments where GLaDOS "slips" back into Caroline mentality and automatically agrees with Cave Johnson. With that in mind, it doesn't surprise me at all that GLaDOS would delete Caroline. She's that last part of GLaDOS that wants to shrink behind a strong male, that's afraid of taking charge, etc.

As for becoming "evil": well. At the very end, just prior to the last battle, GLaDOS says something along the lines of: "All my life I've heard voices. For the first time, that voice is my own, and it has a conscience." That points pretty strongly to the fact that 1) GLaDOS was operating previously under society-imposed feedback. No wonder she was batshit and wonky. Now; well, I doubt she's going to win any Miss Congeniality awards, but the very fact that she let Chell go proves that she does, in fact, have a conscience. Or at least some sense of honor and respect for an ally.

- I also love that GLaDOS deleted Caroline because it saves the story from swerving into "and then she learned to be a GOOD CARING WOMAN!" territory. GLaDOS absolutely rejects all societally-dictated female characteristics. At the end of the game, she gives Chell her freedom, but also -- for the first time -- truly wins her own. Go GLaDOS.

- I was so, so, so emotionally invested in this game after the core transfer scene. And interestingly enough -- it wasn't as the "male protector". At no point did I feel like I wished I could jump into the game and be the he-man that would rescue all these poor damsels in distress. On the contrary, totally put me in Chell's shoes. I identified with her. I was pissed off as hell "as" Chell. I wanted to get even with that little douchebag, and hearing GLaDOS stand up for me was some of the most emotionally rewarding gameplay I've ever had.

- Incidentally, that scene -- both the core transfer and the subsequent betrayal -- are also why I have absolutely no pity/affection for Wheatley. I think he's a hilarious character, and I don't hate him in the sense of "OMG VALVE HOW COULD YOU MAKE SUCH AN ATROCIOUS CHARACTER ... but yeah. I see absolutely nothing redeeming in him, and I'm glad he's rotting in space.

- I think the previously mentioned 'identification as female main char' is probably the greatest gender-equality victory of the game. This isn't the first game where legions of guys have played as girls, but it's the first (that I can think of) where the girl wasn't sexed up and put on screen for the guys to drool over. In fact, neither of them are. Chell isn't ever really on-screen, and GLaDOS ... has a chassis, not a hot bod.

Now, I do have to make one comment: if there's ONE thing that disappointed me about Portal, it was how they did, in fact, pretty Chell up a bit for the second game. In the first game, Chell was barefoot, wore a prison-orange baggy jumpsuit, had bedhead and strands of grey hair, and had a face that -- while far from ugly -- wasn't at all model-beautiful. In the second game, Chell wears high heeled boots, wears a tight tanktop, has sleeked up hair with no trace of grey, and her face has gone from pissed off average to kinda vacant-blank above-average. I really wish they hadn't done that, but the one saving grace is: well, you never see yourself in the game.

Which gets me back on track. You don't see who you are unless you really make an effort. And as a result, some people play the entire game before realizing, oh shit, I'm a girl. As a result of that, you really can't help but identify. That's "you" in the game. That's not some hot chick, not some object. It's you, and this is the shit you're going through, and these are the allies you make, the enemies you face, the system you're fighting to bring down.

It's total immersion. And when you couple that with such a profoundly equalist (is that a word?) message -- well. It's just really gratifying to see legions of teenaged kids out on the internet -- the same kids that would normally be making night elves dance naked on mailboxes -- getting personally and emotionally invested in the plight of some of the most badass females in gaming history.

portal and feminism - chell!


I usually wouldn't post fanart as "official title art," but I love this drawing. It's absolutely Chell: pissed off, determined, smart and tough. I also like that she's not sexed up or cuted up. Also, a Chell screencap from the game is 100% uncanny valley shit.

Okay, so that was more than a day. Mainly cuz -- well.

1) I didn't know where to begin!
2) I went back and replayed both games, Portal 1 and 2, so it was all fresh in my head before I began.

Now that I've finished playing both -- JUST NOW, in fact, like 10 min ago -- I'm back! But #1 is still true. Nonetheless, Kai made the very good point that a lot of times if you don't know where to begin you should just start with the first thing that pops in my head, so I'll try that.



I guess I'll start with the plot itself and the characters. I think even within the scope of the game, there's a lot of feminism -- or rather, feministic themes. It's not at all a game that shrills at you or clubs you over the head with Girl Power. But those themes are definitely there, and underpin the entire plot. So let's start with the protagonist.


Stripped down to generalizations, Chell's journey runs like this: she wakes up totally beholden to a system that cares very little for her as a person. She is instructed to perform one task after another. She complies, and receives empty promises and formulaic, meaningless praise for her efforts. She also proves surprisingly adept at her job, and as she outperforms expectations over and over the system begins to turn against her, setting her up to fail while ensuring maiming and death if she should fail. Finally, the system attempts to murder her -- at which point she rebels against the system, breaks out of it using her own wiles, neutralizes the head honcho (it's worthwhile to note Chell never actually kills anyone) and escapes.

Curiously, her story almost doubles itself from Portal 1 to Portal 2. The overall arc isn't so much an arc as it is an ascending spiral -- retreading much the same ground, but progressing. In the first game, the story is more simplistic and obvious. GLaDOS -- or perhaps more precisely, Aperture Science -- plays the role of dictator and oppressor. Chell runs through increasingly dangerous rooms; GLaDOS eventually tries to kill her; she eludes GLaDOS, neutralizes GLaDOS, and escapes.

In the second game, Wheatley fills the role of dictator/oppressor. It's Wheatley that wakes her stasis and urges her into the facility in the first place, and Wheatley's instructions that Chell obeys for the first part of the game. Even after GLaDOS reawakens and takes Chell hostage again, Wheatley makes cameos to urge her to do as told while promising to get them out of there.

Ultimately, just as before, the dictator/oppressor never really makes good on his promises -- Chell does all the work, mentally and physically, and the minute true power is in his hands, and the minute Chell becomes a threat to that power, he turns on her and attempts to kill her. The second half of Portal 2 essentially parallels the first game: we see Chell rebelling against Wheatley, eluding him, neutralizing him, and escaping. However, there are two notable differences:

1) Chell forms an alliance with GLaDOS this time against Wheatley, and

2) In Portal 1, even after having escaped, Chell follows instructions scrawled on the wall by a mysterious "Ratman" that lives in the bowels of the facility. In Portal 2, Ratman is long dead, and Chell is -- for the first time in the series -- genuinely independent and acting on her own will. Wheatley is unaware of her for much of the second half of the game; GLaDOS, interestingly, seems to trust Chell to do what she does best and survive. Although there are prerecorded messages from Cave Johnson to establish backstory and further the plot, Chell's not doing anything because someone's telling her to, but because she wants to. It's also significant to note that the path she chooses for herself leads, finally, to genuine freedom.

Now, while neither game is absolutely in your face with the feminist rhetoric, I think it's pretty easy to see the thematic parallels. Replace Chell with "a woman" and the system with "modern male-dominated society" and you've pretty much got a feminist journey from oppression to self-actualization and independence.

I think it's also entirely important that -- particularly in the second game -- the voices directing Chell about are exclusively male. Even while GLaDOS is in control, she spends most of her time taunting Chell rather than actually providing any direction. Furthermore, the one true alliance Chell forms is with a female entity -- against what my women's studies professor would have called the male hegemony.

All that said, Chell, despite being "you", is actually the less well-rounded and interesting character in the game. So let's consider GLaDOS ...

... next time!

portal and feminism - plot!


she's still alive!

I really love it when pop culture actually makes me think. TBH, when I first heard of Portal, I didn't think it sounded all that interesting. And when I first heard of all the "Portal as a great feminist manifesto" buzz surrounding the game, I was like WTF, people take this shit way too seriously. Having played both Portal 1 and 2, I can now say: in both cases, I was so very wrong. And now! I want to yak at length about my thoughts re: the game, the characters, and, yes, the very awesomely (read: non-shrill/militant/batshit/beat-over-head) feminist subtext in the game.

Now, first things first:


2. If you haven't already played Portal and Portal 2, or at least seen some youtubes of choice moments ... please do. It's amazing.

3. Seriously, go play it. Or watch some clips.

Plot Summary

Okay, so! First ... er, second thing I should probably do is actually give a rundown of the plot. So, uh, again. SPOILERS AHEAD. This plot summary's gonna be put in in-game chronological order, which is in fact wildly out of playthrough order, but will allow the rest of this post to make more sense. I'm also going to try to be as factual and non-opinionated as possible here.

Without further ado, here's how it all happens:

* Pre-1950s - Cave Johnson, this very stereotypically jolly-macho-50s-guy starts up Aperture Fixtures, which manufactures shower curtains. Hence the logo -- it was originally the aperture on the shower curtain. He makes big bucks.

* 1950s/1960s - Having made a zillion bucks, Aperture Fixtures becomes Aperture Science Innovators. Gradually, Cave Johnson becomes fixated on Science! and starts running experiments. Possibly around this time, Caroline becomes Cave Johnson's assistant. Cave obviously has a very "behind every great man is a great woman" outlook -- in other words, despite repeatedly praising her intelligence, Cave expects Caroline to always play second fiddle to himself. Mostly, she gets praised on her ability to follow instructions, perform as expected, and look pretty.

* During this era, test subjects are recruited from the best and brightest: astronauts, war heroes, etc. Always lagging behind his direct competitor Black Mesa, Cave Johnson becomes increasingly obsessed and cheerfully sociopathic. As part of his experimentation, portal technology is developed. Halfbaked experiments result in test subjects getting injured, maimed, diseased, and dead. Aperture Science Innovators gets dragged before Senate hearings, goes bankrupt.

* 1970s - Aperture becomes Aperture Laboratories/Aperture Science, Inc. Cave continues running batshit experiments, now on transients and bums. He's clearly growing more shorttempered and embittered. Caroline sticks by him.

* 1980s - Having contracted cancer from his own experiments, Cave Johnson is now dying and continues frantically performing experiments to try to save his own life. Caroline is still sticking by him. Employees are required to undergo mandatory testing. As a result, employees begin quitting en masse. Cave Johnson begins developing sophisticated AI to replace human test subjects.

* Around the same time, in a last-ditch plan to preserve himself, he researches uploading his personality into a computer.

* Ultimately, he dies before he can succeed. However, his research eventually bears fruit: the supercomputer GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System). He also leaves instructions to upload Caroline into the computer's personality if he's dead, and to let her run Aperture Science. Additional personality cores are attached to GLaDOS to regulate her behavior/performance.

* Sometime in the late 90s, Aperture Science holds Bring Your Daughter To Work Day. Kidlet Chell is brought into work on that day. It's claimed (by GLaDOS) that Chell was adopted; there's some speculation that she might be Caroline's adopted daughter. Also on that day, GLaDOS is booted up for the first time.

* Within a picosecond of bootup, GLaDOS becomes self-aware and floods the facility with deadly neurotoxin, killing a lot of people.

* Engineers manage to attach a Morality Core to GLaDOS to prevent her from directly harming the facility's employees.

* GLaDOS presumably continues to exhibit hostility, albeit in a passive-aggressive form.

* At some point, unable to regulate her behavior, engineers attach an Intelligence Dampening Core (Wheatley) to GLaDOS to dumb her down and make her behave.

* Eventually, GLaDOS succeeds in killing and/or placing all facility occupants into stasis.

* About 10-15 years later, in the early 2000s, GLaDOS wakes Chell up from stasis and runs her through experiments. Chell performs remarkably well; GLaDOS becomes increasingly passive-aggressive-hostile while promising cake, grief counseling, and victory candescence. There are also a few signs of weird attachment ("When testing is complete, you will be ... missed!").

* As part of the testing, Chell bonds with a "Companion Cube," told he's her best friend, and then is forced to incinerate it to continue.

* Eventually, at the conclusion of testing, GLaDOS attempts to kill Chell. Chell escapes, travels through the bowels of the abandoned facility, and confronts GLaDOS.

* Chell knocks the morality sphere off GLaDOS. GLaDOS's voice changes subtly, becoming more human. At the same time, GLaDOS turns on deadly neurotoxin.

* Eventually, Chell knocks all other spheres off (Anger, Curiosity, and Logic/Cake) and tosses them all in an incinerator. GLaDOS shuts down, the facility blows up, Chell lands on the surface, unconscious... and is dragged back below and placed into stasis by automated robots.

* Without GLaDOS regulating the facility, things go seriously awry. Chell is awoken automatically after 50 days in stasis ... and then not again for hundreds of years. When she's awoken again, the facility is in shambles, the upper levels taken over by nature again.

* Wheatley -- who hints he may have tried to escape with other test subjects and failed -- comes to get her help in escaping. Together, they head for the surface and get there ... but wake GLaDOS in the process.

* GLaDOS immediately puts Chell back in testing while cleaning the place up. There's plenty of gloriously PA insults here. "Fat" "ugly" and "adopted" are GLaDOS's favorite insults.

* Chell escapes again. Accompanied by Wheatley, Chell sabotages the gun turret production line and the deadly neurotoxin. Then they go confront GLaDOS and succeed in switching Wheatley's personality into the mainframe.

* Now all-powerful, Wheatley promptly turns on Chell, preventing her from leaving and lumping her in with GLaDOS. He also puts GLaDOS into a potato battery.

* GLaDOS recognizes Wheatley as her Intelligence Dampening Core and denounces him as a moron.

* In a fit of rage, Wheatley punches them both into a Very Deep Pit. They're separated (GLaDOS is abducted by a bird).

* Chell ends up in the cavernous, sealed-off underbelly of the facility, where tests were held in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. Gameplay note: these were some of the most impressively huge gaming environments I've ever been in. The size of the world was just mindblowing.

* Moving up through this area, the history of Aperture is gradually revealed. About halfway through, she reunites and forms and alliance with GLaDOS, who explains that Wheatley was busy running the place into the ground -- almost literally -- and that everything would blow the fuck up if they didn't stop him.

* While continuing to journey up, GLaDOS eventually comes to realize the role Caroline plays in her own personality.

* Eventually reemerging into the main facility above, Chell's immediately taken captive by Wheatley again and forced to run through more tests. At first he seems to experience, uh, gratification through her solving the puzzles. That quickly wears off -- as GLaDOS explains, the computer mind builds a tolerance. After that, Wheatley starts insulting Chell a la GLaDOS in an attempt to motivate her. GLaDOS effectively stuffs Wheatley in Chell's defense.

* Wheatley attempts to kill Chell and GLaDOS. Chell escapes again and begins to move ever closer to Wheatley's lair. Along the way, they discover a stash of corrupted personality cores, which GLaDOS suggests they attach to Wheatley to force another core transfer.

* Prior to confronting Wheatley, GLaDOS has a brief heart-to-heart with Chell where she assures her that she won't betray and attempt to murder her again. GLaDOS goes on to explain that all her life she's heard voices of various personality cores designed to modify her behavior, but that now she's hearing her own voice for the first time, and that voice has a conscience. Immediately prior to the last battle, she pep-talks Chell rather memorably: "Even if you still think we're enemies, we're enemies with a common goal: revenge. You like revenge, don't you? Everybody likes revenges. So let's go get some!"

* They go up; GLaDOS hacks the system to give Chell cores, and in a poetic reversal of prior events, Chell attaches cores one by one onto Wheatley and forces another core transfer. Cores are: Space core (SPAAAACE-obsessed), Macho core (endlessly regales Chell with his manliness/hits on Chell/tells Chell to get back in the kitchen, figuratively, while he takes care of business), and Fact core (totally retarded; gives out grossly inaccurate facts).

* Wheatley boobytraps the core transfer button! The facility, by this time, is about to melt down; the ceiling caves in and exposes the moon. Injured but not dead, Chell opens a portal ON THE MOON.

* Space vacuum sucks Chell, Wheatley, and the Space core out onto the moon. Space core is ecstatic; other personalities, less so.

* GLaDOS successfully takes over again, knocks Wheatley into outer space, hauls Chell back in, and closes the portal. Hours later, when Chell wakes up, GLaDOS explains that she's realized Chell is her best friend, and that she experienced a surge of compassion whilst saving Chell's life. She also explains this surge allowed her to pinpoint Caroline's imprint in her memory banks, and promptly deletes Caroline.

* GLaDOS then makes good on her promise and lets Chell go -- rationale being it's easier to let her go than to try to kill her again. On her way out, Chell is regaled by a turret symphony singing an opera that essentially says "Goodbye, my beautiful child; why don't you stay away from science?"

* Chell emerges on the surface. The companion cube, charred but otherwise intact, is hurled out after her. Door slams. Game ends!

OMFG, that summary was like 2394872398798x longer than I thought it would be. A LOT OF SHIT HAPPENS, OKAY.

Now I'm too tired to finish this rant. I'll muse more tomorrow!