Apparently Portal just made the Syllabus at Wabash College. Michael Abbott over at The Brainy Gamer is a professor at the sesquicentennial college. He managed to convince a multidisciplinary committee of faculty to play the game long enough to see it as a storytelling medium.
This tension between backstage machination and onstage performance is precisely what Portal depicts so perfectly – and, no small detail, so interactively. Goffman would have found a perfect test subject in GLaDOS. Bingo! Assign students Goffman’s Presentation of Self and follow it up with a collective playthrough of Portal.
Technology limitations stymied early plans to deploy the game on an individual basis–it’s hard to guarantee that your students will have a video card capable of rendering 3D graphics. However, the collective playthrough will serve as a dry run to prove the game’s educational chops.
Portal was the breakout puzzle game included in Valve’s Orange Box. It followed heroine Chell’s escape bid from the Aperture Science experimental facility and the demented AI who controlled it. Players used teleportation portals to circumvent hazards and solve complex spatial puzzles.
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