GLaDOS

        Isolation is a funny thing. Humans are social animals, after all, and people need each other for help, encouragement, understanding, and simple companionship. And few games showcase this quite as well as Portal and Portal 2. Both star Chell being stuck in the seemingly empty Aperture Science facility, being lead solely by the computerized voice describing her surroundings and the linear path she is forced to follow.
        In the beginning of the first game, there is a voice welcoming her to the facility, but it is obviously robotic, an automated message. Chell follows the voice, since there’s no other option, and it is offering cake, but there is no one else in this facility, it seems. She solves puzzles, and the robot rewards her with congratulatory platitudes, along with ominous glitches in the messages, such as “Most importantly, under no circumstances should you-” and then there’s static. Not to mention the outright lies.
        But regardless of what the voice says, GLaDOS seems to be just an answering machine, something to tell test subjects what they need to know, despite the errors, and not another person. The only other voices we hear are those of the turrets, which, it is clear after a bit of ‘interaction’, have pre-recorded lines.         
        There’s no one to talk to, and no real personality for the player to latch onto. An answering machine, parroting turrets, and a silent protagonist, all of which leads to the player feelings alone. Isolated. Lost. Afraid, even. The occasional secret areas where Doug Rattmann hid out don’t help either, given they show that someone before you roamed these halls, and he went out of his mind.
        It also hints that maybe GLaDOS isn’t just an automated message, but something more, which is proven, naturally, when she attempts to throw Chell into an incinerator. Now the player knows, beyond a doubt, that GLaDOS is in fact sentient and has been pretending otherwise. “What are you doing? Stop it! I… I… We are pleased that you made it through the final challenge where we pretended we were going to murder you.”
        In a way, this revelation is a relief, because the player is no longer alone. However, as I can personally attest, that relief quickly changed into anger that this lying, manipulative robot has been keeping me artificially isolated, both in the testing facility and from sentient contact.
        Chell makes her way through the facility to GLaDOS’s chamber, where she comes face to face with the robotic overlord. The battle is certainly a bizarre one; neurotoxin floods in, giving you a time limit, and GLaDOS constantly shoots rockets at you- in fact, as she admits, she can’t seem to turn the rocket turret off. This in turn is her undoing; Chell uses the rockets and portals to hit GLaDOS, knocking off her cores. Chell then grabs them and drops them in the incinerator, causing GLaDOS to become more and more mentally unstable, until finally she cannot hold the facility together, and Chell finds herself outside.
        However, a robot drags the unconscious Chell back in, and so starts Portal 2. A robotic voice informs her she’s been held in stasis for an unknown amount of time, but it has clearly been a very long time. Everything has degraded, fallen apart, and it seems no one is running things. Chell meets a core like the ones she incinerated before by the name of Wheatley, who seems to want to escape the facility with her help. Already this is a big different, in that we have an ally, someone who helps us, who brings humor and hope into the game.
        However, he is quickly lost due to the test courses Chell must traverse, leaving us, for a time, with a robotic announcer, who, unlike GLaDOS, shows no signs of sentience. The things he says do reveal a bit about Aperture Science, however, showing the insanity GLaDOS spouted in the first game wasn’t entirely her own devising, but part of the facility and staff that made her.
        Eventually Chell and Wheatley do meet up again, and we learn that the cores fear GLaDOS, who Wheatley only refers to as her, never by name, as if speaking her name would summon her. Regardless, they find themselves in what appears to be an elevator, but it takes them straight to GLaDOS’s old chamber, and kickstarts the process of reviving her. She quickly crushes Wheatley with a robotic claw, then tosses him away.
        Her appearance is a bit different now- where before she dangled from the ceiling, mostly immobile and apparently incapable of movement, now she can move freely, allowing her to face you, make expressions with her singular eye, swivel to look in different spots, and so on.
Her voice also sounds much more human than it did in the previous game, showing that without her cores inhibiting her movements, she can control the facility in a god-like manner and speak freely, which she quickly puts to use constructing new test chambers to shove Chell into while repeatedly mocking her, belittling her, crackling jokes, and giving false hope.
        Whereas before she spoke through mandatory messages, now she speaks to Chell directly and freely, showing anger at her own demise and a desire for revenge. Despite her jokes, it is fairly clear this isn’t just anger, it’s outright hate. In fact, a deleted like showcases this very clearly. Yes, it’s deleted, but the fact that it was made shows it was meant to be put in before someone decided it was just… too wrathful. “Did you ever stop to think that eventually there’s a point where your name is said for the very last time? Well here it is. I’m going to kill you, Chell.”
        But even without that rather terrifying line, GLaDOS’s hatred is very easy to see as Chell survives her tests, until finally Wheatley manages to get her an escape route. They sabotage the neurotoxin emitters and the turret factory, stopping GLaDOS from killing them, then Chell plugs Wheatley into a machine, which registers him as a ‘replacement core’ to replace GLaDOS. This happens, and Wheatley is in charge of the facility! Finally, the evil GLaDOS is powerless, and our ally is running the show, meaning Chell can finally, finally be free of Aperture Science and leave to the surface.
        However, as the player knows, Wheatley isn’t the brightest robot around, and GLaDOS quickly manages to distract him by calling him a moron, revealing that he was literally made, like the other cores the player has seen in the first game, to inhibit GLaDOS in some way. In his case, to give her dumb ideas and paralyze her with stupidity. As she says, “You’re not just a moron. You’re designed to be a moron.”
        This angers Wheatley, who smashes Chell’s elevator, sending her plummeting down a chute with GLaDOS, who’s CPU Wheatley stuffed into a potato. Chell survives the fall, presumably because of her long fall boots, and has to make her away through ancient test chambers from back when Aperture Science had employees and wasn’t run by a homicidal robot. Spoiler: It wasn’t much better. Chell is guided on now by GLaDOS, whom she finds in her trek, and by the recordings of Cave Johnson, the former CEO of Aperture Science. The tests involve various kinds of goo- blue is bouncy, orange speeds you up, white can be used with portals.
        Chell eventually makes her way back up to the modern facility, to discover Wheatley has been doing an abysmal job of running things, and that there is some important job that he cannot accomplish which, if not done, will cause the entire facility to explode. We also learn that the module that Wheatley, and GLaDOS before him, is plugged into compels the AI in question to conduct tests, and gives them euphoric response to keep them doing it, like some kind of robotic drug. But like all addicting substances, the recipient slowly develops resistance to it, and they need to make longer and more complicated tests to achieve the same result.
        As they go, GLaDOS starts to talk in a different, kinder manner, and even says before the final fight with Wheatley: “You know, I’m not stupid. I realize you don’t want to put me back in charge. You think I’ll betray you. And on any other day, you’d be right. The scientists were always hanging cores on me to regulate my behavior. I’ve heard voices all my life. But now I hear the voice of a conscience, and it’s terrifying, because for the first time it’s my voice.”
        It seems that not only were the cores inhibiting her from exerting full control of the facility, but they also stopped her, along with her main body, from feeling some emotions like sympathy and care. This, along with their mutual goal of stopping Wheatley, leads to her and Chell developing a bond.
        As this is happening, Wheatley has about run out of tests, and is simply going to kill them, proving to be a surprisingly intelligent adversary. This boss battle is a bit more hectic than GLaDOS’s; Wheatley fires off bombs much more quickly than the rocket turret, which caused me a bit of trouble when it came to lining up the portals so he’ll get hit by them. Speaking of portals, he made sure the chamber isn’t compatible with portals, so you have to trick him into bombing a pipe with white goo in it, making it splatter and make portal surfaces.
        He even has shields to keep you from hitting him with his own bombs after that, meaning you have to strike him from above with them. Next, you grab the defective core that GLaDOS is sending into the chamber, and attach it to Wheatley, slowly corrupting him so they can forcibly put GLaDOS in charge again.
        Long story short, this succeeds, and GLaDOS saved Chell’s life in the aftermath. She talks about how she saw Chell as an enemy, but in truth she’s a friend. And realizing this told her something else- where her conscience is in her brain. She deletes it, and says that deleting her consciousness taught her another lesson, that the easy solution is the best one. “And I’ll be honest. Killing you? Is hard.” So she simply let’s Chell leave, no strings attached.
        And so the game ends. But I personally think that GLaDOS’s words are misleading. She is, after all, a liar. A liar who lies about lying. How can she delete her conscience? She described it earlier as her own voice, after all. This, and the fact that she let Chell go as opposed to killing her while she was unconscious or on the elevator out, tells me she was lying to protect Chell.
        Yes, GLaDOS is capable of making moral decisions, but her programming dictates she must test, and those tests are very dangerous. Plus, given her words might have inspired Chell, aka the player, to sympathize with her, she needed to say something to push them away. Neither Chell, nor the player that controls her, can stay. The game must end. And the journey started by a tormenting AI that thrusts you into isolation ends with that same AI pushing you out of it for your own good.

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