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“This Is a Triumph”: “Portal” Gets Added to Requisite Coursework at Wabash College

“This Is a Triumph”: “Portal” Gets Added to Requisite Coursework at Wabash College (photo)

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Higher education is all about introducing young minds to classic works of art, right? How many of us wouldn’t have read or seen Plato’s “Republic,” Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” or “The Seventh Seal” by Ingmar Bergman, if not for some awesome professor who managed to keep us awake all throughout class?

Add Michael Abbott to that class of awesome professors. Abbott writes the acclaimed Brainy Gamer video game blog and is also a professor at Wabash College. Thanks to his efforts, incoming students at Wabash College will have to play “Portal,” Valve’s beloved first-person shooter/puzzle hybrid. “Portal” runs a player-controlled character named Chell through a series of test chambers designed to put a new teleportation gun through its paces, not caring if she lives through the process. As you make your way through Portal’s beguiling physics-based puzzles, the self-aware AI-in-charge named GLaDOS lies, taunts and tempts you (with cake!) Her rant during the final showdown and its poignant, musical aftermath make Portal’s ending one for the ages.


In a recent blog post, Abbott relates how the faculty there were designing a new interdisciplinary course called “Enduring Questions,” and the suggestion was made to include the 2007 title along with “Hamlet,” the “Tao Te Ching,” Aristotle’s “Politics” and other works that speak about the human condition. Here’s a relevant chunk:

I pitched the idea to my colleagues on the committee (decidedly not a collection of gamers), and they agreed to try Portal and read selections from Goffman’s book. After plowing through some installation issues (“What does this Steam do? Will it expose me to viruses?”), we enjoyed the first meaningful discussion about a video game I’ve ever had with a group of colleagues across disciplines. They got it. They made the connections, and they enjoyed the game. Most importantly, they saw how Portal could provoke thoughtful reflection and vigorous conversation on questions germane to the course.

The existential angst that runs through GLaDOS’ dialogue and the odd relationship between herself and the player makes “Portal” perfect fodder for “Enduring Questions.” I’d argue that, as people who grew up on video games get older, a generational shift allowing for a critical focus on the medium in academia isn’t just inevitable, it’s necessary, too. It’s going to be harder and harder to move about in pop culture without bumping into something that references video games somehow. Here’s hoping other institutions try to integrate studies of the video game medium into students’ lives.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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