Lying Game MasterEdit
Directly tied into the Unreliable Narrator, the lying game master is a trope created to examine how those in power lie. It's also, in Portal, a game mechanic.
Foreshadowing is actually an extremely important mechanic in video games. And when I say foreshadowing, I don't mean for narrative, I mean for other mechanics. Bob Bates on Game Design discusses that a player should never want to put down a game. Every time a puzzle or a level is completed, there should be some type of hint as to what the next level or puzzle will be, in order to keep the player invested. Sometimes this foreshadowing may be done on a completion screen -- which somewhat detracts from the immersion --, sometimes it's done through being able to look ahead at what type of abilities a player may be able to get in x number of levels, and sometimes it's done through narrative. GLaDOS, obviously, is the last. But the real trick to GLaDOS is that she's a liar.
The lying is what drives the player. She could say "When you complete the tests, there will be cake, but you won't get any." But she doesn't. If she did, no one would care about the ending of the game; they'd already know. However, because she is a liar, the player becomes invested out of sheer desire to know the truth. A narrator is powerful when done well, and can easily manipulate the will of a player. In the end, the moral is this: Those with power will lie. And you won't always know when they're lying, but you'll always want to.
When we look at lit to analyze this, the best type of literature tends to be either dystopian or fantastical. I have recommended one of each. The Hunger Games, which is currently very famous, is a dystopian literature series. The first book plays into this theme less than the other two. The second book quite literally has a Game Master who Lies About Everything. The third is a little more divergent, with a woman in charge who isn't quite trustworthy. However, the larger themes revolves around the culture. I nmany ways, the culture is what controls the existence of the Hunger Games -- and the culture is as dishonest as it is possible to get.
The Homeward Bounders is a Diana Wynne Jones book, more on the fantastical side than the dystopian. The book interacts with more god-like creatures, which aren't quite trustworthy. I won't give the twist of how not trustworthy they are, though -- you'll have to read to figure that out.
Several Parts, One BodyEdit
The way to kill GLaDOS, mechanically, is to disassemble her piece by piece. GLaDOS' body and mind is split into several parts. She is only one entity, but made out of several, separate, physical parts. While the or theme is quite common, this one is rather more difficult to find, but very interesting to break down.
Talking about , one of Sigmund Frued's later books, is a good place to begin. The book separates the human mind into three parts: The Superego, the Ego, and the Id. The Superego is defined as what gives a human morality -- the part of the mind that stops a human from doing bad, immoral, or unethical things. The Ego is the conscious mind -- what a human is thinking, and their active decisions that they make. The Id can be viewed as the subconscious mind, but it's really the base instincts, uncontrolled and chaotic.
It's easy to recognize GLaDOS' "morality core" as the Superego. This is interesting because we, as players, are literally required to destroy GLaDOS' Superego in order to kill her. That is the We are also destroying the rest of her personality, but first her morality. Why? Well, there might be more to this than we think. We, as humans, have a belief that that which is moral should not be destroyed. It could easily have played out that attempting to destroy GLaDOS before we destroyed her morality would have left a bad taste in our mouths.
The question that's difficult to answer here, though, is what is GLaDOS' Ego and Id? Arguments could be made for the personality cores to be Ego, but arguments could also be made that GLaDOS, becoming a self-aware being creates an Ego of her own. As far as the Id goes, there could be an argument for either the instinctual programming that we learn more about in Portal 2, or the self-aware part of GLaDOS being the Id.
The other two stories recommended are Asmiov's and, deviating from standard lit, the manga by Hiromu Arakawa. Both of these stories can also be read taking into consideration Frued's ideas. In we can compare Parentals to the Superego, Emotionals to the Id, and Rationals to the Ego. In we can see Father as the Ego, the Sins as the Id, and the souls that make up a Philosopher's Stone as the Superego. Both of these stories feature the several parts of the mind as separate beings, or within separate entities.
The way that a player kills GLaDOS is by throwing her parts into fire. In this situation we find it less gruesome to do this to GLaDOS than we would a human because she is a machine. However, the machine is really only an exterior -- the way GLaDOS thinks and works is the same as any other human. Her body may not be human, but her mind is. This brings up many ethical questions that need not be discussed here: what’s important is that the idea of burning other humans, or even things that represent other humans, is as old as humanity. It has, though, shown itself more prominently in certain eras.
The Book of Deuteronomy is an Old Testament book, which lays down many rules to follow. One of the most famous rules is Deuteronomy 18:10, which states “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.” Now this doesn’t state that you should burn anyone, but along with several passages within Exodus it ends up being taken that way, and this passage is a large reason for the 18th century witch hunts. There were several other reasons for this, but Deuteronomy is important because it, along with the rest of the Bible, has been consistently used as an excuse to harm other humans in sometimes insane fashions. (Again, this passage doesn’t say to burn anybody, and it doesn’t even say to kill anyone, but it was taken as justification to do so.)
Fahrenheit 451 isn’t about burning people, but about burning books, or the ideas of other people. It takes what makes an individual eternal and destroys it out of the thought that those other ideas are evil. Books, inherently, are not evil, however they can be perceived as such, and when perceived as such are destroyed. How much of GLaDOS is evil, versus how much is she just perceived to be evil? Not only that, but how much of her evil came from those who programmed her, and how much of her evil is the self-awareness she gained? Books are not inherently evil, but can be used as such: could GLaDOS be the same way?