Hard to believe, but a Yalie now has a song for Rock Band.
For those of you who don’t know Jonathan Coulton, he rose to internet fame writing songs about computer programming and zombies. His indie geek cred inspired the folks behind Halflife to hire him to write an end credits song for their new puzzle game, Portal.
A little background…
In Portal, you play the role of a woman who wakes up in a pristine lab. A computerized voice tells you that you are in a testing facility, and teaches you to use a device that can create – yup – portals. These allow you to do things like walk through the floor and pop out of the ceiling. It’s pretty ingenious.
The computer voice, GLaDOS, coaches you through the game:
Please note that we have added a consequence for failure. Any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official testing record, followed by death. Good luck.
Eventually it becomes clear that the computer is TRYING to kill you (which it denies):
We are pleased that you made it through the final challenge where we pretended we were going to murder you. We are very very happy for your success. We are throwing a party in honor of your tremendous success. Place the device on the ground, then lie on your stomach with your arms at your sides. A party associate will arrive shortly to collect you for your party. Make no further attempt to leave the testing area. Assume the Party Escort Submission Position or you will miss the party.
In case you haven’t figured it out, GLaDOS is easily one of the greatest characters in video game history.
Anyway, the Jonathan Coulton song begins after you incinerate GLaDOS and escape the lab. As the credits roll, we see some sort of surviving remnant of the evil computer writing a report on the “experiment.” And the report takes the form of the most passive-aggressive song in history, which begins:
This was a triumph.
I’m making a note here:
It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.
The game was a smash, and the song was an internet sensation. On certain message boards, the phrase “huge success” now carries the same irony that “mission accomplished” does in the real world.
Which brings us to this:
To which all I can add is, that man deserves some cake.
Portal is an awesome game. My wife, who is not into video games at all, watched me play it all the way through, and now knows the song at least as well as I do.
The actress who played GlaDoS is the only actor on all five games in The Orange Box. She actually didn’t know what Portal was about when she recorded the voice-over. There’s a great interview with her at
She’s actually a trained opera singer. The way they
got the voiceover quality they wanted was to have the
lines read by a speech synthesizer, which she then
emulated, but with more passive-aggression. That
reading was then reprocessed to make it sound