Portal 2 Finds A Unique Way to Offend

What could one possibly find offensive about the critically lauded Portal 2, an inventive, all ages-friendly game? Are those turrets too violent? Is the jazz too smooth? No, it's the jokes about adoption that have one Portal fan (and one local news team) riled up.


So says a report today from Charlotte, North Carolina's CBS affiliate WBTV (which, by the way, may contain spoilers for Portal 2 players). Neal Stapel, adoptive father to Zoey, a Chinese orphan, says he was upset with the barbs slung by Portal 2's antagonists, insults that belittle the playable Chell for her (alleged) adopted status. Morons and the overweight are also mocked by robots.

In Portal 2, Chell's arch-nemeses tease her for her non-existent weight gain and her lack of birth parents, puerile, bullying taunts that offer color into their respective characters. But the jabs at her being adopted were too much for Stapel.

"It literally pokes fun for not having parents," he says, seeming to choke up in WBTV's news broadcast. He played the PlayStation 3 version of Portal 2 with his kids, but stopped when the adoption jokes kicked in. "It throws the ultimate question that that child is ever going to have for you... and it just throws it right in the living room."

Yes, it's got to be a bit awkward for adoptive parents if they're experiencing this in front of their non-biological kids, but Chell's enemies are also trying to kill her, which I'd find much more upsetting if I were her. But, hey, I wasn't adopted and can't personally relate to the conflicting emotions of such a situation.

Kotaku reached out to Valve to see if they had any comment on the matter, though they didn't before this story aired, reportedly.

Illustration for article titled Portal 2 Finds A Unique Way to Offend

Video game taunts adopted children [WBTV]


After reading the comments, I guess I'm the odd one out. Adoption jokes aren't funny.

When you are a kid, yeah, you're going to get bullied, and then you get over it and accept it. Maybe it is an attack on your personality, your mannerisms, or your appearances. And later, when you're older, you can realize the kids that were dicks to you were just dicks, but you've also got it in your head that you need to lose weight, or need to stop chewing on fingernails, or need to make some sort of change to fulfill the need to be accepted.

Other people just don't care and be fat, or whatever. That's also pretty normal. Many things you can be teased about can either be about your personal choice, or your visible genetic make up. If you are fat by choice, it's your choice. If you have a big nose, it's your genetics, you can't change it (unless you go in for plastic surgery), so you live with it and stand in front of the mirror.

Being an adopted child is neither. You can't ever become not adopted. It wasn't your choice either- it was the choice (or tragedy) of your genetic parents. True, like lots of bullying, the bullied will probably get over it, but it can still be hurtful for a lot of kids. Lots of times because adopted children do not announce that they are adopted, because they think (and perhaps rightly), that they will get shit for it. If you're fat, you can't keep it secret, so you'll probably get used to being bullied about it faster than a kid that one day is found to be adopted.

It's these kind of things which are probably most traumatic for kids to be bullied about- things that other people can't tell from the get-go, and make jokes about because they assume that everyone else is just like them- "normal." It's not like someone is going to walk around wearing a big "I am adopted" sign around their neck.

What if the game made fun of gay kids? Do you have any idea how much shit gay kids get? Yeah, you probably do, now that things like It gets better ( http://www.itgetsbetter.org/ ) are getting press. True, it is a little comparing apples (adoption) to oranges (gay), but these are two things that kids can try to, and often successfully do, hide from others, and thus can get offended, often horribly, by people who just assume they aren't.

Would any of you get offended if the game made jokes about parents getting divorced? Or about being disabled? Or about child molestation?

Yes, it's true the game later defends adoption, but it gives the impression that they're trying to save their asses, like any bully would, by suddenly turning "good."

I'm not saying that bullying someone for being fat or otherwise is better than bullying someone for being adopted, gay, etc. All bullying should, hopefully, be put to an end, but that isn't going to happen with our tribal social structure. But, from my point of view, if a game is going to try to verbally assault the player, or the player character, it shouldn't focus on stuff that was not a choice.