Way back in my college days, The Orange Box came out for Xbox 360, and I was very excited.
The Orange Box bundled a bunch of Valve games together, including Half-Life 2 as well as Episode 1 and Episode 2, plus Team Fortress 2 and, most exciting for me at the time, Portal. It was the first time I’d been able to play the soon-to-be-classic puzzle title, and it quickly became my favorite game of the year.
In fact, I went crazy on The Orange Box. Back when I was slightly obsessed with achievements, it was a Mount Everest of a challenge: 99 cheevos in total across all five games. So I played a ton of TF2, I used only the gravity gun in Half-Life 2’s Ravenholm, and I dragged that goddamn gnome all the way to the rocket in Half-Life 2: Episode 2.
Then I spent weeks completing every challenge in Portal. There were three varieties, requiring players to limit either the numbers of portals they used, the numbers of steps they took, or the number of seconds they spent when solving each puzzle. Mastering them was stupidly hard, and I took pleasure in showing off the accomplishment to my achievement-hunting friends.
Jump years forward to today, when I watched speedrunner NoirCat utterly destroy Portal during a SGDQ 2015 event. It takes him 14 minutes and 41 seconds. I’m thinking maybe I was wrong to spend so much time playing Portal the dumb casual way, with the puzzle-solving and the walking around like a sucker.
Of course, Portal speedruns aren’t exactly a new thing, and this one is pretty fun to watch, with NoirCat providing commentary about his slick moves as he executes them and showing off a few glitches. But I can’t help wishing I had my innocence back from this morning, when I thought I was a good Portal player.
This is why I stay away from Rocket League videos.
Phil Hornshaw is a freelance journalist and co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero’s Guide to Glory. You can follow him on Twitter at @philhornshaw or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.