Artificial Heart, by Jonathan Coulton


Track 16 only

Released September 2, 2011

4 min, 15 sec

Portal was the game that fully transitioned me into being a PC gamer.

Somewhere around September 2011, Portal was offered for free as part of some sort of education-related deal, intended to be downloaded en masse for classroom usage, or something like that. Valve accomplished this by just making it free on Steam, so, of course, anyone who didn’t already have a copy of the game downloaded it here.

That’s how most things go, with Steam.

Portal is a fantastic game, and I burned through it far too fast to be satisfied. I was going to wait until Christmas to buy Portal 2, but I couldn’t do it, and I bought it outright a couple of days after completing the first game. These two games are perfect examples of video games as learning tools, because the puzzles in both games can sometimes take forever to figure out, and once you figure them out, the answer just seems so damn obvious. It’s great.

The main theme of Portal is “Still Alive,” composed by Jonathan Coulton. Coulton also wrote the lyrics, and the song was sung by Ellen McLain, using the digitally-affected voice of GLaDOS, Portal‘s iconic antagonist, which she also voiced in both games. The song is simple; from GLaDOS’s point of view, it explains that, while GLaDOS was (spoilers) defeated and destroyed at the end of the first game, she still succeeded in her primary goal of experimentation, and so the game as a whole was a “success.” The entire song features references to the game’s plot, as well as other elements of the canon, particularly that the Portal series taking place in the same continuity as the Half-Life series.

This version of the song is a remix, featured on Jonathan Coulton’s studio album Artificial Heart. The remix is rock-oriented, replacing the original’s fully-synthesized instruments with “real” equivalents, as well as a creepy, unsettling theremin intro and bridge. Instead of Ellen McLain, the song features Sara Quin of Tegan & Sara, because…I don’t know. Because she was there, I guess. It sounds great, in any case – Quin brings a more upbeat innocence to the song, as opposed to McLain’s sinister undertones.

And that’s it. Quick post, because I have a lot to talk about with Portal, but I also have the soundtracks for both games, so I’m saving all of it for those. I know you all love that.

You’re getting another, more substantive post later today, anyway.


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