The Portal to Beyond
Archival Website: https://dtc-wsuv.org/projects/data-entry-portal/index.html
Download from itch.io: https://electronicliteraturelab.itch.io/
In Rob Swigart’s Portal players take the role of the Traveler who return to Earth after a long journey through space only to find themselves alone on the planet. Stumbling on an old terminal, they access 12 databases, each revealing bits of information leading to the reasons why people left Earth. Players also encounter HOMER, an abandoned AI, who helps with uncovering the truth and discovers their own humanity.
A mystery-puzzle game published by Activision in 1986 and released first for the Commodore 64 before being ported into other formats, Portal has been accessible only via emulation. The author also published a novel by the same name that provides backstories about the characters and a deeper account of the how the humans left Earth and where they were residing once they did.
I taught the game in my course, Video Game Theories & History, and decided that an adaptation of it for the VR environment would make a great Senior Capstone project in the spring semester. Rob agreed, and off we went in January to accomplish this feat, naming the new game DATA ENTRY: PORTAL. Twenty-six graduating seniors, seven members of the lab, and an alum specializing in musical composition for games all worked over the next four months to scope the VR game and develop two of its three levels. My fall graduates will pick up the project for their capstone and complete Level 3.
When Rob visited the lab last week, he handed me a stack of thick folders. Contained in these were copies of the game’s many positive reviews, interviews with news agencies, planning docs, and other papers game scholars will find useful. The lab plans to scan all of these materials and make them accessible when it launches The Rob Swigart Collection this summer.