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Valve's 'Portal' Now Mandatory 'Reading' for College Freshmen

portal classroom
We've dug our heels in as decidedly pro when it comes to the debate over whether or not video games are art. And, although we're not desperate for additional support, our argument has gotten a serious boost from Wabash College in Indiana. Wabash's incoming freshmen are now assigned the classic first-person puzzler 'Portal' as required "reading." Professor Michael Abbot pushed to have the game added to the curriculum for "Enduring Questions," a required seminar for all new students that acclimates them to critical readings and discussions in a college environment.

The game is being used specifically as a companion piece to Erving Goffman's 'Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.' After reading the landmark sociology tome, students will play through 'Portal' as an interactive illustration of the struggle over perception at the heart of 'Presentation.' Using a video game to augment the interpretation of a traditional text seems like an ideal way to ease both students and educators into the act of "reading" video games. In a blog post, Abbot says he considered including a game as a stand-alone assignment (as apparently 'Bioshock' was on the short list of candidates, too), but, in the end, decided to go with 'Portal' and 'Presentation' because they make "a good first impression." This is just one more feather in the cap of the video game, which, in just 40 short years, has gone from a type of mindless timewaster to a legitimate art medium, worthy of being taught in institutions of higher education. Check out our list of other games we think are perfect for college "readings" after the break.

More Games that Belong in the Classroom

FalloutFallout 3

'Fallout 3's' open ended game play and meticulously designed retro-futuristic, post-apocalyptic world are just begging for serious examination of its questions about morals, discrimination and loyalty and offer plenty of opportunities for self exploration.

First Person TetrisHateris, First Person Tetris, Tuper Tario Tros.

Games like 'Hatetris,' 'First Person Tetris' and 'Tuper Tario Tros.' turn seemingly sacrosanct elements of our digital pop culture consciousness from enjoyable time wasters to exercises in futility. Is it art? Or is it just cruel?

BloomBloom, Electroplankton, Moondust

Generative music games like 'Bloom' and 'Electroplankton' deserve a home in both art and composition classrooms. Their pre-cursor, 'Moondust,' has even been displayed in art galleries.

Grand Theft Auto IVGrand Theft Auto

The 'Grand Theft Auto' series draws so much attention for its moral ambiguity that it's easy to miss that it's more immersive and cinematic than most major motion pictures.



'Ico' helped kick off the video games as art debate back in 2001. The simple game play mechanics kept focus on the beautiful setting and compelling story.


'ImmorTall' takes the passive, minimal game play and limited use of narrative in 'Ico' to it's logical extreme. You act only defensively to save a family trapped in some unidentified war-torn region.


The story in 'Machinarium' is told exclusively through pictographs. There are no written words and no spoken dialog. Yet thanks to its stunning art work and carefully constructed sequence the game is constantly compelling.


'Bioshock' raises serious questions about morality, community and individual freedom versus responsibility. And it does all this against the backdrop of a carefully crafted, Ayn Rand inspired underwater city.


'Braid' is, on it's surface, a simple puzzler and platformer in which you must save a princess from a monster. However, vague clues leave the true interpretation of the plot up for serious debate.


We credited 'P0nd' with officially ending the are video games art debate sometime back and stand by it. We don't want to ruin anything about this stunning work, just go play it for yourself.

The GraveyardThe Graveyard

'The Graveyard' is odd, short and honestly, barely a game. But there is no denying its originality.

Tags: college, education, gaming, portal, top, Video games as art, videogames, VideoGamesAsArt, wabash college, WabashCollege



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