I remember it surprising and pleasing everyone who played it, because it was an unexpectedly awesome game. But I also remember surprised and pleased reactions from feminist commentators who don't ordinarily pay attention to videogames, because the protagonist, Chell, was a woman of color who wasn't jaw-droppingly gorgeous or dressed in a sexy costume; she wore a baggy orange jumpsuit and had a face and build that were good-looking, not overly athletic, and… normal. (Curiously, given that Chell is a silent protagonist, her face was based on a voice artist, actress Alésia Glidewell, who is of Brazilian and Japanese descent.)
Game Informer is running a series of interviews with Valve's folks this month around the recently-announced PORTAL 2, which hits for Christmas, and the one with Valve concept artist Matt Charlesworth had some curious news I thought you guys might want to be hipped to. Apparently, when they were beginning the game creation, they weren't sure if they were going to bring Chell back, or use a new character, or what, and even when they settled on Chell they considered some pretty radical redesigns. It's unclear (and the image in the article of the final Chell model for PORTAL 2 is too small to tell for sure) if they actually went through with this or just thought about it, but Charlesworth says they thought about changing Chell's ethnicity.
*braces for explosion*
Look, folks, I don't know if there's actually anything happening that'll piss people off or if Charlesworth just put his foot in it. For all I know, he just said something dumb and they wound up not messing with Chell's ethnicity at all (her face shape looks different from the first game in the picture they provide, but as I said, the image doesn't show her face that well). But I do know that if PORTAL 2 comes out and Chell's ethnicity has changed, a lot of people will be feeling extremely hurt and pissed off, and it's always worth giving companies a heads-up so they have a chance to avoid hurting and pissing off people. For that matter, I'm sure Valve would rather avoid hurting and pissing off people who, er, might *give them money.* So it might be worth dropping 'em a polite line asking for clarification, and maybe ask if they can release a few good headshots of Chell in PORTAL 2 so folks can see if she still looks like Alésia Glidewell.
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