The two Portal games are memorable for their clever physics puzzles, funny writing that's been run into the ground by Internet memes, a cooperative campaign that ruins friendships, and a popular female protagonist who doesn't serve as eye candy. That last one isn't as unusual these days as it once was, but we think Portal goes deeper into feminism than you probably realize.
Amidst the killer robots and hyper-masculine scientists is a clever exploration of a woman's struggle in a male-dominated culture, and we're not just saying that because your only weapon is a gun that shoots vagina metaphors. If you think we're reading too much into it, well, give us a chance to make our case:
The Female Main Character Is a Blank Slate (In a Good Way)
Right away, Portal doesn't make a big deal about the fact that you're playing as a woman. And that, oddly enough, is a big deal. Hey, remember that Jurassic Park game where you could look down at your own tits?
"Dude, I bet women do this, like, all the time!"
As we've mentioned before, there's a reason so many action/fantasy heroes seem to be devoid of personality. It's not bad writing, or a mistake -- Han Solo is cooler than Luke Skywalker because the latter isn't supposed to have a personality. Neither is Frodo. And it's for the same reason Mario, Half Life's Gordon Freeman, and Skyrim's Dragonborn are all silent protagonists with hardly any character traits of their own: They are blank slates onto which the player/audience project themselves. They're you. That's why the wooden and befuddled Keanu Reeves was so perfect as Neo -- he's the stand-in for the audience, the "everyman" character we can all relate to. It's a storytelling technique that's literally older than written words.
But it is very rare for that "everyman" character to be a woman.
And even rarer for it to be an appropriately dressed woman.
Sure, Metroid's Samus was a silent character, but her gender was originally used as a plot twist for shock value ("Surprise! All of these heroic things were done by a woman! And if you beat the game a second time, you can see her in a bikini!"). Other games are all about calling attention to it, even if it's a strong character -- in Bayonetta, you're a flamboyant, trash-talking sex goddess who gets naked in mid-battle. Lara Croft's original design was entirely about the boobs.