Companion Cube

February 28, 2008

For the gaming/programmer community, Portal is THE GAME. Seemingly from nowhere, this game burst upon the scene and took the nerd world by storm. Excellent storyline, snappy dialog, challenging puzzles, and an awesome space-warping gun combine to create an incredibly memorable game.

Nearly overnight, the hacker lexicon got some new words and phrases. This guide will help you make sense of most hacker conversations you may hear that refer to Portal.

The Cake is a Lie

The artificially intelligent computer that runs the series of puzzles (known as the Aperture Science Computer Aided Enrichment Center) goads your character along by stating that "cake" will be served to you if you survive all the tests. However, graffiti on the walls of the center proclaim otherwise... stating that the cake being promised is a great, big lie.

Hackers generally use this phrase either as an icebreaker or as a description of a situation where somebody is motivated to do a difficult task for a promised but unverified reward.

I'm making a note here: Huge Success!

At the end of the game, the computer gives you your final review. At the beginning of the review, it says "This was a triumph. I'm making a note here: Huge Success!"

Like Trekkies shouting "Qua'pla!" (Klingon for "Success!"), programmers are now known to say that they are "making a note here: Huge Success!"

The Companion Cube

The Companion Cube is an inert storage cube imbued with a personality by the game programmers to trick game players into carrying this cube throughout a puzzle, but then requiring them to destroy it at the end. They did such a good job, however, that game players have become attached to this "Companion Cube," going so far as to build little paper models or buy plushies of this "character." Generally, you'll hear a hacker talk about how they would never let go of their companion cube, or something along those lines.

Aperture Science Thing We Don't Know What It Does

Programmers find long multi-word names for products to be humorous. The game developers played on this concept:

  • It's not the lab. It's the Aperture Science Computer Aided Enrichment Center.
  • It's not a storage box. It's an Aperture Science Weighted Storage Cube.
  • It's not a button. It's an Aperture Science 1500 Megawatt Superconducing Super Button.

The joke is to take, say, a mouse, and turn it into an "Aperture Science Rotational Axis 2 Dimensional Vector Detecting Peripheral".

Now You're Thinking in Portals

With this guide handy, you can start to understand the conversations of your Portal crazed coworkers. You will no longer be confused when a coworker bursts out laughing when holding a slice of cake. You won't wonder why he has a background with little hearts all over it, displaying a strange box. You can now safely laugh at any name longer than 4 words, knowing that it's most likely a joke. This won't help with any of the other strange things developers say, but at least their conversations should be a little more transparent now.

For more information, check Wikipedia, or better yet, Watch the trailer and play the game.

-Shawn