Glados: Here's a new a cube for you to project your deranged loneliness onto.
MatPat: Everyone's favorite rhombohidran has a scary little secret inside of it. And no, I'm not referring to this guy's penis. (picture of man with companion cube over front of pants)
Hello Internet, welcome to Game Theory, determined to be the first show ever to talk about Portal without once mentioning cake...wait, I just blew it didn't I? Dammit! Let's call a spade a spade, shall we? The Companion Cube is a box with hearts on it, and yet despite being an inanimate object that appear for a fraction of the first Portal game, the gaming community instantly fell in love, myself included. Without speaking, without even moving, the weighted Companion Cube, which by all definition should qualify as an item, quickly rose through the ranks of gaming's all-time, most memorable characters. Take that, Ristar! Screw you, Chuck Rock! You're no match for my parallelo-piped pal! We grew to love this rectangular prism so much, that we let it into our beds, let it chill our drinks and let it all up in our feminine underparts. But perhaps we were to quick to let it plaster our privets. Maybe our passion for this hexohedral hombre was a little misplaced. We grew overly attached because we were alone and desperate for a friend in the testing chambers of Aperture Science. But in our hast, we didn't bother to ask questions. We didn't stop to notice the odd coincidences. What do we really know about the nature of these cubes? What black secrets are hidden behind those pink hearts?
Well first, we need to know why we love the Companion Cube so much. Back in the 1950s, when psychology was still interesting because there were no limitations on human testing, (ah, those were the days) Donald Hebb placed volunteers into extreme isolation, leaving them in small, empty rooms with goggles and headphones to block out sensory input. The test was supposed to last 42 days. Test subjects barely made it four, as they quickly descended into madness, unable to think clearly, so lost in deprivation that they failed basic skills tests. They started to have vivid visual and auditory hallucinations, ranging from the room filling with dogs, to feeling their arm getting hit with pellets fired from a miniature, imaginary rocket ship. In short, the Aperture Science testing would truly push subjects to their psychological limits, as they wandered alone in room after room with no end in sight. Humans truly are social creatures and studies have shown that lonely people are much more likely than connected people to believe that inanimate objects have emotions and intentions. By the time Chell and the player reach chamber 17, we're so ready for companionship, we'll give it to anything, including a glorified storage crate. And if you think back to the Tom Hanks movie, "Castaway," same thing happened there. Wilson, the bloody-faced, volleyball, was the film's version of the Companion Cube, giving Tom Hanks someone, anyone to interact with while in isolation on the island. So basically, the Companion Cube is just a lovable little pile of parts that happened to be in the right time at the right place. Then, what reasons could we possibly have to distrust our cuddly little cube?
Well, would you believe me if I said that the weight inside those weighted Companion Cubes came from the bodies of failed test subjects, the dead and dying predecessors of Chell. Let's look at the evidence. What initially prompted this theory is the achievement you receive when you drop your Companion Cube into the incinerator during the game. The name of the achievement is "Fratricide," a term denoting the act of killing your brother. It seems like an odd choice of words, until you consider that the thousands of test subjects captive at Aperture, the ones that use to live in the large boxes visible at the start of the second game, are just like your brethren, and may just have ended up downgraded to a smaller, more disposable box. Well first, we know it's physically possible. Our Metroid Morph Ball episode showed that a human can fit into spaces much smaller than .1 cubic meters, and without even breaking into pixel measurements, it's easy to tell that the Companion Cube is significantly larger than any version of the Morph Ball. So physically cramming a human into a cube is absolutely possible, but is it actually what's happening? To find out, we need to examine the way Glados speaks about the Companion Cubes.
Glados: The enrichment center reminds you that the weighted Companion Cube will never threaten to stab you and, in fact, cannot speak. In the event that the weighted Companion Cube does speak, the enrichment center urges you to disregard its advice. If it could talk, and the enrichment center takes this opportunity to remind you that it cannot, it would tell you to go on without it because it would rather die in a fire than become a burden to you.
MatPat: Now Glados is not our friend and is far from a reliable source of information in the first game. In fact, mos of what she says is false and meant to mislead Chell. Thus, her insistence that the cubes are A. unable to talk, and B. should be ignored if they do, make it seem like the reverse is true, that the may be able to talk and that their advice should be headed. That's certainly the experience former Aperture employee turned test subject, Doug Ratmin experienced. In the Portal comics, Ratmin is shown to have conversations with the Companion Cube he carries strapped to his back, with the cube literally giving him helpful advice. In fact, the cube's advice is the one thing that keeps him alive. It even warns him against taking two pills labeled "Ziaprazidone," supposedly an anti-psychotic medication, except that the real medication would be named Ziprazidone, without the A. Careless typo made by Valve, or perhaps another Aperture test that the cube was aware of. While under its effects, the cube no longer talks and Ratmin almost gets himself killed without its advice. Seems like Glados would have a vested interest in keeping people ignoring this useful source of information.
And speaking of Ratmin, throughout the games you see many of his ranty scribblings on the walls. In his first chamber, you see cubes over the faces of various pictures. What many have assumed as just schizophrenic hallucinations or a fixation on the cube, may be something completely different. Notice he hasn't placed cube images over just the faces of one gender, but both men and women. The term, "Objectum Sexual" is given to people who literally fall in love with inanimate objects. Like this woman, who dumped her bow-and-arrow fiance, Lance, to literally marry the Eiffel Tower. Or this woman who married the Berlin Wall. Talk about your awkward wedding nights. Now if Ratmin was indeed in love with the cube and suffering from objectum suxual, he would associate the cube with one specific sex, not plastering its picture over multiple genders. Additionally, notice that the calendar is of "The Girls of Aperture Science", meaning that these pictures are of people who have worked at the company, Ratmin's friends, his co-workers, people he loved and cared about. If they were dead and shoved into cubes, it would make sense that he would put cube pictures over the top of them, and have hearts drawn around them. And let's not overlook the message written here either. Quote: "The weighted companion cube does speak...I'm not hallucinating. You are."
Then in Portal 2, Glados adds:
Glados: I think that one was about to say "I love you." They are sentient, of course. We just have a lot of them.
MatPat: Again making allusion to the fact that the cube may be able to speak, but more importantly, describing the sentience of the cubes. To be sentient means having the ability to feel and perceive. Sentient characters also display desire, will and personality. So to say that the cube is sentient would differentiate it significantly from the likes of a turret, for example, which may at first appear to have feelings and consciousness, but are in fact just programmed to respond to various stimuli in very specific ways. A human inside a cube, meanwhile, would definitely qualify as a sentient creature.
Glados: Oh well, we have warehouses full of the things. Absolutely worthless. I'm happy to get rid of them.
MatPat: Throughout the entirety of both games, Glados only uses words like "worthless" and "useless" to describe one thing: the value of human life.
Glados: Remember before when I was talking about smelly garbage, standing around being useless? That was a metaphor. I was actually talking about you.
MatPat: So not only has she opened up the possibility that the cubes can talk repeatedly, she refers to them using the same language she implements when talking about other human test subjects. What she's saying and how she's saying it gives a strong indication that the cubes may be more than meets the eye. Then there's the disintegration sound clip when Glados automatically decides that she wants to bump one of these cubes off. Listen to it a few times...
(sound clip plays)
Can you hear buried in amongst the metallic clang a cry for help?
(clip plays again)
A last plea from someone who has just been euthanized by an A.I. with no regard for the waste of human life?
And finally, perhaps the most bizarre and unexplained coincidence of all. Unlike every other item in the game, a Companion Cube is never faced with the threat of a Material Emancipation Grill. The Material Emancipation Grill, or Grid, depending on who you ask, is a particle barrier set up to disintegrate any unapproved contraband leaving the testing chamber. Weighted Storage Cubes, Edge-less Safety Cubes, Discouragement Redirection Cubes and things that don't have cube in their name. Basically any non-organic materials that are meant for that room and that room only. Why does this matter? Well, we've already discussed the Companion Cube's demise in the first Portal. That unforgettable incinerator scene where are cube friend is in the fiery furnace before we can even get close to the particle grid. Then in Portal 2, the one and only chamber in the entire game with a broken particle grid, just so happens to be the same one as the one and only chamber where you can interact with a Companion cube? Coincidence? I think not! And why does it matter? Remember that organic test subjects are clear to pass through these barriers, while cubes are not. So if these boxes did indeed contain the remains of humans lost under the guise of scientific progress, should a Companion Cube pass through, the exterior box would disappear, leaving only the curled-up human inside. In other words, the Companion cube is people!
So the next time an evil, dishonest A.I. presents you with a cute box and tells you to become friends with it, think twice. Science has no mercy. But hey, that's just a theory, a GAME THEORY! Thanks for watching.