Companion Cube

Author: Unknown

It's common knowledge that Valve put the Companion Cube in Portal in order to make people carry it through the whole stage, instead of leaving it behind. What most people don't know is that isn't the only thing the developers added due to beta testers' behavior. I'm speaking, of course, of those secret areas called "Rattman dens." Those out of the way areas where it looks to the player as if someone, maybe a previous test subject put through GLaDOS' tests broke free and began living in the walls. The dens mainly consisted of drawings and insane messages, scribbled repeatedly on the walls.

These were actually added quite late into development. The areas were initially nothing more than small bits of barely textured space that players managed to worm their way into with a little fiddling around with the game's physics. Once these small, unremarkable spaces of the map were reached, though, beta testers who got there began acting a bit odd.

The first was found sitting on the floor, curled into the fetal position over his controller, rocking back and forth while sobbing quietly to himself. When they tried to ask what was wrong, he started shouting nonsense and tried to attack the guard escorting him out of the building. The next went a bit further. Security heard screaming and rushed into the room. This tester had clawed deep gashes into her arms and was bleeding out on the floor, twitching violently. They rushed her to the hospital, and she recovered fully, though with no memory of the incident. The third tester...just stopped. He stopped playing. Stopped moving. Stopped speaking. He'd gone completely catatonic. His family tried to sue for damages, but didn't have a strong enough case. The developers were, by this time, very concerned, but what could they do? They didn't know what was doing this, but they were sure video games didn't drive people crazy like this.

It took a murder for them to realize otherwise.

The last beta tester they brought in seemed fine when he left, but the developers found out that wasn't the case when they received a call from the police. The man had forced his youngest daughter into an oven and burned her to death, and had written the word "cake" all over her body in permanent marker. And just like this last tester, all the participants began to show the same odd behavior. While some were catatonic and phlegmatic at first, they became more and more violent with time. A behavior most developed was an extreme sense of pyromania. Whether via an oven, campfire, or even just a match, it always resulted in getting too close to the fire and getting burned.

In the end, though, Valve figured out a way to counter this behavior. After the beta test officially ended, they added in the Companion Cube as we know it. Of course, their officially stated reasons were what I stated above: to make it easier to know that you were supposed to carry it around throughout the entire test area. But that wasn't the real reason. During the beta testing phase, right before you go to the next area, you leave the cube in a nearby air vent and walk off without it. But in the released game, you burn the cube at the end. You have to burn your best friend. Though they sealed off the air vent and hid the textures for it, it's still technically within the level, hiding under a wall.

I wonder what would happen if someone today were to leave the Companion Cube there, instead of what the game tells you to do?