After 16 years, Portal protagonist speaks for the first time: "I'm sad, Wheatley play Despacito"


Chell, the mute protagonist of Valve's acclaimed Portal games, has spoken her first words, and while it's not clear if they're canon, they're definitely not what you would have expected.

Last night, Valve celebrated 20 years of Steam with a look back through the platform's history. When it comes to Portal, the developer marked its landmark 2007 release as part of legendary release The Orange Box. Portal 2's 2011 release is marked by some combination Nyan Cat/Potato GlaDos art, but if you're looking for a more actionable celebration, both games are currently available for a 90% discount.

Since then, it has, sadly, been a pretty quiet time for Portal. That didn't stop Valve from marking 2018 - the year that its troubled card game, Artifact, launched out of beta - with what is presumably some official Portal art. That imagery notes Artifact's flop with Chell and Wheatley, the former lying face-down on the floor asking her companion to "play Despacito."

According to Know Your Meme, "This is so sad Alexa play Despacito" stems from a June 2018 Tumblr post, which itself riffs on the popularity of the Justin Bieber remix of the 2017 Spanish language hit. It's the kind of absurdist humor that Tumblr does so well, and pretty fitting for Artifact, a game that fell firmly on its face shortly after release. It's odd, however, to see Chell - a character that never speaks during her two games - speak these lines. As far as I'm aware, Chell is neither a Dota fan nor a Belieber, so for her first words to be these exact ones is a little strange.

It's hard to tell whether these words really 'count'. I'd argue that they're not exactly canon, given that they've definitely not appeared in an actual Portal game, but they are pretty official - this is dedicated Valve artwork, after all. They are, in my opinion, Chell's 'first words' - 16 years after her first appearance, and in the most unlikely situation I could have imagined.

Interestingly, while there's only one comment on Chell's silence through the two Portal games, there was originally a plan for her to break that silence way earlier than now. An original plan for Portal 2's ending would have seen her speak a single word, but Valve decided that the joke didn't land, so Chell remained quiet - until now.

Valve fans hope that a rumored puzzle game is Portal 3, so maybe there's hope for Chell's voice yet.