"Portal Cake" | Art by ChasingArtwork. Used with permission.
By: Allison Barron | Video Games | April 13, 2015
S

he doesn’t have a soul. I wonder, is that what makes GLaDOS such a great villain?

Killing a test subject is of no consequence to GLaDOS, and she appears to delight in playing mental games. Having a soul is apparently not a prerequisite for wonderful sarcastic wit:

“Please note that we have added a consequence for failure. Any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official test record. Followed by death.”

Lots of gamers (including yours truly) will tell you that they love GLaDOS. It is curious, since you don’t often hear people saying that they love a villain.

“I love Professor Umbridge.”

“I love Saruman.”

“I love WaLuigi.” Seriously, who’s great idea was that one?

Hmm… nope. Uncommon words, those.

These dastardly characters might be amazing (or annoying) villains, but am I personally attached to them? No. I do love to hate their guts, but I’m glad when they get what’s coming to them.

Portal’s GLaDOS is a completely different story. I would mourn the loss of this beloved A.I. because I don’t think she’s truly evil. Sure, she’s soulless, but this begs the question: can you be both soulless and awesome?

Perhaps a deeper question would be CAN something be good or evil without a soul? Do we only see GLaDOS as “evil” and ATLAS and P-body as “good” because that’s how they’re programmed?

The concept of a soul is explored a lot in science fiction where artificial intelligences abound. What about Data? What about Boomer? EDI? Baymax?

We can hold A.I. accountable for their actions. That much is as easy as altering a few lines of code and erasing any undesirable behaviour. But the interesting question with GLaDOS is, do we even want to?

Her lack of soul, strict adherence to logic and charming oversimplification of mortality blend together in an endearing mix that is truly awesome and why, I contest, she is a perfectly horrible and fantastic villain.

Allison Barron
General Manager / Executive Editor
Allison is like Galadriel, offering wisdom where needed but turning treacherous as the sea when competitive games are involved. She is the executive editor of Area of Effect magazine, co-host of the Infinity +1 podcast, and staff writer for Christ and Pop Culture. When she’s not writing, designing, or editing, she is often preoccupied in Hyrule, Middle-earth, or a galaxy far, far away.