Portal series
Chell, as she appears in Portal 2.
First game Portal (2007)
Voiced by
Mary Kae Irvin (pain grunts; archive recordings) (Portal)
Motion capture Alésia Glidewell (modeled after; face and body)

Chell is the protagonist and player character of the Portal series. Chell first appears in Portal, where she is taking part in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center's test under supervision by GLaDOS. GLaDOS tries to kill her as Chell then tries to escape the Enrichment Center, attempting to kill GLaDOS in the process. However, Chell is dragged back into the laboratories at the end of the game. Chell reappears in Portal 2: Lab Rat, a prelude webcomic to Portal 2, where Doug Rattmann puts her in stasis. In Portal 2, Chell is reawakened by Wheatley and they attempt to escape. By the end of Portal 2, Chell finally escapes Aperture Science.

Chell's design in the first game has been widely praised due to its non-sexualisation. GamesRadar has satirically criticised the design, particularly the jumpsuit and the heel springs, listing her as one of their "Mediocre Game Babes" as a female character that does not show the qualities the classic gamer stereotype wants in his over-sexualized woman.[1]

Development and design

Valve's Erik Wolpaw felt that it didn't really matter what kind of person Chell was, noting that playtesters of the first Portal often didn't know her name as it was never mentioned. Wolpaw explained that they never mentioned her name as "[players] felt like they had this relationship with GLaDOS, and they wanted GLaDOS to recognise them". Chet Faliszek noted that Chell was the female version of Gordon Freeman's role as a silent protagonist.[2] Wolpaw explained it served the game's humour better if she didn't talk, and that if she, the "straight man in a world gone mad," did talk, "it would suck".[3] In an interview by IGN about Portal 2: Lab Rat, Valve's Michael Avon Oeming commented that, currently, "Chell is more of a storytelling device", comparing her to the Spirit by Will Eisner, but noted that more may be seen of Chell in the future.[4]

Chell concept P2

Concept art of Portal 2 depicted Chell "dressed by machines".

When making Portal 2, developers considered not bringing back the character.[5][6] However, this was changed as playtesters wanted GLaDOS to recognise them as the person who had killed her in the first game.[2][7] In her original redesign for Portal 2 developers tried to make her look appealing, yet not overdesigned,[6] with nothing made simply for fashion.[5] They explored changing her nationality, and tried to make her look less human due to the "constant dehumanization of these test subjects". Being a test subject, Chell's suit was designed to look neither sexy nor unattractive. The original redesign of the character featured a laboratory hat, which was thought of half-way through the concepting phase.[8][5] Matt Charlesworth, Valve's concept artist, commented that the hat reminded him of test pilots.[5]

This look was eventually abandoned in favour of returning to her original orange jumpsuit, this time with the jumpsuit wrapped around her waist. Valve's art team explained that this was to give her more freedom and "[help] her stand out more as an individual".[9]


In Portal Chell is performing tests for Aperture Science, which are being overviewed by GLaDOS. Chell destroys GLaDOS in her efforts to escape but is wounded, and an unseen figure with a robotic voice drags her back inside.

In Portal 2: Lab Rat, a tie-in comic for Portal 2, Chell is put in stasis by Doug Rattmann after the events of Portal. He is revealed to be responsible for Chell taking part in the tests.[10][11] Chell reappears in Portal 2 where she is reawakened by Wheatley. She and Wheatley attempt to escape the laboratory, and in the process accidentally awake GLaDOS. GLaDOS forces Chell to do more tests for her until Wheatley helps her escape again. Chell and Wheatley destroy GLaDOS's neurotoxin and wreck the manufacture of her turrets. GLaDOS recaptures Chell, but fails to do anything to her due to her lack of neurotoxin and turrets. Chell then replaces GLaDOS's core with Wheatley. Wheatley then betrays Chell, and Chell teams up with GLaDOS, whom Wheatley has put into a potato, in order to defeat Wheatley. Chell finds Wheatley who forces her to run tests for him until she finds his lair. She then fires a portal to the moon which sucks both her and Wheatley out into space, and is saved by GLaDOS' "Caroline" personality. After deleting Caroline, GLaDOS lets Chell leave the facility. After being treated to a symphony of singing turrets, Chell then exits Aperture into a wheat field that stretches to the horizon. The door closes behind her, but soon opens again to give Chell her beloved Companion Cube, supposedly the one from the first game.

Chell's origin is unclear; GLaDOS claims that in Chell's file it states that she is: "A bitter, unlikeable loner whose passing shall not be mourned" and that Chell is adopted. In Portal 2, a long-abandoned science fair poster as part of "Bring Your Daughter To Work" day—the same day GLaDOS became rampant—is attributed to "Chell", implying her father worked for Aperture; at least one journalist has taken this to suggest that Chell is Cave Johnson's daughter.[12]

Reception and analysis

Portal Chell

Chell in the first Portal game.

GamesRadar's Joe McNeilly called Chell an example of Portal deconstructing first-person shooter archetypes, noting that she was neither in third-person or sexualised unlike most female characters in first-person shooters.[13] GamesRadar called Chell the antidote to the "Half Naked Woman" cliché, praising her for not being sexualised and being fully clothed, commenting that "the hero of Portal just happens to be a normal-looking and normal-dressing woman, like 50% of the world's population".[14] GamesRadar listed Chell (jokingly) as one of their "Mediocre Game Babes", calling her jumpsuit "repulsive" and saying that her "heel springs make her look like one of those aliens from The Arrival".[1] IGN listed Chell as the sixth top gaming heroine, calling her "one of the most resourceful heroines on [their] list".[15] In an in-depth analysis of Portal, Daniel Johnson from Gamasutra said that Chell being female, as well as GLaDOS's line about testing your daughter in "Aperture Science Bring Your Daughter to Work Day", alluded to the testing of females. Johnson also noted that the information about who Chell is and why she's there reinforced the position of the player as an unwilling participant.[16] GamesRadar said that they had considered putting Chell on their list of the "Top 7… Tasteful game heroines", but said she lost out to Zoey from Left 4 Dead.[17]

Kotaku's Luke Plunkett called Chell's original design in the first game "memorable",[8] later noting how in the first Portal "Chell [...] was never really the star of the game" as well as how little she was actually seen.[18] Mike Fahey, also from Kotaku, defended Chell from people saying that she should talk, saying that "the last thing I would want in Portal 2 is for Chell to speak".[19] When reviewing Portal 2, Game Informer's Adam Biessener said that much of what makes Portal and Portal 2 so special was the "execution and the originality of standing in Chell’s shoes and experiencing her destiny".[20]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Chris Antista (25 July 2008). "Mediocre Game Babes". GamesRadar. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Eurogamer staff (14 March 2011). "Portal 2 exclusive interview - Survey". Eurogamer. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  3. Chris Pereira (6 May 2011). "Portal's Protagonist is Silent for a Reason". Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  4. Joey Esposito (6 April 2011). "Expanding the World of Portal 2". IGN. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Ben Reeves (22 March 2010). "Redesigning Portal: Valve’s Artist Speaks". Game Informer. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tyler Wilde (23 March 2010). "Portal 2 concept art is pretty Chell". GamesRadar. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  7. Edge staff (18 March 2011). "Portal 2 Preview". Edge. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Luke Plunkett (23 March 2010). "Portal's Star Has A New Look". Kotaku.!5499671/portals-star-has-a-new-look. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  9. Michael McWhertor (23 February 2011). "The New Look For Portal 2's Heroine Explained". Kotaku.!5767246/the-new-look-for-portal-2s-heroine-explained. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  10. Joey Esposito (8 April 2011). "Portal 2: Lab Rat - Part 1". IGN. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  11. Joey Esposito (11 April 2011). "Read Portal 2: Lab Rat - Part 2". IGN. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  12. Purslow, Matt (2011-04-26). "Portal 2 Secrets Guide". PC Gamer. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  13. Joe McNeilly (7 December 2007). "Portal is the most subversive game ever". GamesRadar. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  14. Charlie Barratt (21 July 2008). "The Top 7... Lazy Character Clichés". GamesRadar. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  15. IGN PlayStation Team (8 July 2009). "The Wednesday 10: Gaming Heroines". IGN. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  16. Daniel Johnson (11 June 2009). "Analysis: Portal and the Deconstruction of the Institution". Gamasutra. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  17. Brett Elston. "The Top 7… Tasteful game heroines". GamesRadar. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  18. Luke Plunkett (12 February 2011). "See How Portal's Heroine Has Changed". Kotaku.!5758529/see-how-portals-heroine-has-changed. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  19. Mikey Fahey (24 February 2011). "Some Game Characters Need To Keep Their Big Mouths Shut". Kotaku.!5769329/some-game-characters-need-to-keep-their-big-mouths-shut. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  20. Adam Biessener (18 April 2011). "Portal 2". Game Informer. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 

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