“Gentlemen, I give you the Long Fall Boot.
Think of it as foot-based suit of armor for the Portal Device.
I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s expensive as hell.
But check this out: we told this Test Subject to just go ahead and try to land on her head.
Heh heh! She can’t do it! Good work, boots.”
-Portal Scientist, In-game.
The Long Fall Boots
There’s a game called Portal. In the game, test subjects trapped by Aperture Corp. must solve increasingly devilish spatial puzzles to escape a maze using a gun that shoots “portals,” allowing movement through walls. In the game, the players wears “long fall boots” which are designed to protect them when they fall:
The main test subject is a bad-ass woman named Chell. So of course, cosplay daughter wants to go full Chell.
Cosplay daughter is a perfectionist, so they’d have to be completely, totally accurate.
But of course, these are boots that really only exist in a video game. The designers didn’t need to figure out how to make them work in real life.
The boots have been the bane of my existence for some time; that scientist isn’t lying. They have been very expensive as well as hugely frustrating.
But when I reflect on them, I wonder if the fictional portal scientist isn’t also right about something else. I think the boots, or the process of making them, will keep my daughter from falling on her head.
It was the first, non-sewing project we’d ever attempted. A friend (hereafter, “Novio”) helped. I spent at least a hundred dollars. Another friend had to bend the metal. We went through eleventy-five cans of spray paint, and they were still wet when we arrived at the convention. The resulting boots looked great in photos, but were impossible to walk in and hurt her ankles and feet pretty badly:
At this convention photo shoot, (above) she got compliments from everyone there about how amazing they were. She replied, “Yeah, but they’re horribly uncomfortable.” When she said that, another young cosplayer said, “that’s the definition of cosplay: looks amazing/horribly uncomfortable.”
But she didn’t compete in this outfit. My perfectionist daughter, despite the compliments and encouragement, didn’t think they were good enough. She felt like a failure. And she was crushed.
Later, she found an online tutorial for making the boots. She decided to try again from scratch. I spent another $75 on high-impact abs plastic and base boots. She cut leather, discovered the joys of wood hardener, and all went well until she and Novio had to figure out how to use Bondo. Disaster.
For a daughter who has an ideal vision of all her process and product this was an unacceptable mess. She hid in her room. She gave up. Boots 2.0 still languish in the garage.
But here’s the thing: months later, she set out to take on another new challenge: armor. And she said, (basically), this to me:
“I’ve never tried to make a helmet. I think maybe I can. But I’m not going to expect to get it perfect the first time, and I’m not going to get upset if I have to start over.”
She learned something from the long fall boot odyssey. She learned frustration tolerance and better acceptance of what Novio reminds me is the iterative process: rounds of experimentation and trying. Learning from mistakes. Moving forward.
And that, friends, is important. Life’s an iterative process. None of us really get it right the first time. We fall (sometimes quite a long way). We try, and fail, and need to readjust and try again. The boots helped my perfectionist daughter learn that lesson.
And that lesson may well keep her from landing on her head.