Jonathan Blow - Braid - so what is deep about this game ????
March 6, 2015 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I've watching some vids where blow explains he spent a lot of time doing something deep in the game but hardly any players understood these deep concepts. But he doesn't tell what these deep ideas are!! What are they? I just see a simplistic puzzle platformer, what am I missing ???
posted by flexiverse to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You are so in luck! Sam Hughes, AKA "sam512" of some modest internet fame for his writings (Ed stories, Fine Structure, the obsessively complete Futurara timeline, Gay marriage: the database engineering perspective, others), has just written an article entitled Time travel in Braid that discusses the ideas around Braid's time travel. Worth a read!
posted by 4th number at 2:14 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

A few things I'd say:

* The game deconstructs the classic Mario-style puzzle transformer by adding in the manipulation of time as a game mechanic, forcing the player to relearn a vocabulary that has come to seem totally naturalized.

* It complicates this by running a number of variations on the idea of replayability and repetition. A number of the puzzles can be "skipped" (but have to be returned to); others of them can be played only once and never again with a full reset. The player can never die, which means every playthrough of BRAID is the first playthrough and ever game is a perfect game. And despite the time travel mechanic the game is actually almost completely unreplayable, which is interesting if one is interested in overthinking such things. The game is very melancholy, and philosophically minded.

* He adds in a number of advanced game achievements that are totally bizarre, which undercut the idea of achievement as such.

* He also completed the game largely by itself, and (as you suggest) has built up a bit of a legend around himself that adds to the reputation.

I would say though that a lot of the reputation of BRAID is resting specifically on the way the final level works, which I don't want to spoil for anyone who hasn't played it. But that level in particular was seen as very innovative at the time, and suggests certain criticisms of the field of video games that some people are inclined to find quite clever.

If you have access to academic journals I'd suggest you check out Pat Jagoda's article "Fabulously Procedural: Braid, Historical Processing, and the Videogame Sensorium."
posted by gerryblog at 3:30 PM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

Gamasutra has a lengthy article examining the various theories about the game's narrative subtext. I'd only heard about the atomic bomb theory, but it discusses several others, and even attempts to tie them all into an overarching meta-narrative at the end.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:56 PM on March 6, 2015

The gamasutra article Rhaomi linked has a fairly spot on conclusion to me, in that the game is a critique of blindly chasing goals and missing the journey while you're at it. At points it's practically begging the player to stop and think instead of just reaching for the most obvious goal.

Aside from the words and the set dressing, I think it's presented mechanically in the final puzzle too. The stars are all out of sight, and most of them require you to decide to explore outside of the level. You can't get the one in the jigsaw puzzle if you go ahead and complete it before noticing it. Beyond just wondering why that cloud is there, it then makes you actually stop playing for hours. The final reward (the maiden in the constellation) was "there all along", and it's also specifically outside of the level select house / memory mansion. The epilogue makes you put the player character out of sight to solve the puzzles, and the last room has the only cloud that doesn't do anything in-game, it just gives you somewhere to stand and consider.
posted by lucidium at 6:48 PM on March 6, 2015

Have you played through the whole game yourself? The first couple of levels are relatively straightforward, but the time reversal mechanic gets more deep and complicated as you go. Also there's deeper puzzles in the game (the stars) that you can easily ignore but if you are looking for depth, is there to be found. On top of that there's a wistful narrative and (for the time) an unusual and fresh ├Žsthetic.

This review from the time summed up why I liked it pretty well.
posted by Nelson at 7:55 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

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