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Games Entertainment

Braid, Games As Art, and Interpretation 37

Zonk points out an opinion piece at Gamers With Jobs about Braid, an independent platformer that received high praise when it was released a few months ago. It's often held up as an example of "games as art," and in this article, Julian Murdoch comments on the act of interpreting such art. He takes Braid's creator, Johnathan Blow, to task for the effect his comments have on the game and its players: "My frustration with Braid is multiplied because it would seem to have been designed with me specifically in mind. I am a student of the obscure. I am pathologically drawn to books, movies, games, and passages of scripture that are dense, difficult, and which hide (and thus reveal) meaning behind layers of art and artifice. Games lend themselves to this layering more than any other medium. The casual player of Oblivion, System Shock 2, Fallout 3 or Bioshock can have an extraordinarily story-light experience if they simply 'play' the games. One layer deeper, a close reading of the environments informs deeper levels of story. Deeper still, evidence in the form of written texts and audio tracks provides footnotes, side-plots and appendices to a central story. ... by the end of my Braid experience, I felt like Blow had specifically constructed something that would generate emails and forum posts begging him to please tell us 'what it all means.'" There is some interesting discussion in the comments, including a response from Blow himself.
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Braid, Games As Art, and Interpretation

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  • by EllF ( 205050 ) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @09:09AM (#26464397) Homepage

    The underlying question here is, I think, whether Braid was Important. Games are rarely seen that way - most of them are debated on the basis of whether or not they are "fun", but not on whether or not they somehow embody something larger and more fundamental than just being entertainment.

    One possible approach (quoting from The Hip Gamer []) is to distinguish between the game's implementation (the "system") and it's ambition (the "game world"). I find that game systems are usually best evaluated formally, where one can look to a review to comment on things such as depth, elegance, and replayability; game worlds are more subjective, where one reads reviews for more information on a world's theme, concepts, and morality when considering them.

    What Braid does well is the latter; the world is clearly well thought out and considered, and the non-gameplay pieces (the story books between levels, the artwork, the music, etc.) all advance that world's realization. The game system is solid if not astounding: it's a platformer with a time-control element, with some clever puzzles. Does that make Braid "Important"? Perhaps -- there are a dearth of so-called casual games that meet those criteria. However, in the larger scope of gaming, I don't know that I'd put Braid on the same level as, say, the original Half Life, or Space Invaders, or Planescape: Torment. Gaming itself is unlikely to be altered by Braid's existence, even if playing through it is enjoyable.

  • by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @09:15AM (#26464443)
    If you've played Bioshock just for the guns and plasmids without paying attention to the deeper layers of story, shame on you. After taking the time to read some very interesting dissertations and essays on the origins of Rapture, Andrew Ryan and his twisted relation with Fontaine, I was amazed to discover a deep critical view of Ayn Rand's objectivist theories. How did 2K games propose to criticise her ideas? By pushing them to their utmost, some would say inevitable, conclusion. While many of her ideas sound good on paper, one must never forget that human beings are exactly that - human. Humans are flawed by design, driven deep down by pragmatic needs that all the ideals in the world can't satisfy. Andrew Ryan's utopia is defeated by one of the greatest forces of the dark side of man, GREED, and thus does one man's dream goes down the drain as he himself drinks down the poisoned river he once denounced. A fascinating analysis, perhaps biased by personal worldviews of the writers... but isn't that precisely the ultimate failure of objectivism?

    "In theory, Marge, communism works. IN THEORY." - Homer Simpson

  • by SeePage87 ( 923251 ) on Thursday January 15, 2009 @11:14AM (#26465805)
    No, I'm pretty sure greed is the ultimate success of objectivism, or rather, what I call "moral" greed. So long as you constrain yourself as often as possible to Pareto improvements, acts that benefit you without harming others, greed is a tremendously powerful and productive force. You're right that humans are greedy, it's fact. Objectivism recognizes this and only seeks to guide that greed, just as laws against theft and fraud are designed to do.

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.