Braid: In Search of Meaning

"This is not for you." - House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski

It took me months to get back to Braid.

When the indie platformer arrived on Xbox LIVE Arcade in August of 2008, I knew little about it. But based on people I trust, and the artwork of David Hellman, I bought it the day it came out.

It was clear within moments that the game was trying to do something special. I realized instantly that this was an inspired work: an intentional effort to marry a carefully written, illustrated and scored storyline with some truly innovative platforming and time manipulation mechanics. Even better, the game’s designer, Jonathan Blow, was attempting to use the actual mechanics to inform the story.

It was clever. It was cerebral. It was pompous. I bathed in it. And then I got angry.

(Note: the following contains spoilers for Jonathan Blow’s Braid. Caveat Emptor.)

My experience with the game changed dramatically once I started needing help, or indeed even discussing the game with other gamers. Because the Sturm und Drang about the game was much more about Blow than about Braid.

"Honest criticism and sensitive appreciation is directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry." – T.S. Eliot

In "The Death of the Author," French semiotician Roland Barthes argued that texts can and should stand on their own. Barthes, and his fellow pompous intellectuals that made up the hugely influential New Criticism movement of the mid 20th century, argued that the source of a work — the Author and his or her intent and process — is irrelevant, and that the fallacy of most criticism was its attempt to find the author living inside a given work. (See also: Derrida, The Intentional Fallacy).

The solution, suggests the New Critical theory, is to read in a vacuum. The reader is essentially a sequestered jury, consuming the evidence of the crime with no regard for the identity of the criminal.

This close-reading school of literary criticism has always held tremendous appeal to me, and my appreciation of a game is deepest when it passes this test.

My initial reaction to Braid was extraordinarily positive precisely because it responded so well to my fallacy-of-intent predilection. Being a pompous intellectual myself, I embraced the fact that the story in the game was vague, but still discernable. I didn’t feel like I was trying to figure out what Blow "meant" by the storyline. The written exposition ahead of each world, while overwrought and ponderous, acted as a tone-poem, setting a contemplative stage for the mechanics.

But I was forced to turn my attention from the game itself because of its difficulty.

"I never give in to the temptation to be difficult just for the sake of being difficult. That would be too ridiculous." - Jacques Derrida

When I hit the inevitable wall in Braid, I discovered that, despite being allowed to run roughshod through the game in order to experience and appreciate the narrative, such gameplay would keep me from reaching the story’s end. I was furious. Unlike most video games, Braid requires literal perfection. Every last jump must be made. Every single obstacle overcome.

Lifting my head from the game, I discovered that Blow, as author, practically demands that his voice be heard. The game’s homepage is emblematic of his public persona: In a few sentences, he assures you that Braid is “painterly," that it is “unique," that it contains “no filler," and that it is “mind-expanding."

In interviews surrounding the game’s launch, he said, in various ways, "I know what it all means, and maybe some people will figure it out, but I’m not telling."

And of course, he famously posted a walkthrough where he informs players that they are essentially idiots if they can’t finish the game: “Solve them for yourself and do not use a walkthrough! … All the puzzles in Braid are reasonable."

This was my first encounter with the unwelcome voice of the author. Blow inserted himself into my experience of his work. I had been pre-chastised by the author: I was a moron if I couldn’t do it on my own.

I took Blow at his terms. Not finishing the game became an act of rebellion. He, not his game, had pissed me off, and so I petulantly took my marbles and went home.

Months passed. I lost the anger of the jilted lover. Using 6 testicle-shriveling hints, I finished the game. The "ending" of the game was ingenious, well constructed, and it made me smile.

"Any life is made up of a single moment, the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is." – Jorge Luis Borges

But the game doesn’t end at the end. Once again, Blow inserted himself into my experience of the game. After the satisfaction of completion, there is an epilogue. The epilogue is vague, poorly written vomit disgorged on freshly polished shoes. It’s a randomly connected series of obscure self-reference and tortured metaphor. A sampling:

His arm weighed upon her shoulders, felt constrictive around her neck. "You're burdening me with your ridiculous need," she said. Or, she said: "You're going the wrong way and you're pulling me with you." In another time, another place, she said: "Stop yanking on my arm; you're hurting me!"

It was as though the earth had opened and the skies split. One felt as though he had been privileged to witness the Birth of the World...Someone near him said: 'It worked. Someone else said: "Now we are all sons of bitches."

He cannot say he has understood all of this. Possibly he's more confused now than ever. But all these moments he's contemplated - something has occurred. The moments feel substantial in his mind, like stones.

Somehow, Blow’s story of Tim and his girl troubles (Stalker? Not Stalker? Mom? Not Mom? Virgin? Whore?) goes into a rabbithole of "What the f*ck?" Not only does Braid leave the player guessing, but it leaves the reader guessing without possibility of parole. In the final words of the game, the narrator taunts the reader, effectively saying, "Yes, this game was important, even though you didn’t understand it."

In most cases, this would simply be a case of over-reaching and failed possibility. It would be enough to say, "Oh well, he went too far, and he came so close. Maybe next time." And to be sure, I still feel that way.

"Thus with cautious steps, among deceived enemies, I circulated, plated with poetry, armored with rhymes, stout with another man's song, stiff with cardboard, bullet-proof at long last." – Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov

But I can’t let it go. 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.

It’s a large part of why I love games, and why I think that they matter. But these layered storytelling approaches are complex by intention, and thus require tremendous detail to voice. The communication from a complex, layered game has to be carefully crafted to evoke, not merely describe. The system of symbols used to tell the story — art, music, text, game play — need to be organic, and consistent.

To put it in context, consider how difficult this is to pull off on the printed page. Consider Mark Danielewski’s 2000 book, "House of Leaves."

Mark Danielewski set out to destroy the concept of narrative in books with "House of Leaves," much in the way Braid succeeds in destroying many of the conventions of "Platformer." The underlying plot of "House of Leaves," while compelling, is essentially haunted-house, horror-movie fare, but the events are seen through an assortment of perspectives: a film documentary, an academic dissertation of said documentary, the exegesis of the dissertation by an uneducated tattoo-parlor employee, and countless footnotes, quotes, "discovered" texts, and appendices.

Like Braid, it’s hard. By breaking so startlingly with convention, it requires the reader to rethink how the "book" works. A typical "hard" part:

"Forgive me please for including this. An old man's mind is just as likely to wander as a young man's, but where a young man will forgive the stray, and old man will cut it out. Youth always tries to fill the void, and old man learns to live with it. It took me twenty years to unlearn the fortunes found in a swerve. Perhaps this is no news to you but then I have killed many men and I have both legs and I don't think I ever quite equaled the bald gnome Error who comes from his cave with featherless ankles to feast on the mighty dead."

This section is itself a footnote which has been redacted by a different author, but is repeated elsewhere in the book without the edit, and then with a further footnote from yet a third editor. All these perspectives are designed to give peeks of insight into the minds of a writer and editor who are both clearly going slowly insane. The book is equally complex in its use of external information. He informs his already difficult text with allusion and reference so obscure it's inconceivable that even the most pathetic obsessive-compulsive has found all the bits: The frontispiece to the hardcover contains the hex-code for an AIFF file of a song from POE, Danielewski’s sister, who’s album “Haunted" contains numerous references and story material supporting the book. Anomalies in the typography lead down paths as likely to reveal some terrifying message as they are to reveal the author's last name. It's a monumental work of twisted, pompous, overly-clever genius. (See also: Pale Fire, The Waste Land, Pierre Menard.)

My love (and fear) of "House of Leaves" is what makes me so uncomfortable talking about Braid. Viewed from the outside, the complexity and obscurity of the storytelling should put them in the same ivory tower where I store all the other vestments of self-satisfied intellectualism. In fact, right until the very end, "House of Leaves" was never far from my mind when playing the game.

But the difference between "House of Leaves" and Braid is that the story of "House of Leaves" is told by the characters who live convincingly within the boundaries of the book. While listening to POE's "Haunted" or chasing down marginalia is satisfying, it’s not required to know what the hell is going on. The work speaks for itself. Danielewski’s voice is absent, and the issue of authorial intent seems irrelevant.

Braid, by contrast, is dominated by Blow’s voice. His presence as the narrator of Tim’s story is inescapable, and so, ultimately, the cloud of doubt and complexity he heaps on the player is a personal assault, from Blow to the player. Braid is not a story that requires or benefits from vague technique, no matter how ambiguous Tim’s motivations and actions may be. And yet, 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."

This is the heartbreak. It takes what could have been a convincing "games-as-art" showpiece and instead turns it into a pompous, self-absorbed and too-clever-by-half attempt to create conversation about the artist and his process, rather than the work itself. Jonathan Blow sits demon-like on my shoulder, shouting, “This means something!" and I can’t help but keep asking, "Who cares?" instead of “What?"

I want games to reach. I want the best of them to do more than merely titillate and entertain. Braid does both, and for that, I guess I must consider it both an important and relevant entry into the canon. But I can’t help but be disheartened.

Comments

Braid red-ringed my 360 last year. I wonder what that means.

rabbit wrote:

Jonathan Blow sits demon-like on my shoulder, shouting, “This means something!" and I can’t help but keep asking, "Who cares?" instead of “What?"

That's pretty much how I ended up feeling around the end of the game (full disclaimer: I haven't actually finished it yet because there's one jump that's just stupid hard to time exactly right and I just haven't felt up to trying again in a long time). I'm thinking of picking it back up just to say that it's done.

On another note, you're article piqued my interest in 'House of Leaves': I've never heard of that book but I think I'll check it out.

I finally managed to finish Braid a few weeks ago, after months of having it collect virtual dust in my Live Arcade bucket.

Braid is layered. On the first layer, we have a somewhat fresh (I'm using somewhat, because other titles have used the time control shtick in games) take on platforming. I thought this succeeded, and while some puzzles did not do well to introduce you to the mechanics of how to accomplish them first (design flaw), It was somewhat enjoyable.

On the second layer, we have presentation. I fell in love with the art style, although the jury is still out on the actual character design. The enemies had a slightly grotesque and rugged look, similar to something I would have seen on a shareware floppy from the late 80s or early 90s. The music and the watercolour aesthetic blended together wonderfully, as if the game itself was in itself a dream in the mind of Tom Cruise's character in Legend, minutes before waking up and stepping into his own ethereal, slow motion laden fantasy world.

On the third layer, we have a story that teases us with small nuggets of information. We are on a journey of discovery, the journey inside the mind of a tormented man. We have pictures to guide us, and obscure text to tease us. While it works to a point, there is simply no payoff - no matter how obscure the mind, no matter how disconnected the thoughts a singular person has of a particular situation, unless you can properly deliver this in a cohesive fashion to your audience, it is simply best left where the idea spawned from - locked away inside your head, left to the inner-workings of your own devices.

I, myself, have had many odd and obscure thoughts myself over the years. Some can translate well to speech, some cannot. Is it my place to simply transfer the contents from my brain onto medium, and challenge those to an intellectual contest and declare a winner? Are my thoughts that important, that delightful, and that craftful to begin with - that others will languish and bathe in my own confusion, desiring to secure a single piece of information that will bring them to enlightenment? The answer is no, because I am not a pretentious twat.

David Lynch's movies can be called pretentious by some. They are a blended collection of disturbing, yet beautiful images, white noise, and uncomfortable silences, crafted in a masterful way. However, I can't recall him ever challenging his audience to find true meaning in his works. I don't think he even knows. And he's ok with that. The experience is the journey, and sometimes, it has no meaning - it just is. To try to force it to become something would destroy the very essence of what it is.

Switchbreak wrote:

Braid red-ringed my 360 last year. I wonder what that means.

It obviously signals that Jon Blow has a personal vendetta against you. Lock your door tonight.

I read House of Leaves to completion ( or at least what I felt was completion ) and didn't finish braid. That is all.

xrayzwei wrote:

I read House of Leaves to completion ( or at least what I felt was completion ) and didn't finish braid. That is all.

I think Braid is much closer to Only Revolutions than to House of Leaves. I mean something by that, but I'm not telling what.

I think I fall more on the interstate78 side of the debate than the Rabbit side, the only interaction with Blow I got before I played the game was the fake "walkthrough" page linked in the article. And you know what? I went back and gave the puzzle another shot and beat it. I eventually used GameFAQs, but only after trying repeatedly and getting stuck. I did not do my usual dance of getting stuck, then beating the game while keeping GameFAQs open beside me on my laptop. And for that I'm appreciative.

For me, who really didn't know much of anything about Blow before the game, in hindsight I think Blow has to be this abrasive. Usually, games are just toys, or high scores, or frag counts. Blow had to make the game as pretentious as he did just to get people to wake the f*ck up and pay attention to the meaning behind it. The fact that he did this because he seems kind of full of himself is irrelevant to me, I'm glad that he did it. If we can get more people to think of games has not only being fun but having actual meaning, maybe there's room for more subtle and nuanced artistic gaming. As it is now though, it takes someone with Blow's pomposity to get people to even admit that there is meaning.

The whole mechanic of finding "the princess in another castle" then making you run through puzzle after puzzle, only to find your obsessive behavior has actually driven the princess away is a miniature Citizen Kane moment, IMO. Not just for it's connection to the granddaddy of modern gaming, SMB, but also for it's ability to have it's meaning readily understood by anybody who's played SMB (which is almost everybody).

You're not going to make the case for meaning in gaming to people who only play the occasional game of Super Mario Brothers by being subtle and unassuming. Blow made the case the only way he could.

I like jumping on the heads of little lions.

And overall, I really liked Braid. I think the music really did it for me. I liked reading the bits before the levels, putting together puzzles, and the music... did I mention the music? The last level was some of the most fun I had with a game in 2008. Great 2D platforming action. Totally worth my $15.

It was a perfect example of quality downloadable content. I had fun playing it and I had fun bouncing around message boards and talking to other gamers about the journey through the game: the puzzles, the stars, the music.

The fact that we're even talking about the game five months after its release is proof of it making an impact with a wide swath of gamers.

I'm not gonna name my first-born "Blow" or anything, and I don't walk around reciting his name in the same sentence or paragraph with the greats of gaming, but I like the adventure that was crafted. Good times.

EDIT: I was a filthy skimmer of the comments to Rabbit's article. I've got to get some work done but I couldn't resist reading the OP.

I liked the art style and the music, it was kind of relaxing. I read the story but it just sort of bounced off me, which is fine. I solved all the puzzles on my own and really enjoyed the ending. My enjoyment of the game is probably a lot higher because I only took it as a simple puzzle game, but I really really did take something from the last level.

[color=white] The last level where you get to the princess and then it undoes everything you've done is a really really cool approach to an ending. What surprised me was to see how many people complained about the Prince of Persia ending, where I had Braid in mind the whole time. It obviously wasn't the same as it shouldn't be a complete knock off, but undoing everything you'd worked for and sort of degrading back to the beginning was a really cool idea. Same concept with very different contexts.[/color]

[/quote]

I also convinced my friend to buy it because I don't have a 360, and he never ended up playing it. So it was totally worth his $15 for me to go through and beat it.

I agree the ending was awesome. Like I said, up to the epilogue was very satisfying.

interstate78 wrote:

In my literature classes, we would discuss an author's work but everyone and their mother already had their preconceptions of what the book was really about and, usually, the dude with the most diplomas was probably the "rightest", so we'd quote him in our essays. The discussion wasn't really there, it was already done. Discussing Braid felt fresh.

Hm. Yes. It's completely valid to compare a brand new video game with novels that may have had decades-worth of scholars writing about them, or which were clearly written with a purpose in mind. (If you're reading Bruccoli or Bergman and they mention that one of the central themes of The Great Gatsby is the artifice of the Roaring Twenties... it's probably because that's exactly what Fitzgerald had a problem with, for example).
If this is your opinion about literature classes, that "the discussion was already done", you've had some terrible teachers.

I'll concur with having some crappy Lit classes that devolved into analyzing other peoples interpretations, rather than a work itself. And if you've been assigned Moby Dick, it's hard (as a student) to put yourself in the vacuum and have your own opinions, and literally not read any of the million pages of criticism and analysis already done on it.

Part of what's so exciting about games IS that this is undiscovered country.

Braid turned out to be a most unexpected multiplayer experience for me last year. Before then, I'd been too timid to try Braid. Heard too many discouragin' words. But then my (non-gaming but frighteningly intelligent) wife and I celebrated New Year's Eve with our married-couple friends. (He's a gamer with a non-gaming but frighteningly-intelligent wife as well.)

The four of us took up strategic positions on the couch, downloaded Braid, and we had a freaking blast working it all out. And, trust me, it took all four of us to get through it. If we'd isolated ourselves and tried going at it alone, not one of us would've made it through. And we only stopped long enough to watch the ball drop in Times Square. Which is an odd tradition I don't care for.

And yeah, we were a literary theory-lovin' kinda group, so parsing Braid's story and the puzzles was a huge part of the joy for us, while there was more than a little chest bumping and high-fives going around once we conquered any particularly challenging platform puzzle, too.

But I'm with you. That epilogue? We all wanted to take turns punching Jonathan Blow in the face after that.

Draco wrote:

I thought it was prett well established by now that Braid is an allegory about man's purusit of the atomic bomb?

The consistent allusion to something does not mean that a work is "about" that referent.

Spoiler = (quote=Spoiler)(color=white) #### (/color)(/quote)

Spaz wrote:

Hm. Yes. It's completely valid to compare a brand new video game with novels that may have had decades-worth of scholars writing about them, or which were clearly written with a purpose in mind. (If you're reading Bruccoli or Bergman and they mention that one of the central themes of The Great Gatsby is the artifice of the Roaring Twenties... it's probably because that's exactly what Fitzgerald had a problem with, for example).
If this is your opinion about literature classes, that "the discussion was already done", you've had some terrible teachers.

I guess I brought this up to point out the fact that we're discussing Braid, something nobody would have never thought possible 10 years ago with a videogame. Discussing a book of course is always interesting because the book is new to you when you've read it. I guess it's the writing of essays that makes me say that: you can't just come up with your opinion, it has to be supported by scholars who've already thought this through. You can't quote your good friend or your neighbor. Most major works of literature will, at best, be polarized. I'm not saying there is ever an absolute truth, merely that the discussion often seemed like it had already been decided what we should discuss about. To that effect, Braid is different.

Don't forget that it is only recently that Cinema became art and that it was considered for a long time to be for your entertainment only. I never mentionned Braid was on par, just that it was a step in the right direction for the medium.

rabbit wrote:

I'll concur with having some crappy Lit classes that devolved into analyzing other peoples interpretations, rather than a work itself. And if you've been assigned Moby Dick, it's hard (as a student) to put yourself in the vacuum and have your own opinions, and literally not read any of the million pages of criticism and analysis already done on it.

Part of what's so exciting about games IS that this is undiscovered country.

My thoughts exactly.

Swat wrote:

David Lynch's movies can be called pretentious by some. They are a blended collection of disturbing, yet beautiful images, white noise, and uncomfortable silences, crafted in a masterful way. However, I can't recall him ever challenging his audience to find true meaning in his works. I don't think he even knows. And he's ok with that. The experience is the journey, and sometimes, it has no meaning - it just is. To try to force it to become something would destroy the very essence of what it is.

See this is where I think Braid is so awfully clever. The experience of puzzling out the epilogue narrative bits, of collecting the stars, places the player in precisely the same position as Tim: of having to decide whether to force a meaning and in so doing destroy the essence of the experience. When presented with the epilogue the player has a choice: to walk away or to proceed, like Tim does in his pursuit of the Princess, and go collect those stars in the hope of an explanation. At the time, you don't know what the stars will unlock, just as Tim doesn't realize the impact of his own choices in driving the Princess away. Similarly, when you do get all the stars, your reward is IMO pretty unsatisfying.

If we're rolling with authorial intent, I think the stars and the epilogue are like a dare from Blow: "Have you learned Tim's lesson?" if you try to make sense of the epilogue, if you feel yourself compelled to gather the stars, then you haven't. (edit: note that the dare isn't "I dare you to collect all the stars", it's "I dare you to walk away from content you put money down for")

I thought it was prett well established by now that Braid is an allegory about:

Spoiler wrote:

[color=white]man's purusit of the atomic bomb? The "girl" is the bomb, and Tim represents all the scientists trying to make "the bomb" work. The opening scene of the game, which looks like a sunset, is the world on fire. The girl blows up at the end when you finally get her, and there are several hints and refrences in the text along the way. Most obviously, the one about 'seeing the creation of the world,' 'tearing it assunder' and the quote "Now we are all sons of bitches."[/color]

Braid's Ending Explained

juv3nal wrote:
Swat wrote:

David Lynch's movies can be called pretentious by some. They are a blended collection of disturbing, yet beautiful images, white noise, and uncomfortable silences, crafted in a masterful way. However, I can't recall him ever challenging his audience to find true meaning in his works. I don't think he even knows. And he's ok with that. The experience is the journey, and sometimes, it has no meaning - it just is. To try to force it to become something would destroy the very essence of what it is.

See this is where I think Braid is so awfully clever. The experience of puzzling out the epilogue narrative bits, of collecting the stars, places the player in precisely the same position as Tim: of having to decide whether to force a meaning and in so doing destroy the essence of the experience. When presented with the epilogue the player has a choice: to walk away or to proceed, like Tim does in his pursuit of the Princess, and go collect those stars in the hope of an explanation. At the time, you don't know what the stars will unlock, just as Tim doesn't realize the impact of his own choices in driving the Princess away. Similarly, when you do get all the stars, your reward is IMO pretty unsatisfying.

If we're rolling with authorial intent, I think the stars and the epilogue are like a dare from Blow: "Have you learned Tim's lesson?" if you try to make sense of the epilogue, if you feel yourself compelled to gather the stars, then you haven't.

Hmm.. that is a very interesting way of looking at it. Actually, I quite dig it!

In other words, the only way to win is not to play? Or, if you still want to play the game, you didn't "get it?"

This is one of the best pieces you've written, Julian. Thanks.

I came to Braid in the opposite direction of many people here, perhaps including Rabbit. I heard of Jonathan Blow by way of his "Games Need You" lecture when Braid was still unreleased. I liked a lot of what Mr. Blow had to say, so I actually played Braid because it was made by Jonathan Blow. It was helpful for me to know ahead of time that, like me, his all-time favorite movie is David Lynch's Mulholland Dr.

Initially, I felt that Braid, like Mulholland Dr., had been intentionally constructed to refute any single interpretation. The game captured a feeling, a mood, and didn't necessarily chronicle any set sequence of events; it was an exercise in truly non-linear storytelling and as such could not be grasped or summarized in a traditional way. I'll admit that I thought the epilogue was garbage, but I didn't find it to be as much of an authorial intrusion as an attempt to cast the story's range of interpretations wider than it needed to be. The game didn't need to be about something as "important" as the atomic bomb, and I felt that Mr. Blow made a mistake in suggesting that it was or could be.

What dampened my appreciation for the game was Jonathan Blow's insistence that there was a single, correct interpretation of his work. I was put off by his saying that the interpretation posted on Wikipedia was "wrong" and that only a small number of people would discover what his game was really about. I'm chalking this up to immaturity on his part; artists who are in the business of creating works that express moods and feelings, like David Lynch or Gao Xingjian, don't go around chastising people for not getting what they were after. That was the only bit of authorial intrusion that bothered me.

As to the Official Braid Walkthrough, I didn't find it to be insulting in the way that many people did. I thought it was a playful way to encourage players to keep trying, and I never felt that any insult was intended.

rabbit wrote:

In other words, the only way to win is not to play? Or, if you still want to play the game, you didn't "get it?"

I wouldn't go quite so far, but something like "if you still want to play the game because you want an explanation and you think playing through the rest of the game will provide you with one" then you didn't "get it." It's one thing to want to play the game because you enjoy the mechanics and puzzles, another to want to play just because you want, like Tim, an explanation.

I don't know if my take on it is what Blow intended, of course, but it fits the available facts, and I like it because it subverts the traditional identification of player = video game protagonist. When you play Donkey Kong, you "are" Mario. When you play Braid, you "are" Tim...wait. Do you want to be Tim? Because Tim gets screwed.

So does this mean that I'm wrong for publishing a review that ate up all of Blow's pretentious artsy crap like candy?

http://www.funcoast.com/stories/movi...

adam.greenbrier wrote:

It was helpful for me to know ahead of time that, like me, his all-time favorite movie is David Lynch's Mulholland Dr.

Initially, I felt that Braid, like Mulholland Dr., had been intentionally constructed to refute any single interpretation. The game captured a feeling, a mood, and didn't necessarily chronicle any set sequence of events; it was an exercise in truly non-linear storytelling and as such could not be grasped or summarized in a traditional way.

Aha! Knowing that he was a fan of one of Lynch's most twisty, atmosphereic, non-sensical movies that made time it's own little plaything - is good to know. On that note, I'm surprised half-way through Braid the lead character wasn't completely replaced by someone else, with absolutely no explanation, other than our acceptance that it really is the same person. (I know, it's from the other movie, but still.. )

What dampened my appreciation for the game was Jonathan Blow's insistence that there was a single, correct interpretation of his work.

Yup, I think that had a lot to do with my overall feelings on it.

wordsmythe wrote:
Draco wrote:

I thought it was prett well established by now that Braid is an allegory about man's purusit of the atomic bomb?

The consistent allusion to something does not mean that a work is "about" that referent.

Spoiler = (quote=Spoiler)(color=white) #### (/color)(/quote)

I'm trying to figure out how to forumlate this question without sounding petulant, so I'll just go ahead and ask it.

If the consistent allusion to something in a work doesn't mean the work is about the allusion, then how does an observer determine what the work is about?

I'm not trying to score debate points, I really want to know. I read what you wrote, but my brain interprets as "Things aren't necessarily about what they're about." Which to me is like saying just because something has wheels and a means of propulsion, that doesn't make it a vehicle.

Obviously I'm wrong, but my hard-wired engineer's brain is having a hard time understanding how.

I suspect I never will. My wife, with her BFA in sculpture and experience on the gallery circuit (she's even sold sculptures) once spent a few months trying to explain art to me with no luck at all. I kept getting tripped up on what my brain sees as contradictions. (Art is subjective, yet art students are graded on their work. The artist's intent doesn't matter, except when it does. That game where the girl appears to be an allegory for the atomic bomb isn't actually about the atomic bomb. Etc)

Basically, we just agreed that I'll never "get" art and I should please stop asking her about it.

EDIT: This came up while I was typing my initial response, but it gets to the heart of my question:

adam.greenbrier wrote:

What dampened my appreciation for the game was Jonathan Blow's insistence that there was a single, correct interpretation of his work.

See, this is what I don't get. How can there be multiple, contradictory interpretations of one thing that are equally valid? 2+2 is either 27 or it isn't. Chalk either contains calcium or it doesn't. Braid either is about the manhattan project, or it isn't.

Am I just impossibly obtuse? What am I missing?

Mister Magnus wrote:

The best part of the Braid discussion for me was when the reality of what it might be was firmly up in the air without someone saying that there was one "right" answer. I think Valve handled this sort of situation correctly by not releasing a backstory for P0rtal (yet) and letting gamer discussion dominate the webz (as far as I know, feel free to catch me up to speed if I've missed someting).

The comments from Blow in the press didn't create my issues with the game, they simply forced me to think about them. Sure, I wasn't all that happy about the one-sided conversation I had with him (meaning, I just read stuff he'd written elsewhere) when I hit the difficulty wall and had to lift my head up from the game. But ultimately it's largely about the epilogue. That to me is where the voice of "narrator" became the voice of "author." Perhaps this is a distinction to subtle to make, but it's what drove me to this. The narrator voice stopped being about "Tim" and became directly about me, the player, and Blow, the designer. Perhaps this makes this a brilliant genre busting piece of awesomitude. But for me, it really put the nail in the coffin of the game's narrative.

I registered a new account simply to express my appreciation for this article. It expresses my feelings on Braid far better than I ever could. While I can in no way claim the knowledge that Rabbit clearly has, my gut reaction to Braid is the same. A truly fantastic article Rabbit. Literally it's some of the best writing I've ever seen online, or offline for that matter.

MSUSteve wrote:

I registered a new account simply to express my appreciation for this article. It expresses my feelings on Braid far better than I ever could. While I can in no way claim the knowledge that Rabbit clearly has, my gut reaction to Braid is the same. A truly fantastic article Rabbit. Literally it's some of the best writing I've ever seen online, or offline for that matter.

Mom, how many times do I have to tell you not to make new accounts here!

(Thanks, and welcome Steve).

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

I'm trying to figure out how to forumlate this question without sounding petulant, so I'll just go ahead and ask it.

If the consistent allusion to something in a work doesn't mean the work is about the allusion, then how does an observer determine what the work is about?

I'm not trying to score debate points, I really want to know. I read what you wrote, but my brain interprets as "Things aren't necessarily about what they're about." Which to me is like saying just because something has wheels and a means of propulsion, that doesn't make it a vehicle.

Any video game is just an arrangement of coloured lights on a screen that respond in some way to your input via a controller. That doesn't mean that all games are just about coloured lights. The pixels in that sense "allude" to the characters they depict/represent. The goomba-like things, Tim, whatever. But if you buy that the a-bomb is relevant, then the game is not about just Tim & goomba things either. In the same sense, the a-bomb references can represent something else.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
Draco wrote:

I thought it was prett well established by now that Braid is an allegory about man's purusit of the atomic bomb?

The consistent allusion to something does not mean that a work is "about" that referent.

I'm trying to figure out how to forumlate this question without sounding petulant, so I'll just go ahead and ask it.

If the consistent allusion to something in a work doesn't mean the work is about the allusion, then how does an observer determine what the work is about?

I'm not trying to score debate points, I really want to know. I read what you wrote, but my brain interprets as "Things aren't necessarily about what they're about." Which to me is like saying just because something has wheels and a means of propulsion, that doesn't make it a vehicle.

Obviously I'm wrong, but my hard-wired engineer's brain is having a hard time understanding how.

I love how great you are at softening the edge of your questions.

Here's the thing: If you and I were to have a conversation about hesitance, consideration, and action, and if I quote Hamlet once, mention the plot as an example, and then later bring up some psychoanalysis of Hamlet from couple professor-types, that doesn't mean that entire conversation was "about" Hamlet. The conversation is still about the larger idea of decision-making, and it happens to just sort of weave through some bits on Hamlet as part of that larger dialogue.

Another example: If we were to step into a political conversation about America's changing role on the global stage of politics and power, someone would likely mention the rise and fall of Rome, the British Empire, or a couple other common examples. The conversation would still be about America, but the examples given (and the comparison and contrast that would hopefully follow) would provide added richness and perspective to our conversation and understanding about what's happening to America today.