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The Atlantic Profiles Game Artiste Jon Blow
April 11, 2012 9:40 PM   Subscribe

The Most Dangerous Gamer The Atlantic profiles game developer Jon Blow, most famous for creating the acclaimed and philosophical Braid, now working on "puzzle-exploration" game The Witness. Blow aims to make The Witness a groundbreaking piece of interactive art—a sort of Citizen Kane of video games...“Things are pared down to the basic acts of movement and observation until those senses become refined,” he told me. “The further you go into the game, the more it’s not even about the thinking mind anymore—it becomes about the intuitive mind.” (previously, previously)
posted by shivohum (74 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm still waiting on Jon Blow to make a follow-up to his first game, Wulfram...
posted by schmod at 9:53 PM on April 11, 2012


I still kind of hate him from that time he said game music composers are generic stand-ins for "real musicians" who specialize in their chosen style of music.

And by "still kind of hate him" I mean "respect and like him, but wish I had the chance to prove him wrong and get a retraction or at least a pass, because fuck you"
posted by jake at 10:10 PM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


State of Play did a 5 part interview series with him: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
His "Truth in Game Design" GDC talk is available free from the GDC Vault also.
posted by juv3nal at 10:14 PM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


This article is written in a way that makes it impossible to not have a heated discussion about Blow's personality. That's too bad, because he has a lot of fascinating things to say. His talks are almost always enthralling and full of insight.
posted by archagon at 10:22 PM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Myst
posted by stbalbach at 10:32 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you set out to make "the Citizen Kane" of anything, you will not accomplish your goal.
posted by Spatch at 10:41 PM on April 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


Myst

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that The Witness will be as close to The Myst as Braid was to Super Mario Brothers.

Also, even though Jonathan Blow is a genius and I can't wait to play the game, I think the author might have been gilding the lily a bit. There are lots of game designers out there making art games, and many of them are better than Braid, imo, both as art and game. Jonathan Blow's main contribution is as a theorist, I think. His talks are absolutely brilliant and inspiring. I don't even design games, and I think his talks are valuable to listen to, just as inspiration for living your life being true to yourself.
posted by empath at 10:47 PM on April 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


a sort of Citizen Kane of video games...

Yeah, I don't know why that phrase bugs me so much.

This other one is the Casablanca of video games.

That is the War & Peace of YouTube videos.

Unquestionably it is the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven of Reddit posts.

Has to be the Emancipation Proclamation of Groupon offers.

Can only be thought of as the Special Theory of Relativity of Facebook pages.

Probably best described at the Macbeth of twitter tweets.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:47 PM on April 11, 2012 [20 favorites]


I obtained Braid as part of a Humble Bundle, and while I enjoyed it for a bit, it really didn't stand out for me as being anything particularly compelling or noteworthy. I am a bit surprised that it has received so much acclaim.

Still, this endeavor reminds me of the hype leading up to Black and White being released, how it was going to be this amazing thing...and, ultimately, it really quite simply wasn't. I prefer to have a game be hyped because it is finished and amazing and people can't stop talking about it, rather than in advance.

(Spore is another example along the lines of Black and White.)
posted by davejay at 10:54 PM on April 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


Should that article have a spoiler tag, since it just lays out the ending of Braid? Do they do that, over there in MSM land?
posted by user92371 at 11:02 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're going to make outlandish claims in reference to Orson Welles you really go to the top and doom yourself the proper way by calling it "'The Magnificent Ambersons' of..."
posted by stratastar at 11:06 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


“Hold on,” I objected. “Are you saying people at bars should just walk up to each other and say, ‘I would like to have sexual intercourse with you’?”


“I think we could live a lot closer to a truthful existence and we’d all be better off,” he replied.
this quote is great, but i do wonder if he's tried that line in public..

...preferably prefixed with a ryan-gosling-meme-style "hey girl"
posted by raihan_ at 11:17 PM on April 11, 2012


Ugh, the "citizen Kane" of video games? I'm still waiting for The Room of video games. (oh wait that was heavy rain)
posted by Betty_effn_White at 11:43 PM on April 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


the fact that the phrase "citizen kane of video games" bugs people is a good indicator that the medium still has vitality/disreputability/outsideness

when those who do such things no longer bat an eye at this kind of phrasing is when the magic has gone out of the circuit
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:56 PM on April 11, 2012


I am in in IN on The Witness. Sure, Braid was an excellent game, but empath is right to place other indie games (like Limbo, anything by thatgamecompany, Super Meat Boy) above it.

I'm in on The Witness because I want to support higher thought about gaming. People like Blow and Ian Bogost and all these amazing indie devs have taken video games from their humble, quarter-munching beginnings to a place of experimentation and mature discussion. I'll gladly buy Blow's game even if it only meant he'd keep pushing this discussion forward.
posted by achompas at 12:02 AM on April 12, 2012


Might rather see the Finnegans Wake of videogames.
posted by ifthe21stcentury at 12:08 AM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


that time he said game music composers are generic stand-ins for "real musicians" who specialize in their chosen style of music.

Hmm, yes that's a particularly douchey way of saying that the current state of video game music is fairly boring and predictable which, on balance, is also kind of true. In other words, where are the "Jon Blows" video game composition? I think that's what he was trying to say. Still kind of rude thing to say.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:10 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was totally sold on the hype over Black and White and taking Molyneux at his word I bought it on release and in my first two hour session I played the game as it had been promised.

I took on the role of a benevolent god and with a great deal of patience I set out to teach my people to respect and care for their land. I was happy for my villagers to pursue their happiness in anyway they saw fit but with one very important rule; they were forbidden to chop down the forest to the North of the village to get wood. In time the game took my attention elsewhere until a slowly rising volume of chopping finally caught my attention and made the god hair on the back of my neck stand up.

In an instant, my eye swept back towards the village, just in time to see the last tree of the forest fall under the axe of a cheerful villager. *Blank Face* tic tic tic tic *Rage Face* I threw that villager into the sea with such force that he flew over the horizon and then I set the village alight; and then I rage quit permanently.

I remember Black and White fondly. I think Molyneux delivered.
posted by vicx at 12:13 AM on April 12, 2012 [17 favorites]


> Might rather see the Finnegans Wake of videogames.

ifthe21stcentury, I think Jeff Minter already wrote that ages ago. Or maybe Cactus.

(Blow's review of Minter's "Space Giraffe" compared it to Joyce's "Ulysses" - very forbidding a first, but extremely rewarding if you're willing to persevere.)
posted by egypturnash at 12:23 AM on April 12, 2012


Ugh, the "citizen Kane" of video games? I'm still waiting for The Room of video games. (oh wait that was heavy rain)

Daikatana. Next!

Might rather see the Finnegans Wake of videogames.

Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa. Next!

Blow's review of Minter's "Space Giraffe" compared it to Joyce's "Ulysses"

The "Ulysses" of video games is Nethack. Next!

This other one is the Casablanca of video games.

That's Earthbound. Next!
posted by JHarris at 12:49 AM on April 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


I would argue that finnegans wake is probably:

Murder Dog 4 trial of the murder dog

Also as to Jon Blows of video game music composition, I would say David Kanega who did the sound for Proteus and is doing the sound on Dyad. Also Robin Arnott who made Deep Sea.

I think one of the issues with this article is that it pits Jon Blow against the commercial industry while ignoring the amazing work that is being done by independent developers. And it seems interesting to me that when saying that they couldn't find videogames that qualify as art, they first discounted all the games that were not commercial successes.

I also agree with other people in this thread that are saying the things that Jon Blow does outside of making games are just as important.
posted by jonbro at 1:41 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This Blow chap is vying for the Peter Molyneux Award For Talking Utter Crap About Games.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:54 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was a metafilter post earlier about reaching and then breaking through the boundaries of video games, of falling through floors into infinite voids or escaping the invisible walls marking the edges of levels to find strange vistas that were never meant to be rendered. More so than any other medium, games can escape their creators to do things beyond what was intended or expected. If you wind a tape of citizen kane past the intended end, the characters don't continue to talk or interact or actually do anything; the tape just breaks. But the same does not have to be true of games; their rules can continue to operate past the limits their creators tried to impose or the situations their creators anticipated.

I think the most exciting games, the games that are pushing the possibilities of the medium, celebrate this freedom. Games like Dwarf Fortress or to a lesser extent Minecraft, where the creators are comfortable setting up rules and then letting their creations go. In contrast, Blow's games have always felt very controlled, very curated. You feel like a visitor in a meticulously arranged museum rather than a co-explorer of a new frontier. I get the feeling that this upcoming game will be along the same lines, a lifeless virtual monument to Blow's cleverness.
posted by Pyry at 1:57 AM on April 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't know much about the guy, but he certainly seems interesting.

But the breathless way in which the article dismisses the existence of any art in videogames is pretty tiresome. There have always been artful, beautiful games. I think what's right to point out is that the rise of video games as a major industry has been on the back of 'dumb games', so to say. But when someone ceaselessly repeats that the history of gaming so far has been an artistic wasteland, I'm left scratching my head thinking of Fallout, The Longest Journey, and Super Metroid, just to name a few. Was I wrong in finding these games so beautiful in so many different ways?
posted by Alex404 at 2:03 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Witness sounds interesting and I certainly want to try it out. But I worry that he's on the wrong track. I don't get the sense that Blow thinks the player brings anything to the table; he seems to think of the player as an audience. Which makes me think he would be better off making movies or writing novels.

(But, I'm apparently the one person in the world who hated Braid. Not because of the art, but because of the gameplay, which I disliked so much I couldn't even stay to find the art.)
posted by zompist at 2:51 AM on April 12, 2012


davejay: "I obtained Braid as part of a Humble Bundle, and while I enjoyed it for a bit, it really didn't stand out for me as being anything particularly compelling or noteworthy. I am a bit surprised that it has received so much acclaim."

I enjoyed the game parts of Braid, but the story elements felt like they'd been written so as to seem full of hidden meaning; it would have been stronger with more pared-down writing (or if he'd given someone else his idea and had them write the text).
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:59 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm still waiting for The Room of video games.

The Room: The Video Game is not quite the same as the The Room of video games, but is the best The Room experience money can buy.

WHAT KIND OF MONEY?

Regarding the article - it's the kind of article you'd expect about Jonathon Blow for a mainstream audience, really. It presupposes, and expects the reader to agree uncritically, that rarity = uniqueness, and so says things like:
Blow is the only developer on the planet who gives lectures with titles like “Video Games and the Human Condition,” the only one who speaks of Italo Calvino’s influence on his work
and
In fact, when Roger Ebert famously declared in a long (and poorly researched) essay that video games can never be art, gaming’s intellectual champions could point to only two popular titles that might refute his claim. (before making it clear that the other - Flower - is not artistic with a somewhat unfortunately timed Thomas Kinkade reference)
Basically, it implies strongly that every other remotely notable game developer in the world is John Romero c.1998 - because if Blow is not unique, there isn't a story for a non-gaming audience.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:03 AM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dudes for real, this post I'm writing right now? It's going to be the Citizen Kane of metafilter posts, once I finish typing it and hit "Post Comment. Look at all the layers of irony. It it will totally make you re-think metafilter posts and how to read them, at the intuitive level.

Rosebud.
posted by delmoi at 3:05 AM on April 12, 2012


Citizen Kane was the best thing since sliced bread which was in itself the cat's meow. I look forward to a society that focuses on things being slightly worse than the thing that proceeded it. Let's make this our focus.
posted by oxford blue at 3:14 AM on April 12, 2012


In fact, when Roger Ebert famously declared in a long (and poorly researched) essay that video games can never be art, gaming’s intellectual champions could point to only two popular titles that might refute his claim. (before making it clear that the other - Flower - is not artistic with a somewhat unfortunately timed Thomas Kinkade reference)

Brian Moriarty's apology for Roger Ebert's position is well worth reading... it's here (though currently offline. But if you've got a couple hours, almost all of the lectures posted are outstanding, and not just from the perspective of game design)


posted by emmet at 3:16 AM on April 12, 2012


Drat, link dropped out: it's here
posted by emmet at 3:17 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


(But, I'm apparently the one person in the world who hated Braid. Not because of the art, but because of the gameplay, which I disliked so much I couldn't even stay to find the art.)

Most people who say they didn't like braid didn't play long enough to get an idea of what the game even is. I've had people tell me that it was too easy because you can never die, which is kind of spectacularly missing the point.
posted by empath at 4:41 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


On a more careful reading of this article, I really like the core ideas that they talk about, and the space that Blow is working in. I am glad that this article might bring more nuanced looks at games into the mainstream. I think my only frustration is the dismissiveness towards gaming in general, but I recognize that it may be a framing device to help bring in people that already have that attitude.

I would read more profiles like this. Atlantic, keep increpare on your radar, you will be writing a similar profile about him in several years. New Yorker has already done the preview for you.
posted by jonbro at 4:55 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah... Black and White... the hype, the anticipation...

sigh...

After this fiasco I never again trusted any coverage on upcoming "fantastic" games :)
posted by SAnderka at 5:01 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


In other words, where are the "Jon Blows" video game composition?

Everywhere! Oh my gosh, videogame scores have been more interesting than film scores for like a decade now. I don't even know where to begin. Let's start with film composers working on videogames:

Michael Nyman (2)
Ryuichi Sakamoto (2)
Masashi Hamauzu
Hideki Naganuma (2)
Yoko Shimomura
Akira Yamaoka (2) (3)

I could do this all day (and with less Nipponocentricity) but I have to go ten minutes ago. Needless to say, anyone who dismisses videogame composers in 2012 doesn't have ears.

(But, I'm apparently the one person in the world who hated Braid. Not because of the art, but because of the gameplay, which I disliked so much I couldn't even stay to find the art.)

I enjoyed the game parts of Braid, but the story elements felt like they'd been written so as to seem full of hidden meaning...


I know I'm the only person to have this opinion, but the writing in Braid was sort of ruined for me after someone pointed out that each passage is mostly a flowery way of explaining the game mechanics for each area. There isn't really any art or meaning beyond the surface level of "very pretty and something about time." I still like Braid, but yeah; I think it's a pretty shallow pool.
posted by byanyothername at 5:06 AM on April 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I know I'm the only person to have this opinion, but the writing in Braid was sort of ruined for me after someone pointed out that each passage is mostly a flowery way of explaining the game mechanics for each area

Words can be read in more than one way. Yes, they explain the game mechanics in a round-about way, but that can hardly be said to be the only purpose they serve.
posted by empath at 5:53 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


But when someone ceaselessly repeats that the history of gaming so far has been an artistic wasteland, I'm left scratching my head thinking of Fallout, The Longest Journey, and Super Metroid, just to name a few. Was I wrong in finding these games so beautiful in so many different ways?

I hesitate to argue for someone who's not present, but my instinct is that Blow would respond to this by saying that those games may have beautiful elements and have resulted in beautiful experiences, but that they aren't beautiful as games. Adventure games and RPGs in particular tend to suffer from having the actual gameplay and mechanics be an awkward afterthought, so that, at its worst, you have to suffer through 15 minutes of boring junk between each of the fun parts where you move the plot along (possibly just in a cutscene). I love adventure games, but the difference between Grim Fandango the game and Grim Fandango the proto-Pixar movie isn't huge.

Brian Moriarty's apology for Roger Ebert's position is well worth reading

I'd be interested to read that because I think that Ebert was quite right that the interactivity inherent in games does make them different from almost all traditional art. Of course, I also don't understand why people get so excited about that debate. There's no prize at the end if games are unanimously declared art by every sentient being, and I'm not even sure that games should want to be art. Most of the games that self-consciously try are bad games and bad art.
posted by Copronymus at 6:01 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd be interested to read that because I think that Ebert was quite right that the interactivity inherent in games does make them different from almost all traditional art.

Music has an auditory element that makes it different from almost all other traditional arts.

Architecture has a practical element that makes it different from almost all other traditional arts.

and so on..
posted by empath at 6:13 AM on April 12, 2012


(also, both music and theater can be interactive in a very game-like way)
posted by empath at 6:14 AM on April 12, 2012


Ebert can be something of an old curmudgeon. He's also not a fan of 3D movies.

I've never really got why gamers care so much about the status of games as art. It seems silly to spend so much time worrying about what other people think.
posted by delmoi at 6:35 AM on April 12, 2012


I've never really got why gamers care so much about the status of games as art.

Because people feel like they are having worthwhile, valuable experiences with games, and they want those feelings validated.
posted by empath at 6:38 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seems like the author is kind of ignoring, you know, the whole adventure game genre . . .
posted by rossmeissl at 7:03 AM on April 12, 2012


the form remains an artistic backwater, plagued by cartoonish murderfests and endless revenue-friendly sequels
They're talking about movies? Oh, video games...

I didn't like the Braid demo to buy the game. The text was a little bit too transparent, but the puzzles were interesting.

Play Photopia for a look at an artistic game from 15 years ago.
posted by demiurge at 7:11 AM on April 12, 2012


I'm going to go out on a limb and say that The Witness will be as close to The Myst as Braid was to Super Mario Brothers.

[game]:Myst::Braid:Super Mario Brothers

is how I'd have described my ideal video game if I'd had the imagination to think of it.
posted by straight at 7:31 AM on April 12, 2012


I made Duchamp's The Fountain of video games on my flight back from the GDC. The game is called "you are the table" and you play as...a table. The editor of a reputable, Toronto-based game magazine said it was "Awesome".
posted by hellojed at 7:37 AM on April 12, 2012


Blow envisions future games that deliver experiences as poignant and sublime as those found through literature and film, but expressed in ways distinctive to games.

I don't like how the article posits that this hasn't been done yet, and that Blow will be the first to do it. I point to the "Minerva's Den" DLC for Bioshock 2 as one of the best examples of this.
posted by jbickers at 7:59 AM on April 12, 2012


I think one of the issues with this article is that it pits Jon Blow against the commercial industry while ignoring the amazing work that is being done by independent developers. And it seems interesting to me that when saying that they couldn't find videogames that qualify as art, they first discounted all the games that were not commercial successes.

It's true that there are lots and lots of indie games doing innovative and artistic things. As demiurge points out, Interactive Fiction alone was doing more innovative things than Braid a decade earlier. But I think it's fair to say that Braid is unique in it's near-universal recognition.

If you ask gamers to list games that do artistically innovative and beautiful things with their gameplay, those lists will vary widely with not much overlap, but Braid will be on almost all of them.
posted by straight at 8:01 AM on April 12, 2012


I point to the "Minerva's Den" DLC for Bioshock 2 as one of the best examples of this.

A game where you run around exploding people with a mining drill. I bought Bioshock 2 on sale, even though I kind of hated Bioshock 1, hoping they had made the game better, but it's kind of terrible.
posted by empath at 8:08 AM on April 12, 2012


Yeah, but the ending of that piece. The story was SO good, and so emotional. Played it twice just to experience it a second time.
posted by jbickers at 8:11 AM on April 12, 2012


the fact that the phrase "citizen kane of video games" bugs people is a good indicator that the medium still has vitality/disreputability/outsideness

Or alternatively, it's an indicator of ridiculous hyperbole. I would groan just as loud if someone were trying to make "the next Citizen Kane" in film, too.
posted by Hoopo at 8:37 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really loved braid. It is such a good game. It mostly isn't a good game for the reasons that people think. The sort of slightly skewed love story, the vague but important seeming prose that surrounds it, the pretty clever meta-game commentary. Those things are neat.

It helps that it's gorgeous visually and aurally, but that's not it either.

What I love about Braid is that it doesn't waste your time. Each challenge may build on the previous challenge but it is in an important way new. This is obvious but in a way almost revolutionary. Video games seem almost universally designed around this assumption that taking longer to get through makes a game somehow superior. In service of padding the run time video games are almost universally problematically homogeneous. I played and enjoyed Mass Effect 2, but between walking around some interesting environments and meeting some interesting characters I spent the entire game shooting the same dozen or so mercenaries/robots/spacewizards. Hundreds and hundreds of largely indistinguishable obstacles that require nearly identical responses. This can be satisfying on a sort of skinner box level, and I enjoyed the game, but I feel the 30 hours of life that I lost in exchange for this experience was not a good deal.
posted by I Foody at 8:37 AM on April 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Thank you, achompas, for mentioning Limbo. Limbo and Braid both gave me the same feeling of "What is going on here? What am I experiencing" that I loved. Limbo in a dark way, Braid in a bright, colorful way.

And you are absolutely correct, in retrospect, that the "story" of Limbo surpassed Braid's "plot". Still, Braid will always hold a near and dear place to my heart because of it's excellence as a game that pushed boundaries. Its slow introduction of new game mechanics, its fantastic level design, and (of course) its inimitable use of time. And Braid will hold another place near my heart because of its beauty (both visual and musical).

If this next game of his is overblown hype will his career be ruined forever, as the article implies? No.
posted by Phredward at 8:38 AM on April 12, 2012


Weird how the whole "poignant and sublime" art angle seems to fall apart when you start killing zombies with mining drills.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:58 AM on April 12, 2012


It's pretty incredible to me that nothing mentioned by thatgamecompany is here - I think Journey in particular hits all the high notes of Braid - immersion, exploration, progressive challenge without wasting your time, beauty, and emotion, while being more interesting and less pretentious. The writing in Braid was so heavy handed that it broke the immersion.
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 8:59 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Of course by "here" I mean "the linked article"
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 9:00 AM on April 12, 2012


Yeah, Journey is amazing. The last section, particularly, is just breath-taking.
posted by empath at 9:13 AM on April 12, 2012


Citizen Kane is the Cadillac of film.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:14 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Braid engaged my mind in interesting ways. The story was a bit too oblique and self-consciously deconstructive to have any real impact on me, but I appreciated it. Journey engaged my heart and soul and was an all-encompassing, moving experience that I won't forget.
posted by naju at 9:29 AM on April 12, 2012


Weird how the whole "poignant and sublime" art angle seems to fall apart when you start killing zombies with mining drills.

You better not be talking about Minecraft
posted by Hoopo at 9:40 AM on April 12, 2012


It's pretty incredible to me that nothing mentioned by thatgamecompany is here - I think Journey in particular hits all the high notes of Braid - immersion, exploration, progressive challenge without wasting your time, beauty, and emotion, while being more interesting and less pretentious.

Thatgamecompany made Flower, which the writer mentions, although he describes it as pretty and shallow (the comparison point being Thomas Kinkade). He does this because people import their ideas of what constitutes depth from other media, often in a way that is unsuitable or incomplete for games.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:43 AM on April 12, 2012


You're welcome, Phredward! I'm a sucker for sparse storytelling, so I really enjoyed how Limbo did what it did. It also reminded me of Let The Right One In, for some reason (maybe since both are products of Scandinavia).

Calling one "better" than the other is kind of tough, though. Both are beautiful, excellent games that explore different themes (regret v. loneliness) very effectively.

So...what other indie games am I missing out on? I love Braid, Limbo, Everyday Shooter, and all of thatgamecompany's stuff.
posted by achompas at 10:49 AM on April 12, 2012


What I love about Braid is that it doesn't waste your time. Each challenge may build on the previous challenge but it is in an important way new.

This is interesting for its own sake. But it kind of makes me want to design an anti-Braid, a game in which the essential parts are surrounded by a plethora of unnecessary, distracting and misleading things that have something to do with it, because that idea is viable too. Like, you learn to double-jump. Then you have side areas where double-jumping is completely unnecessary but fun to do, or impossible to do, or where you'd be actually harmed by double-jumping. Just to drive it home to the player that this thing you just learned? Maybe it's useful and maybe it's not. Okay, it probably is, but m*a*y*b*e..... (The final level of that game would probably be a message saying GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY.)

More and more lately I've found myself chafing at the artificiality of video games. Blow seems like that kind of thing taken to high levels. SimCity and Minecraft (although it did get an "ending" recently) are revelatory for being sandbox games in which the sandbox is the entire point. Those games seem alive in a way because of it. Someone upthread mentioned this is because the game can extend beyond the creator's intent, and I think that's insightful.

Although this kind of rebounds back to Blow's favor regarding its story, since the whole point of that game, isn't it, is that there's this other character you're kind of creating an experience for, and you don't realize how little she appreciates it?
posted by JHarris at 10:52 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


So...what other indie games am I missing out on? I love Braid, Limbo, Everyday Shooter, and all of thatgamecompany's stuff.

There's an interesting thing in the XBLA Indie Games section called "All the Bad Parts." It's REALLY indie and is nowhere near as polished as those you mention, but it's in the same spirit.
posted by jbickers at 10:55 AM on April 12, 2012


Citizen Kane is the Cadillac of film.

The Witness is the Citizen Kane of video games.

Miller High Life is The Champagne of Beers.

Nauru is the Mozart of island nations.
posted by Winnemac at 11:36 AM on April 12, 2012


empath,

You clearly enjoyed Braid and so did I, but I have to echo the others that the writing/"emotional" angle was really over-hyped and the game was pretentious (in the real sense, not the "I didn't like it" sense). It was just a well-made platform game, nothing more, but it tried very hard to create an aura of Serious and Important Stuff. The writing reminded me of a high school student self-consciously trying to write a "deep" story or poem. The idea that it was some sort of emotional experience beyond what, say, Mario offers is ridiculous, since it's just a dressed-up Mario.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:46 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's absolutely nothing like Mario, except superficially. I can't believe you played past the first level, if you think that.
posted by empath at 12:28 PM on April 12, 2012


what empath said. I liked the writing but understand how people can feel that way about it, but the gameplay itself...it's not even the same genre, it's just dressed up as Mario.
posted by juv3nal at 12:34 PM on April 12, 2012


Well, sometimes it was a dressed-up Mario.

Braid's puzzles alone are good enough to move it into a different class of game, and I really like its aesthetic and the ending is of course great. Still I think Sangermaine has a point in that the twee obfuscation was perhaps a bit overdone. I actually think that is part of the characterization, though. Tim is a fussy, pretentious little dude who can't clear-headedly face what's wrong and thinks everything is a puzzle.

I don't feel that Braid is too much different from the first Portal. Smart, polished puzzle game.

It's probably recency, but I read this whole article in Journey's shadow.
posted by fleacircus at 2:15 PM on April 12, 2012


Weird how the whole "poignant and sublime" art angle seems to fall apart when you start killing zombies with mining drills.

Unless, I would argue, we are talking about Killer7. But Killer7 doesn't have a mining drill. Or zombies, exactly. The Heaven Smiles only want hugs!
posted by byanyothername at 2:36 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Next!
posted by JHarris

Well, okay. Since Blow talks about Calvino's influence on his work...

I'd love to see the If On A Winter's Night A Traveler of video games.
posted by hippybear at 3:29 PM on April 13, 2012


The If On A Winter's Night A Traveler of video games would be the experience created by playing alternating levels of Doom and Jumpman.
posted by JHarris at 4:08 PM on April 13, 2012


Treading pretty close to the No True Scotsman fallacy - anyone who doesn't like Braid can't have played it through, or properly.
posted by breath at 11:42 PM on April 13, 2012


No, I think people who dismiss it as a dressed up Mario can't have played it.
posted by empath at 9:15 AM on April 14, 2012


I enjoyed this snarky response: http://opinex.tumblr.com/post/21039627308/the-atlantic-on-blow-the-missing-copy
posted by jonbro at 12:13 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


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