For a pretty little puzzler that costs less than $15, Braid is shockingly divisive. While many love the time-twisting gameplay, ethereal music and deeply philosophical story, a vocal group of gamers dismiss indie developer Jonathan Blow’s claim to fame as “pretentious.”
Why? Every title has haters, of course, but why has that one word become so strongly associated with criticism of Braid? I recently sat down with Jonathan Blow (interview here) to play his new game The Witness (preview here) and discuss his design philosophy. When asked if Braid was pretentious, here’s how he responded:
I disagree with the use of that word. I don’t think any of my games are “pretentious” because I’m not pretending. I legitimately mean everything that I put into the game. Whether that comes across or not, I don’t know… But what it really comes down to is that some people think, “Games do this sort of thing. They don’t do this sort of thing.” And I think games can do any kind of thing that we want them to do.
One of the criticisms that I’ve heard about Braid is “Oh, I didn’t understand the story, and so the author failed.” Well, let’s look at another genre that people take seriously, like the novel. Very few people on the planet Earth could tell you that they understand Finnegans Wake, but it’s considered to be one of the great novels. Something like Gravity’s Rainbow is a very well respected, very complicated book that very few people understand, but that is part of the value of the medium. There’s so much to it that it’s not all there the first time you glance at it. If you’re interested, you dig into it and you understand more and more. I think that that’s a very valuable thing and I think that if we can do more of that in games, it would be nice.
Any time you do something that’s different, some people will like it and some people won’t. Some people don’t like Braid and some people will not like this game. Although The Witness is probably harder to call pretentious because it’s got a very different mood. But people will find something to call it, right?
Jonathan Blow’s next game, The Witness, will release sometime in 2012. For more thoughts and impressions, read our hands-on preview now or our full interview with Blow later today.
Aug 9, 2011