Seeing that this is my first post and Braid seems to be on everyone’s mind at the moment-sorry Madden fans- I find it appropriate to just dive right into my first post. So welcome to Graduate School Gamer where I kick off this week’s three-part series on Braid. This first installment will introduce that topic of meta-gaming narrative as the most popularized avenue to pursuit games as art or even avant-garde. As with most works of art (note: I would not go so far as to declare Braid as art just yet) one cannot discuss the piece appropriately without talking about the entire piece.
It is no surprise that many gamers are comparing Braid to Portal. Both are puzzle games, they are relatively short games, they play with game narrative and also both games rely heavily on the “final level” to reveal itself to the player. However, Braid has more in common with 2007’s other cerebral game, Bioshock than Portal in terms of the game’s themes in relation to the fact that it is a video game.
Through out the entire course of Braid, designer Jonathan Blow intersperses loose narrative as epilogues and thematic umbrellas for each level. “Time and Forgiveness” deals with time reversal, “Time and Mystery” deals with synchronization, “Time and Place” deals with time in relation to space, “Time and Decision” deals with alternative time line (i.e., shadow players), and “Hesitance” deals with the slowing of time.
Bioshock on the other hand has no shame referencing its inspiration from Ayn Rand. Ken Levine has made numerous comments on the game’s debt to Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and Objectivism. The entire game is set under the set piece of a failed underwater utopia. But though the story exposes the failure of utopia through the numerous audio logs, there is no doubt that the illusion of free will is a major theme in Bioschock. The twist isn’t that Atlas is Fountaine, but it is the mind blowing epiphany of “would you kindly.”
Tune in next post as I discuss further on the effects of the themes of these two games, their successes, their deficiencies, and their similarities.