Braidosophy

Hey All,

Thanks for all your hard work up until this point. We’ve looks at two exemplars so far, a novel and a hypertext, and we’ve discussed them as particularly fruitful “machines” to think with, plugging them in (to carry the metaphor) to various discourses about empathy, humanity, monstrosity, imagination, selfhood, embodiment, etc. Now, we move to a final exemplar, a videogame called Braid. In many ways, this will be the stiffest test of your thinking, not because of difficult language, complex argument, historical distance to the conditions of creation, etc. (things that made, Schiller, Shelley, Jackson hard), but because the way games are often talked and thought about is so vexed, overdetermined by “entertainment” and industry rhetoric, and in many cases counterproductive. More on this in class, but the short version is that in many cases we are not prepared to “see” games as human communication, as “machines to think with” in the ways we’ve been exploring.

Matthias Vogel’s comment that media are a “means of  individuating thoughts” should now be more meaningful given our experiences with Frankenstein and Patchwork Girl. Part of their purpose is to enable you to “think” or “see” some dimension of your experience or the world and render it discussible and open to critique. Braid will be no different, though it will take some overcoming of biases about games as well as some serious collaboration on our part to unpack and explore it as expression.

As an attempt to intrigue you, I will start with a provocative claim: although this game is classed and sold as a “puzzle platformer,” I argue that it is actually better understood as a QUEST game…

Ok, for next week:

  1. Watch a video of Super Mario Bros. (1985): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=977o26c7DxA
  2. Play Braid through World 2 (which is the first world)
  3. Consider all of the following in preparation for discussion, bringing in a typed response to one:
    1. Compare the initial experience of the two games: what stands out in the contrast?
    2. How do you understand the opening area: What is significant about its design? How does it address you as a player?
    3. What is the purpose, in your view, of the World 2 cloud room that frames the level?
    4. Given the opening area and World 2 (in isolation), what does the game appear to be “about” (in the sense of topic)?

Refrain, if possible, reading a lot of material about the game online as it will rob you of some of the important qualities of the interpretive experience, which is absolutely a process of development. The discourse around Braid is rich and can be fruitful, but it can function like Sparknotes (in all the bad ways) if you are not careful.

Have a good weekend! :)

Terry Schenold

About Terry Schenold

Terry is a English PhD candidate at University of Washington and the founding member of the Critical Gaming Project @ UW.