Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Monthly Game Club: Braid Discussion #1

Since last week, we've traversed worlds 2, 3 and 4 of Braid, and collected as many puzzle pieces as we could. I'll ask a few questions to get us started, but feel free to discuss anything about the experience.

1. How well do you think the text before each level and the gameplay changes in each level relate?

2. What do you think the clear similarities to Mario do for the game? How does this affect your reactions to the departures from the Mario formula?

3. At this point in the game, do you think we will rescue the princess by the end? Do you think there is a princess? More than one? Is the princess a real character, or representative of something else?

4. How do you approach solving the puzzles that stump you?

5. So far, what do you think the game says about making mistakes? What does it say about the desire to take back the mistakes you've made?

Sound off in the comments!

(What's the Monthly Game Club? Click here for details.)

FOR NEXT WEEK: Play through worlds 5 and 6, and keep collecting puzzle pieces!


  1. I don't have anything insightful to say about the text before each world, except that I really like it and think it says some interesting things - about relationships and desire, about mistakes, about holding on and letting go.

    The rewind feature kind of makes things a little easier, but also more frustrating, sometimes. It's certainly nice to not die and have to start, say, the level all over again - but trying to make the same jump, missing, rewinding, ad nauseum, can be supremely frustrating. Though, to be fair, it certainly is quite satisfying to actually get the puzzle piece after all the work.

  2. One of the things I love about Braid is the way that it made me approach difficult situations. Because you can usually progress through the levels fairly easily without getting the puzzle pieces, I found myself much more relaxed about getting stuck in a particular section. Whenever a puzzle piece gave me trouble, I'd go work on another one, or quit for a while.

    And then, without fail, I'd be walking home or sitting at my desk, and the answer would suddenly come to me, in a vision. In a lesser game, I would have just looked online for the solution if I was stuck, but I never really felt "stuck" in Braid. There was usually something else I could be doing, or the sensation that if I just thought about it and gave myself some time, the answer would come to me.

  3. I won't say much as I have recently finished the game. I will echo what Danielle says though as the writing before each level is easily what turned out to be my favorite part of the game, except maybe a choice moment or two at the end.

    I just loved how the art, music, and text integrated so well. The contemplative mood it instills in the player is remarkable. I was literally imagining the scenes play out in my mind. It got me thinking about my own life and my motivations and goals and relationships. How we can never rewind our own lives like Tim does while in the levels. Heady stuff for a platforming puzzle game.

    As for the Mario question, I think what started off as a cute wink and perhaps a feeling of nostalgia really gets turned into something altogether different as you progress through the game. In a funny way the game made me rethink how I felt about Mario more than the other way around. What's going through Mario's head as he traverses these insane worlds on a dangerous quest for a woman we don't even know? Plumbing?

    I will say I resorted to a Game FAQ once or twice. I am weak! I will say that I really stuck to a linear path for the pieces. I rarely moved on to the next door till I was finished with all the pieces in the level.

    All I know is that I didn't think of a lot of symbolism and parallels until I was done with the game and now I really want to go back and replay the game.

  4. I really enjoy the way that the text/story of the game relates to the mechanics on display in each world. A lesser game tells a story just through the events and text at either end of each level, with the levels themselves just serving the purpose of filler and entertainment that keeps the player going through the story.

    In Braid, though, the written portions and the gameplay changes for each world show a narrative cohesion. The first world, "Time and Forgiveness," tells a story of regret, and Tim wishing he could take back the mistakes he's made. It then introduces you to the mechanic of rewinding time to correct mistakes in platforming. "Time and Mystery" has Tim wishing that some things could be inviolable and unchangeable, and introduces objects unaffected by rewinding time.

    Just another thing to think about as you continue through the game!

  5. Also, I forgot to post the assignment for next week, which will have us playing through worlds 5 and 6, and continuing to collect puzzle pieces. It's now in the main post, as well as here.

  6. I'm going to be a weird voice of dissent here: I wasn't the biggest fan of the text at the beginnings of the levels. This could be due to a number of factors - I played most of it at midnight, so I maybe couldn't process what it was providing me - but I think the biggest thing was how much I enjoyed the game play. My brain box craved the next puzzle that I could solve (or against which I could bash my head), so I was frequently tempted to skip the text portions and continue to the level.

    That said, it was stunningly well written for a game, and clearly pushing the game in an as-yet-unexplored literary direction.

    It's actually the game's similarity to Mario that makes it most difficult for me. My first instinct, after playing roughly a hundred million platformers, is to crush all opposition in a level before I attempt the puzzles. This becomes a problem as I am frequently reminded that:
    1. That isn't the point, and
    2. I often need to bounce off the little monsters to get places.

    That brings me to the princess. I've only played those first four worlds, but I believe there has to be a princess in the game. It'd seem silly for her to be a metaphor; after all, so much of the game is itself a metaphor that it would be missing its pieces if it didn't include a real princess in its metaphorical world. But I'm open to a significant plot twist - the game seems reticent to explain what exactly happened between the princess and the protagonist, so maybe the roles will turn out a little quirky.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to finishing it!

  7. I’d like to speak to the Mario issue.

    I think may have been one of my favorite parts of the game. Braid managed to play itself as both homage and a critique of Mario. On one hand there were undeniable similarities between the two games. In both, the story centers around a relationship. In Mario, that relationship is very simple; we know Mario wants to rescue the princess because he loves her. Tim, of Braid is clearly in love, but it is unclear if he is in love with a princess, in love with an ideal, or simply narcissistic.

    Tim wears a suit and tie; he has an unkempt yet upper-class look about him. His inquisitive nature and appreciation for literature and painting make me suspect that he is a learned type, probably a few years out of college. Tim stands as both a critique on his platform hero forbearers and on us, the children of the eighties who grew up with the medium and are now sorting through time ourselves trying to remain true to our childish hearts even as we are forced into a world of dangerous and often sobering realities we don’t fully understand. Tim is us.

    Mario is a plumber.

    The world Tim walks through is a work of art in itself. The music, background, and character design are all beautiful in their own right. The Mushroom Kingdom in the early Mario games is the quintessential, tripped out, two-dimensional bizarro world of video game lore, complete with a whacky sound track and goofy looking characters.

    If the original Mario Brother’s game was released today the gaming world would laugh it off as childish drivel. But without it, we could never appreciate Braid, or the various other platform games we have come to know and love. While these two games may be miles apart in every measurable way they are also incredibly similar. I think the creators of Braid must have been huge fans of the little man with the “M” on his hat to make such a fascinating adaptation.

  8. If any part of the game was pretentious, it was the text at the beginning. But it's not at all detrimental to the experience, and I think it's very deliberate. I think it's written in such a overtly-artistic way to sort of wake the player up, make him realize he's dealing with an experience that's not just here to entertain you.


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