What I'm Not Playing This Week: Braid
Just so we’re clear up front: This series is not about me telling you what games you shouldn’t play. It’s the opposite, if anything, and I’m just using reverse psychology on you. Such is the case this week, with Jon Blow’s blockbuster indie title, Braid.
It’s a truly wonderful little title, and if you haven’t played it before, I urge you to rethink the path you’re taking in life. Seriously, go fix that. If you have, though, fear not the extremely spoileriffic territory and hit the jump to find out why I’m going to spend this week avoiding Braid like the black goddamn plague.
Like I said, Braid is easily one of my very favorite games. I love the puzzles, I love the atmosphere, and I love the story. But unfortunately, it’s that last element that’s making Braid so very very unappealing to me this week: its narrative is one of the most effective love stories I’ve ever seen in the interactive medium.
That’s right, sucker! This is a sad-sack Valentine’s Day post in disguise! So timely. It’s like I plan this stuff or something.
Honestly, though, why would anyone in their right mind go near this game around Valentine’s Day? I don’t care if you’re single or not, this is a love story that is just depressing. The player character and protagonist of the game, Tim, spends the whole game searching for his “princess”. Couched in this comfortable game cliche, the game delves progressively deeper into Tim’s psyche as he finds ways of coping with the loss of the princess. His story is narrated to us in the form of books the player can read at the start of each chapter, and each chapter tweaks the game’s central time-manipulation mechanic to reflect what’s going on in Tim’s head. The twist comes in one of the most amazingly well-crafted endings in any game: upon finally finding the princess (I told you about spoilers, bro!) you discover that she voluntarily ran away from Tim, as he fought tooth-and-nail to prevent her from escaping into the arms of a some big-armed doofus with a suit of armor and a huge… uh, beard.
This twist cuts deep, as it reveals the somewhat untrustworthy nature of our protagonist, not to mention the fact that I’m sure more than a few players found themselves relating very closely to the experience. I mean, who hasn’t lost something they wished they could keep? That’s pretty much universal, and that ending can really strike a chord if you let it.
So of course, if you’re like me, you’re going to start relating Tim’s loss with some specific romantic failure in your own past, and then you’ll (again, if you’re anything like me) start drinking heavily to try and forget about it. And on a more personal note, Braid was actually the game I tried to get my ex girlfriend to play when I was trying to prove to her that games could be a really beautiful medium of expression, and maybe we could use them to bond as a couple. Needless to say, it didn’t exactly take, and she got stuck and gave up around chapter three. Not the brightest bulb in the box, that one. Still, though, she’s not the person I plan on spending much time thinking about this week, so I’m just going to err on the side of caution this week and NOT play Braid. I think we can all agree; it’ll be for the best.
Other staff comments:
John “The Claw” Colaw: Anything but Stacking. Stacking came out, so I have no reason to play anything else for awhile.
Allen Park: Stacking, because as someone who doesn’t want to perpetuate rape culture, I refuse to support the best rape simulator I’ve ever played