I know it's wrong to assume the illiterate scoundrels that troll Destructoid even know DFW, author of Infinite Jest. I also know it's wrong to assume you care that he killed himself, and was found dead in his apartment. But this man was as big in my life as Mario, and I know at least one of you out there felt the same way. Fuck. Let's remember the good times.
I actually met him back when I was touring colleges in 2006-2007. He was, for lack of better words, fucking rad. I couldn't help but be a little fan bitch and tell him how his work kept me going through high school, and how my lunches were spent reading his novels in between mooching off my friends DS and listening to shitty MP3 rips of the Arcade Fire's Funeral. He said something to me that seemed worth memorizing at the time, but I had forgotten it by the next morning. Right now, I wish I could remember it. I imagine it was something profound that would make me happy when skies were gray, and make me strong when I felt weak, or some equally sappy cliche that amounts to understanding that being a whiny bitch doesn't make the world any better. Goddammit you son of a bitch. Goddammit.
Alternate Title: Jonathan blows Moby's dick; What a difference capitalization and placement of the possessive can make in a sentence.
Obviously I'm not referring to the sales of Braid. The game is selling enough to keep Jon out of the cold, white clutches of The Man.
I'm referring to the message, a message conveyed in such a groundbreaking new way that years from now, privileged upper class English majors will write dissertations on the
subject. I don't find it hyperbolic to claim that Braid has broken and remade the boundaries of its medium in much the same way that Citizen Kane and 2001: A Space Odyssey did for film, or Moby Dick and Finnegan's Wake did for literature.
But I believe it has more in common with Moby Dick than simple genre redefining mechanics and humorous double meanings involving blow jobs and giant white penises.
Join me after this big and terribly relevant JPEG if you care to know why no one will ever understand what the fuck Jonathan Blow was trying to do with Braid other than Jon Blow himself.
Having listened to the ponderous Braidtoid, I couldn't help but love Blow's assault on the postmodern school of literary criticism. Not all critiques are equally valid. Postmodernism is a lot like little league. Sure you lost, but you still get a shiny, meaningless trophy.
Little League treats the physically retarded in the same way postmodernism treats the mentally retarded: Everyone's a winner!
But what he said in conjunction to the criticism is far ballsier than he could have imagined.
When confronted with the Atomic Bomb theory of Braid, he expressed satisfaction that people were catching those references, before calling it a load of shit.
Well, what he really said was that to separate those sections from the rest of the text ignores the other sections which are JUST AS MEANINGFUL.
He also said that people should stop focusing on the story elements and realize that the GAMEPLAY AND GAME FORM HOLD MEANING.
He then continued on to say that ALL OF IT MUST BE TAKEN IN CONTEXT, TOGETHER.
This seems obvious of course, but we have been trained by classic literature to keep form and function apart from each other. And this, this is why no one will ever understand what the fuck Jonathan Blow was trying to say with Braid.
This is what Moby Dick and and Braid have in common. Unlike Braid, Moby Dick was critically denounced and considered a failure with audiences. It wasn't until Melville was dead and buried that anyone gave a flying fuck about what he wrote, and only after enough time had passed that literature had matured to a point where Moby Dick was no longer an anomaly, and could be accurately digested by critics.
But at least a few people at the time picked up on Melville's dense symbolism and themes, such that he would not be forgotten before Moby Dick was rediscovered and declared a modern classic.
On the other hand, if you take at look at the field, the closest we have to an accurate interpretation of Braid is that we have no fucking idea what we are interpreting.
The most rudimentary of all analysis (that the ultimate conclusion of the game is that you'll never get the princess because that bitch is always in another castle) is so goddamn pedestrian that it would get annihilated by a speeding semi-truck if it ever wandered into traffic. We're talking deaf-grandma-with-a-target-on-her-back pedestrian.
Ultimately, people have been able to pick up on individual themes and Mr. Blow's ingenious molding of form and function, but no one has any idea how to put these things together.
And can you blame us? Games require a mental separation between what happens because it has meaning and what happens because the game needs to be playable.
Take Portal, for example. Portal is a brilliant game, but no one in their right mind would consider the fact that the player can die and reload a past save as part of the overall message of the game. It is something that exists to keep the game playable.
Bioshock has a HUD that gives the player necessary information, like how much health the player has left, what guns he has, how many bullets he has, and where the gun is aiming. This exists to make the game playable, not add another layer of commentary onto a game about evolution, freedom, and objectivism.
Braid, however, blurs any clear distinction between necessity of form and meaning to the point that the only thing I know for certain doesn't have meaning is the fact the game has leaderboards.
This subverted conception of what is "game" and what is "real" reminds me of another modern classic, Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. If you aren't familiar with the work, know that the following page is the most coherent and conventional I could find on the internet. House of Leaves is the goddamn definition of BAMF. Read it, you illiterate faggots, if only because it features many techniques that can help you understand the mindfuckery of Braid.
This novel would be impossible to critique if not for the fact that philosophers such as Derrida had been discussing the nature of sign, form, and function for decades.
Video games haven't even been around for more than twenty years, and our "deep thinkers" are mostly dimwitted fucknuts on IGN and forum trolls in it for the lulz. Yet Jonathan Blow has deemed to drop a bomb like Braid on us without warning or mercy.
This is like giving the Bible to cockroaches and hoping they can grasp the concept of "salvation".
Where the game ends and necessity of form begins must be understood before any accurate critique of the game can be offered. Wildly divergent interpretations can be made based on something as simple as whether or not the game is intended to be replayed before it can be completed. For example, to achieve one of the stars, one must either get it on the first play through, or delete their game and start from scratch. The fact that the acquisition or absence of the stars leads to different endings brings up questions about what the player is intended to see, a concept which is fundamental to understanding any piece of art, ever. (Example: You understand the Mona Lisa because you know you are supposed to look at the painting itself, not its frame nor the wall it is placed on nor the museum it resides in.)
Even Melville and Joyce left hints as to help decipher their works, which were both accused of being incoherent and opaque at the time of their publishing.
Jonathan Blow has given us no quarter. And we are in the unfortunately ironic position of understanding why something is a masterpiece, without understanding the masterpiece itself.
I don't want answers. Vagaries are what make art interesting. I just want to know the questions.
When the likes of Reverend Anthony and Jerry Holkins are considered the epitome of video game intellectuals, how the fuck are we ever expected to unravel Braid before the end of this century?
Either Video Game criticism needs to evolve, fast, or Jonathan Blow is going to be pushing up daisies before any of us grasp just what the hell he meant by "Braid".
[Blog reposted from earlier, due to weird timestamp.]
If you have yet to drop by Pitchfork TV to watch Reformat the Planet do so now, because it will make you feel like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel of your gaming life. Here is a trailer if you want to know what you're getting into.
I love chiptunes for a lot of reasons, not the least of which are the pumping beats that are sure to get you laid on Saturday night. Nothing says "Rock the Fuck Out" like a Gameboy with a plug up its ass wired into a surround sound system. But what really makes me love chiptunes is that it is evidence of a culture. More importantly, a relevant and artistically rich culture.
I don't like the fact that video games are inextricably linked to consumer culture and trash culture. When people think "video games", they imagine the giant throbbing corporate cock of Microsoft, ready to fuck you up the ass in exchange for a brief diversion of violence and sex. When people think of "video game culture", they imagine an infinite expanse of cats with captions on them.
I CAN HAZ CULTURAL IRRELEVANCY?
Gamers and gamer culture are hardly respected, and are hardly respectable. And lets be honest, if the entirety of our output was shit like this, we deserve to be locked the fuck up for our frankenstein photoshop creations. Thankfully, we don't live in that world.
Chiptunes and the chiptunes scene are important for a lot of reasons. The whole scene is DIY. If you want your life to be vibrant, it has to be yours, and the only way to make it yours is to make it yourself. The consoles may be relics of a well spent youth, but they are celebrated and reformatted to fit the artists intent.
The output isn't just some cultural feedback loop. The styles are diverse and reflect the individual musician, like a mirror you can dance to. The twisted soundscapes they create are unique, sincere, and original. Most of gamer culture is remix culture, which is great when you're in on the joke, but it doesn't last long in the open world. Like all remix culture, it withers and dies when exposed to a vacuum.
The OneUps may be awesome, but they are a good example of band that cannot exist without the self perpetuating elixir of reference and recognition. We say,"Oh shit, Toejam and Earl, turn that shit up." But without such recognition, the song ceases to be anything other than a funky jam. Not that I don't love to bring the funk, mind you. Nothing gets me going quite like a phat bassline and the sultry tones of a large black man whispering sweet nothings into my ear.
What I'm trying to say is that Dale North cannot survive in the vacuum of space.
With chiptunes, the sound may bud with nostalgia, but you don't need to play video games to know that this is awesome.
I made a pun. Did you see what I did there? I'm so fucking cool. I'm the goddamn definition of BAMF. Please love me.
I love chiptunes because it is evidence of a culture I can be proud of. It can inspire you to think or inspire you to get the fuck on down to the dance floor and rip that shit up. It is original, it is meaningful, and it is ours. Gamers are not some uniform mass, and we have no real cultural connection outside of the games we play, but various social phenomena have sprouted from something as simple as staying inside on sunny days and mashing on a d-pad. These are the cultures that connect us, and represent us.
This is our punk rock.
And if you had to choose something to represent you, would you rather have this...
If the answer isn't obvious, you are walking cancer, and I hope a meteor hits you.
I have never had any interest in rhythm games other than the original Frequency until Rock Band came out. This can be attributed to one thing: Drums. I've always found playing fake guitar to be boring, and I have the vocal abilities of a cat set on fire. But drums...fuck yeah. Of course, I lose my hegemony over the drum set the moment more than two people are brought into to fold, and I once again return to finding the game as pleasant as masturbating with a cheese grater. Thankfully, there are a few tracks on there I love enough to keep me from being a real douche at the party, although whenever Jet or Fall Out Boy comes on I sit outside like a starving war refugee hiding from the onslaught of aural genocide.
Being the poor mooching mother fuck I am, Rock Band 2 is already confirmed as the pinnacle of any future party atmosphere. The defining aspect of Guitar Hero World Tour, the music generation, has no effect on my cohorts, either because they just don't give a fuck or they already write music.
Having taken this into account, let me just tell you how fucking stoked I am on a few of these songs.
Bikini Kill's Rebel Girl?
Modest Mouse's Float On?
Dinosaur jr. doing Feel the Pain!?
The Who doing Pinball Wizard!!?
Rush's The Trees!!??
Sonic Youth's Teen Age Riot!!!!???
SONIC FUCKING YOUTH'S TEEN AGE FUCKING RIOT!!!!!!!
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FUCKING FOOTBALL!!??
Knowing full well that 99% of the stuff Sonic Youth does is impossible to chart, my cock is pulsing with anticipation. Pulsing.
Don't get me wrong, I'd rather be listening to Hey Joni or Schizophrenia, but jesus man, that song. I cannot wait. Shit, I'll just accompany my friends on a real guitar while they play the bass and drum line while someone else sings vocals. Awesome fucking stuff.
Another cool addition to the set list is Boston Indie/Electronica band The Main Drag. What is not a cool addition is that they chose their worst fucking song to feature.
Also, I would've preferred a Modest Mouse song other than Float On, just because I'm kind of sick of it being THE Modest Mouse song everyone knows. That's not really anyone's fault though, so its rather pointless getting my panties in a bunch over it. But how badass would it be to do some stuff off Moon and Antarctica? Seriously imagine rocking out to Dark Center of the Universe. Imagine it, and realize that dream will never come true. Are you a little dead inside? I am.
But I'm too fucking psyched to mourn over my empty soul right now. Let there be rock.
On a side note, look at this:
Panic at the Disco - "Nine in the Afternoon"
Paramore - "That’s What You Get"
Pearl Jam - "Alive"
Presidents of the USA - "Lump"
Every band in this game that begins with a P isn't worth playing. Conspiracy? I'll let you decide.
UPDATE: This rendition of Modest Mouse's Float On by Kidz Bop is too fucking horrible to miss, and makes me forever grateful that Harmonix got the Master Tracks and not...this.
Goddamit Isaac. I know you need financial security but shit dude.