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".