In-Depth Tuesday is a segment in which I try my my best to explain some of the more difficult narratives that exist in videogames. This means I will dissect and find things such as symbolism, allusion, etc. The main point is to help get across the overall message or messages of the game and help illustrate some other confusing things within the continuity. Suggestions for future segments can be made in your comments. NOTE THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH Braid
: Excuse me for the skipping of days and such; I've been having a busy few days,what with college crap and relationship problems. I've been trying to squeeze these in whenever I can, so apologies for my missed days. I've been also making an attempt at making these blogs shorter as to not scare off so many people who don't like block after block of text. Anyways, ON WITH THE SHOW!
is one of those games that I feel a special connection to; when I first played the game, I was on my way into college and had to balance that with a girlfriend, meaning I didn't have much time to spend with her. I'd rather not go into my personal life, but to put it simply, we don't get to see each other very often. Maybe once or twice a month for maybe an hour, yet she lives five minutes away from me. It's heartbreaking, and it's something of a taboo to talk about relationships over the internet, let alone on a blog about videogames. But when I found the time to play Braid
, it was the kind of experience that I will never forget; I had just got off the phone with my girlfriend, who we'll just call "Alice" to avoid awkwardness with friends and family (including her), and we had been in a fight that ended with her hanging up on me because I did "something" to upset her.
Needless to say, I wasn't really in the mood to do anything at the time, but I decided to swallow it whole and play a game to get my mind off of it; the game I decided to buy and play was Braid
, an indie game that had just come out to great acclaim. When the final puzzle was complete, I knew that this was my Game of the Year for 2008; not only was it absolutely terrific to just play the puzzles, which were absolutely brilliant, it was eye-opening to see what the game's narrative held. You see, Braid
isn't just some game that I "like" or really even "love"; to put it bluntly, the game changed my life. In a medium such as videogames, that's a bit of a ridiculous sentiment, but the message and the parallels it had to what my life was at that point were staggeringly humbling. So let's go ahead and talk about Braid
Massive Spoilers Ahead.
On it's most basic and obvious level, Braid
is the story of Tim, a man who searches for a Princess in each World's castle, yet every time comes up empty. In the very end, it is revealed that he himself is the man who originally trapped the Princess in the Castle, and that he in fact was the villain all along. This is the story that people will see if they skipped over the books in the Clouds of each World, and this is the story that we will talk about first.
You see, Braid
at it's first level is actually a satire or a retelling of the original Super Mario Bros.
for the NES, which is generally considered the most recognizable game to ever be released. By using the plot of Super Mario Bros.
, Blow, the creator, puts you off guard for the twist ending in which it is revealed that Tim is actually the villain, much in the same way Shadow of the Colossus
uses the established bond of trust between the player and the NPC's to hide the twist.
makes no qualms about shamelessly reusing Super Mario Bros.
' elements: Enemies look strangely like Goombas and Piranha Plants and are defeated in the same exact way, worlds end in a boss fight against the same exact boss, reaching the castle at the end of each world leads to a creature telling you that the Princess is in another castle, etc. The game's structure exactly fits Super Mario Bros.
, and by doing so, we are all the more surprised by the twist, because like all good twists, we didn't see it coming.
In fact, in the final chapter, we see in the Princess's room a stuffed Dinosaur and a Goomba enemy, meaning that she has has been trying to escape Tim the entire time by tricking him with the Dinosaur and attacking him with the Goombas. Also, when you consider the similarities between the characters of Braid
and the characters of Super Mario Bros.
, you see the role that each plays; the Princess is like Princess Peach, trying to escape Bowser, in this case, Tim, who has imprisoned her in the castle, and it is up to Mario, the knight, to save her.
However, Braid has many layers, the second of which is the story of Tim, a lonely bachelor who is seeking a woman to call his own. This story is told through the books that are found in the Clouds of each world, and it also the most non-linear, in that there is no actual coherent love story told through these. This kind of story telling is most obvious in the puzzles and the mechanics of each stage; the picture formed by every piece is not a picture of Tim in any way, but rather of an incident that has narrative similarities. For instance, the first puzzle shows a man spilling a glass of wine over while seemingly about to, or currently, making love to a woman.
The man is making a mistake, much in the way that Tim is. The first world's time mechanic is "Rewind", or the ability to fix one's mistake. It is here that each book's story begins to make sense; you see, rather than a linear narrative, we receive anecdotes, told non-chronological, about Tim's life. The tale of the Princess and Tim seeking love are not true meanings of Braid
, but neither are they meaningless. At the final level of the narrative, the one that holds the most significance, Braid
is about the creation of the Atom Bomb. Tim is the creator of what is generally considered to be the most dangerous object on the planet, capable of destroying life as we know it.
If you are able to get all eight starts hidden through out the game, we see the true narrative, a tale about Tim seeking his "Princess", or rather that which he seeks more than anything in the world, the thing which drives his ambitions. We see at the end that Tim has achieved his goal, as the constellation outside reveals the chained maiden, the Princess he finally captured. It is here that we really dig in deep into Tim as a character.
As the story points out, Tim is a tinkerer by nature; he is constantly destructing everything from objects like the bomb to his memories; in fact, the entire set-up of Braid
is from the mind set of Tim. In a way, the entire second narrative, Tim seeking love, is told in a non-linear fashion because it is Tim's recollection of events, not him telling a story. He jumps and skips through time to seek the answers in the middle, much like how he deconstructs the objects in his workshop. IN fact, if you got the star ending, you get the most telling line of dialogue: "To this day, Tim continues his ritual of dreaming around his house, floating in the clouds, reconstructing memories of his past, deconstructing experiences that may or may not have already occurred."
When taken literally, you also see that the books are indeed Tim's subconscious, since they are in fact his memories that may or may not have happened, with Tim pondering them with his head in the clouds. The fact that the books are literally in the clouds is simply stating the obvious at this point.
However, over the story of Tim and the Princess, over Tim seeking love, over Tim bringing destruction into the world, Braid
is not so much about any one of these things as much as it is about all of them. It's transitive; it is all and yet none. Braid
exists not as a narrative that tells the drama of a lover scorned or a fantasy about a man seeking a princess, but rather as set piece messages. Braid
is a cautionary tale about the extremes that will lead to the destruction of one or many; ambition and love that turn to obsession. More than anything, Braid
is about not one man, not one woman, but every human and what they are capable of, in Tim's case, the destruction of both himself and the world around him.