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Started by droqen, January 21, 2023, 04:21:49 PM

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Regarding Number None's

Based on some things I've been exploring lately, I was struck by the oddest urge: to play and analyze Braid.
-Reading Jesper Juul's "Handmade Pixels"
-Reading a few of Jonathan Blow's quotes from a few different places
-Other notes and perhaps more detailed context to come

The questions running through my mind

1. What is Braid about?

2. What did Jonathan Blow want to communicate through Braid? That is . . .
   2a. What kind of "connection" was he looking for?
   2b. What did he think was "special" about it that "not many people understood"?
I hope to come to my own understanding of what ran behind these quotes of his.

3. Why is it a game, and does its nature as a game undermine its message? In particular, does its nature as a game undermine its message in a way that is broadly applicable to games with messages?


Very opening scene.
Nameless character. You learn how to control yourself.

Book 2. Time and Forgiveness. Books in opening.
- Actually kinda cute?
- Introduces your avatar as Tim.
- Introduces this little story, and the naive concept of 'what if you could make mistakes, go back in time, and learn from those mistakes without the damage done?'
- Slippage between narrator and character (player-level, and narrative-level).
"Suppose we could tell her "I didn't mean what I just said"
and she would say "It's okay, I understand.""
And yet, the mechanisms of the game are . . . mechanical time-rewinding. The previous example is one of equality, to some degree. "We" (We being Tim and the player, together, the player-avatar collective 'we,' perhaps even the player-Tim-Jonathan collective unit, or perhaps some other ungiven subset) make a request and "she" complies.
Time-rewinding, time-travel, is a one-sided power.
"Tim and the Princess . . . their mistakes are hidden from each other, tucked away between the folds of time, safe."
Where in (1) Tim makes a request and the Princess says yes, here in (3) we see that the mistakes are hidden, unknown to both of them, somehow. And yet Tim can also learn from his mistakes, somehow? The ones hidden from him. The ones tucked away between the folds of time.
Or maybe I'm reading this all wrong. Tim makes the mistake. The Princess says, "Yes, you can learn from your mistakes, and I consent to having the harm done erased from my mind." They have both made mistakes and harmed each other. They have both learned from their mistakes. They have both forgotten every mistake made by the other.


Having played all of Book 2 just now, it is still Braid. I don't think that having read those books lent me a deeper understanding of the play, nor did the play help me to understand the books... Of course, I say that as one who has played the game already. I already know the mechanics, the little quests I must go on for the pieces. This does not seem like the promised medium: A story next to a toy that lets you understand, slightly better, what the story was saying.

I like the story so far. I have just read all of the books in Book 3, and I like them, too. I'm really looking forward to more, actually. But the approach is far from game-breaking (where here the 'game' is the 'medium', the game of game design). Nonetheless I understand what's being done. It's humble and nice, in a way.

Book 3. Time and mystery. Books in opening.
- Introducing an interesting wrinkle to the story. The first book (Book 2, and this is interesting, I want to see where Book 1 goes with this, this foreshadowing) was naive and presented the idea of hidden mistakes so plainly and, as I said, it was quite cute! Here we have writing which indicates weaknesses. A desire to hide parts of oneself from the time-travel-rewind relationship that they (naively) opted into, assuming all would go well. This is an interesting direction to take a narrative... I want to read this story, not play this game. But, I will play Book 3 soon. I see how its mechanism relates. There is the green glowing thing which is immune, as Tim wishes he was sometimes immune. But this is such a tenuous link. I don't feel like it's necessary for me to understand it. It's like the pictures in a children's book. Yes, look, this is what it looks like when Emily feeds Clifford the Big Red Dog. You can already imagine it, but here it is spelled out twice, just in case you're still learning how to read, or learning how to imagine things in your mind, or have never seen a dog before.


I went to sleep and woke up. My thoughts about gameplay . . . they linger. How did playing Book 2 make me feel?
How did it feel to play through it the first time ever? How does it feel to play it now?
Now it feels gently familiar. It feels easy, but not too easy. I'm solving puzzles. I bump into tiny problems -- Oh, this goomba guy, I have to rewind because I killed him too soon.

I have to walk past a few puzzle pieces because it's unclear how to get them. (In fact I remember that they are not possible to get yet; I need to get future puzzle pieces and do the puzzle later in order to get them.) This doesn't frustrate me. I move on. Maybe there is a naivete to this feeling . . . I don't have to solve all these problems! It's all good!

What is the place of everything within the whole? Not 'regret' but 'power over regret'. I make a mistake, I can easily undo it, I can try again, it takes only a little bit of time. Some things are not solvable, but this is not because of mistakes . . . it is because I'm missing something fundamental.


Walking by the puzzle pieces is the same feeling as starting Book 2 without being able to start Book 1. On the one hand I'm helpless to do anything but accept that I'm starting somewhere 'wrong', I'm missing some piece of the whole. On the other hand I'm accepting of it. I move on.


Book 3 finished.
The dinosaur at the end (the Toad stand-in. Why a dinosaur? Why the cute bunnies that get all evil and angry? Why are the goombas these little rock fellows?) doesn't seem to know who the Princess is . . . affected by the time-forgetfulness, maybe?
I killed the boss enemy in its Lair, and felt a twinge of regret. For the most part I felt like these puzzles were a little more laborious, less breezy. More effortful. The twinkling green mechanic of 'things unaffected by time' were chosen carefully - there were very rare situations where I regretted permanently changing something green. Aside from the boss fight (where i felt the mild regret of 'killing a thing') everything was a gentle setback, a tiny annoyance, at best. 'oops, whatever, it will take me another ten seconds.'

I have started to think about the jigsaw puzzles. What do they depict? This one has a guy with a wineglass. It is focused on the wineglass(es) and some plates.


Book 4. Time and place. Books in opening.
"If she exists --- she must! --- she will transform him, and everyone. . . . her scent fills him with excitement, creates a moment so strong he can remember it in the past."

I am beginning to think that the Princess is not a person, but (somewhat unfortunately, given the history of this type of reverse-objectification) a concept. I hope this is not the case though.

Aside from this, it seems that we are moving into the past . . . there is an interesting idea presented here of places that 'take you back'. Time and memory are interwoven -- before, time was used to forget (subjectively rewind, so that one can remember something another does not). Now, time is used to remember, but it's not presented in the most positive light.

The future always seems better than the past. The present is more comfortable than the past; the future is more attractive than the present, something which is always being reached for. The Princess is there in the future, somewhere. The idea of a hopeful future, inspiration, ambition . . . these present emotions are instead seen as memories of a better future.

Then there is the idea of wandering from place to place, to catch that inspirational future-memory, to catch the scent of it. If a place holds memories of a worse past, then it also holds memories of a better future.


Book 4.
It's a neat mechanic, always thought it was. Can't believe it's so well executed. I like the level "just out of reach" where the end of the music box's tune, too, is just out of reach. The music in this area is very different, as mentioned it is music box-like. Fitting, because you make it go by moving right. It is great how the music responds to the time control in all these worlds.

There are some good puzzles in here! I am a big fan of how this 'movement, amplified' thing is used exactly once. This is all the mechanic needs.

I skipped the Fickle Companion level.
I noticed a sideways Aleph-1 in the art. Why?

The jigsaw puzzle here is a childhood home.


It's funny how the doorway to Book 4 is on the very rightmost edge of the screen. Upon exiting I find myself walking into the right wall of the overworld. Makes me think - is Book 4 the end of the story somehow? Am I rewinding by going to Book 5 and/or 6? (btw: Which to do first? It's interesting that I finally have a choice. I check out the ladder that goes up. I saw it earlier, and its coloured blocks . . . it looks like I need all the jigsaw puzzles complete to get up there. What is up there?)


Book 5. Time and decision. Books in opening.

There are only two books here. It is a brief book. Tim leaves her to find the Princess. Who is she? Here 'she' and 'the Princess' are (finally?) decoupled. 'She' is a passive thing here, resigned to love him anyway, even though she was being left, abandoned.


World 5. Many puzzles. The music here is more solemn, and I often succeed by abandoning my past self. Or, really, my parallel self. As Shadow Tim, I do something which must be done in another timeline in order to help Foreground Tim in his timeline. Decisions.


Book 6. Hesitance

What is the ring? He hides it away because it complicates interactions. People hesitate when they see it. He prefers that people not hesitate. On the surface, this seems like it suggests infidelity. But what is the ring?


World 6.

In this world . . . I have lost some measure of faith in the design of these puzzles . . . not that I don't think they're interesting, but I've lost faith in the rewind power, the ability to control time to solve puzzles. They have been getting more and more elaborate: I am not interested in that. In some way this is terribly appropriate. In Book 2 -- World 2 -- we were naive, we thought controlling time could solve all our problems easily. Now we see that the problems become more complicated in order to meet our ability. By World 6, controlling time is no longer a power but a burden.

The ring. What is the ring? I might say that the ring is another power. When Tim took it out . . . it made for more complicated puzzles. Harder problems.

I preferred the game when the ring was hidden away.

The levels, the puzzles, saw the ring and now I must "[trace] a soft path through their defenses. But this exhausts [me], and it only works to a limited degree. It doesn't get [me] what I need[.]"


The Princess must be in another castle.
I've never met her...
Are you sure she exists?


I don't think I can see anymore without completing all of the puzzles, and I don't see the need when longplays exist... I'm going to go see the rest of the game now.

I have thoughts about the way a game can hide itself, though. It was easier to release poetry in Starseed Pilgrim knowing --- wrongly --- that only a small number of people would read it. Maybe it is a way of dealing with fear without dealing with it. To demand others put the work in before you share with them the inside.