Category Archives: Game Criticism

Braid playthrough with director’s commentary

At GameCity in Nottingham, UK in September 2010, I played through select portions of Braid and gave commentary. I had been under the impression the session was officially recorded, and I’ve been waiting for an official video to hit the internet, but at this point I am not sure this was done. Fortunately someone in the audience had a handheld camera, and has posted the footage to YouTube. This is by far the most I’ve said about Braid in one place…

See the video here.

A new lecture about story and game design.

This lecture was given by Jonathan Blow (introduction by Jason Della Rocca) on November 19th, 2008 at the Montreal International Game Summit.

Here it is as a zip file (about 33 megabytes) containing the slides and an mp3.

This lecture focuses on the story-centric paradigm that we use to design a large number of games, and why I think it is problematic. Both pre-authored and dynamic story are discussed. It’s a heavily-revised version of this lecture given a few months ago in Brighton; This new version is probably better.

About In-Game Advertising (and advertising in general)

It’s always troubled me how willing people are to accept in-game advertising. Advertising in general bothers me deeply, but whenever I try to explain the problem, I never feel satisfied with my explanation.

Perhaps a little bit of ranting makes all the difference. This week on their podcast, Jeff Roberts and Casey Muratori explained the situation very well. (Both Jeff and Casey are in the credits for Braid, for those looking for a Braid connection here).

If you are interested in the future of games, and for some reason you don’t think advertising is bad, please listen to the following excerpt:


(Yes, David Perry, you too.)

Here’s a direct-download link if you want to save the mp3.

Early in this discussion, Casey refers to Sut Jhally’s lecture “How TV Exploits its Audience”, which is available for a small fee at this link. Or, here is a Sut Jhally web site with some free clips.

If you liked this discussion, you may wish to visit: The main page for The Jeff and Casey Show, where you can download any of the episodes (28 so far!).

As a special bonus, as mentioned in the excerpt, here’s David Lynch’s opinion on the matter:

A lecture about how our games are inherently conflicted.

Note: A better version of this lecture was given a few months later in Montreal, and the recording has much higher audio quality. You can find it here.

Jonathan Blow gave the closing keynote speech at Games:EDU South on July 29, 2008 in Brighton, England. This one-hour lecture is about three ways in which current mainstream games are inherently conflicted, and how this holds them back from affecting people as strongly as the forms of linear media they are striving to emulate. Art games are used to build a perspective from which to see this problem and maybe attack it a little bit.

You can download the lecture as a .zip file containing the PowerPoint slides, along with an mp3 of the audio:

(Games:EDU Keynote, 35MB).

Unfortunately the recording came out at a low quality; the questions from the audience at the end are difficult or impossible to hear, but hopefully the answers are detailed enough to provide clues as to the questions.

A Short Essay about Serious Games

(If you are looking for information about Braid the upcoming Xbox Live Arcade game, click the banner above. This blog is for general information that might be interesting to people who like Braid.)

This essay was delivered at the Opinion Jam (organized by Ste Curran of One Life Left) at the Develop Conference 2008 in Brighton, England. It was written to be 3 minutes long when read aloud.

The essay is after the fold. If you want the accompanying PowerPoint slides, click here.
Continue reading A Short Essay about Serious Games

The Kotaku Game Club is back.

I first mentioned the Kotaku Game Club here a year ago. After being active for a short time, the game club went on a long hiatus. But now, Brian Crecente has revived it. This week they will be playing Beyond Good and Evil, a highly-acclaimed game that you can download from Steam for $10.

Beyond Good & Evil

If you’re interested in participating, you’ll want to download and play the game soon; they’re discussing the game in four parts, and the first discussion happens on July 7.

In case I didn’t make it obvious enough, the Kotaku link introducing the new Game Club assignment is here.

Continue reading The Kotaku Game Club is back.

Gamer Hate on Braid

There’s a blog called Gamer Hate, run by a blogger with the imposing name of COMMANDERHATE. He was predisposed toward hating on Braid, so I gave him a preview version to play. It turns out that he really likes the game, and he has written a very thoughtful response after playing about halfway through.

He raises the concern that Braid might not find a large audience because it is so different. I think there is a danger of this, but at the same time, Braid’s being different is what makes it worth playing in the first place. Commander Hate had a strong positive reaction to the game; if there are enough people like that, and they tell their friends, then Braid will succeed.

Braid isn’t about trying to appeal to the maximum number of people — it’s about appealing to exactly the right people.

We’ll see how that works out. Then again, my favorite Xbox Live Arcade game of last year was Space Giraffe, which sold quite poorly. So, there is that.

Jonathan Blow interviewed by Jeff Lindsay over at Gamehelper.

This email interview of Jonathan Blow was conducted by Jeff Lindsay a few weeks ago. Please disregard the excessive personality-glorifcation at the beginning.

This was a good interview to do, because I managed to clarify several points in my thinking about game development.  Here’s an excerpt:

Marketing is not, in fact, a need.  Getting enough people to buy your game such that you make money is not a need, if you really care about the integrity of what you are making.  That integrity is the primary need; earning enough money through selling that thing, such that you can make more without taking up another job or whatever, is a luxury. People bend to this luxury all the time.  There are lots of ways to rationalize it.  But I think it is usually due to weakness — or rather, lack of commitment to principles.

Among indies there is some kind of desire to be more like bigger companies, to be “professional” about making games.  Owning a business and making money and having business cards is all part of that.  But if you really care about games, it’s a huge mistake, and being “professional” will only hurt your work and cause it to be mediocre. Business is, inherently, a corruptive influence on everything that is non-business.

Audio and Slides for Jonathan Blow’s lecture at MIGS 2007, “Design Reboot”.

I gave a lecture on November 27th at the Montreal International Games Summit; this lecture was highly critical of current game design practice. It’s about what I think is wrong with the intentions designers have when they set out to create a game, and points out that, as games are played by more people, this will become increasingly societally damaging. It also holds some suggestions about how to create games that are deeper and more meaningful, rather than being throw-away entertainment.

Here’s a zip file containing an audio recording of the lecture, as well as a PowerPoint file containing the slides:

“Design Reboot”, Jonathan Blow, Montreal International Game Summit 2007

Unfortunately there’s nothing embedded in the audio telling you when to flip slides. Hopefully I will make a video version soon, which will be easier for people to deal with (and they won’t need to worry about having slide presentation software installed).

A number of news sites have written stories about it and people have started commenting on what they feel is the validity or the invalidity of the arguments. However, I don’t think this really works, because the news sites are only reporting about 2% of the lecture; the rest of the lecture is very important in terms of providing context and setting examples. So if you are interested in this kind of subject, I recommend you get the full lecture.