There are lots of random blog posters on places like Gamespot or NeoGAF or whatever who show a clearer understanding of Braid than people who are all, "I'm all about games, and narrative and meaning, and I write a blog just to tell you about how I analyze all these things." Those people have the same hit rate as your general forum poster. So that's given me a cynical response to that whole community, which is just that, "Guys, are you sure you're qualified to do this?" And that sounds asshole-ish, and mean and snarky, but that's just how I'm feeling right now.
I'm not saying that all game designers are like that. I've encountered what I perceive to be that attitude. Whereas other game designers, who make games where you just run around killing a hundred dudes or whatever, I've had totally reasonable discussions with them and they're just like "no, I've really thought about it and here's what I think". And so, it's complicated.
Well, it's very personal to me, because I have that kind of personality. The same sort of thing that drives somebody to study physics for 30 years, so they can discover a new particle. Just so they can know something more about the world. I have that same personality, but I didn't end up in physics. I ended up in game design.
You know, in college, I never got either degree, but I was a double-major in Computer Science and English. And English at Berkeley, where I went to school, is very much creatively-driven. Basically, the entire bachelor's degree in English is all about bullshitting. And Computer Science, which was my other major, was exactly the opposite of that. You had to know what you were doing, and you had to know what you were talking about.
In movies you have all these different genres of movie and when you go to a different genre of movie, you have different emotional expectations. They are this sort of commercial experience in that you feel like, 'I paid to go see a comedy, so this better be funny', but that is not an expectation you would have going to see a drama or going to see a documentary or whatever, right. In games we don't seem to have that. Everybody expects this fun thing out of all games.
What I strive to do in my own games, which you can see pretty clearly in Braid, is to respect the player as an intelligent person who can figure things out and who wants to discover things or come to understand more than they knew at the start of the game.
[..] there's some line that divides games that are beneficial from games that are harmful. It's not really my business to draw that line today, I don't wanna try and convince you exactly what's beneficial and what's harmful, because again, that is up to the opinion of every designer and in fact the opinion of every player. But what I would like is for people to have an opinion about it. When people design a game to think about what that game is doing, and when people play a game to think about what that game is doing. And people don't, right now. They think about how it has cool graphics and a lot of levels and, like, they love the story about killing the bad guy. Which is not a very self-aware place to be standing when you're consuming something that affects your life for so many hours and therefore affects your mind for so many hours. And that bothers me. That makes me feel bad about being a game designer.
It's a common thing among game designers, especially these days, to get into discussions about fun. And they're difficult discussions to have because fun is a very amorphous word - what it means to you may not even be the same thing that means to me.
What's interesting to me is that in terms of people who I feel are getting what my game is about - and here I'm not even talking about what the elements of the story mean, like, whatever symbolism and metaphors and things are in there. But even the structure of the game, like, there's a fundamental structure and reasons in the way things are laid out, and parts of the game that are meant to draw people's attention to certain things, regardless of what's contained in that structure. And what's interesting to me is that some people get that, and some people don't.
You could make a very focused exploration game, that was about player creativity and exploration. But then it wouldn't have these very meticulous scientific kinds of puzzles in it, that Braid has. And so, it was just about picking something and understanding what it was that was chosen, and sticking to it, ruthlessly.
Our world, with its rules of causality, has trained us to be miserly with forgiveness. By forgiving too readily, we can be badly hurt. But if we've learned from a mistake and become better for it, shouldn't we be rewarded for the learning, rather than punished for the mistake?
I have gone on record as talking about game design as a practice, like a scientific study, or like a spiritual practice, like yoga or tai chi. And that's part of what I'm doing when I design a game, is that I'm exploring the universe in a certain way. I'm trying to understand true things about it, or to uncover things about it.
There's all these imaginary farms out there where you gain imaginary money but then there's a real farm with real money that pulls money from you over the internet and you don't ever see it because it's all behind your head while you're typing on the computer.
I really value that click that happens in your head between you see something and you don't quite understand it and then suddenly you do understand it. That is a fundamental part of human existence in the world. It's that kind of mental growth - that kind of expanding my sphere of understanding the world around me.
There's this huge irony going on, that the companies that are making these social games [like FarmVille] that basically have no gameplay value in them are actually themselves playing a much more interesting game than the game that they're making for you to play.