Braid, WHY YOU (sic) SO HARD!

I must admit, I don’t play online games very much. The last time I played a “legitimate downloadable game was when I was about 13- a game based on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Other than that, my extent on gaming are mostly non-fictitious gaming titles, such as the Madden NFL Series. However, I have delved into the world of Halo when I used to play Halo Wars quite often. This game seemed noticeably different right from the start. Fairly quickly, you can tell that there is going to be a puzzle/strategic objective to the game when you find that your main objective is to collect puzzle pieces. Furthermore, once noticed that it’s a puzzle of usual means (putting actual pieces together), you’ll also eventually notice that there are quips here and there that add to the complexity of the game. Being used to just pressing X, Y, A, or B- having to deal with rewinding the game in ORDER to successfully complete each task was certainly not an easy task. In fact, I found that to be one of the more challenging aspects of Braid.

In being such a difficult game, my mind wandered to an academic write-up by Jesper Juul on the topic of what indeed makes up a game. Specifically, I thought of  the part referring to this idea of pleasure versus challenge. What is an appropriate ratio of pleasure, or- in better terms, level of easiness, accessibility and challenge. I mean, I would want a game to be challenging so that there is some worthwhile experience while paying the game, but making one so hard that it, again- at least for me, seemed nearly impossible to complete? That just didn’t seem sensible. Juul wrote, “Playing a game is an activity of improving skills in order to overcome these challenges, and playing a game is therefore fundamentally a learning experience.” I don’t mean to barrage you with quotes are academic jargon, but Juul went on to say that gaming is also a progression. Essentially, a game is needs to be challenging, yes, but not so that there can be no progression, no learning.

I will say that even if you are not an experienced gamer like I am, you may be able to tell that the narrative seems a bit grey. I mean, it’s basically the premise of almost every fantastical game in the history of the world. That is, a man trying to save a princess. You’ll notice there’s more to that- but I won’t give anything away.

Overall, I’m glad this was one of the first games I’ve played, as I’ve appreciated the level of difficulty of how some games could be- something that I think Juuls would appreciate as well.





Author: joeghianni

Undergraduate Clerk, Vanderbilt Law School

2 thoughts on “Braid, WHY YOU (sic) SO HARD!”

  1. I think one of the most interesting things about Braid and some games like it is that it has a very unique mechanic that people likely have never experience in this way before. Getting a feel for that in itself will provide an increase to difficulty in what can be a fairly significant way – games like first person shooters that share controls are incredibly accessible to pretty much everyone who has played a first person shooter – the controls are incredibly intuitive. What I found during Braid was it took me a while to be able to get used to these mechanics, and added onto the difficulty of the puzzles early on, the game has a steep learning curve and earns its “hardness.” I do think it’s interesting that you chose that quote from Juul, as it is very applicable – for simple mechanics like these, while new, the best way to learn them is to play and develop mastery. One of the most interesting results of that could even be new mastery in other games through tangential thinking, as learning other media for writing can contribute to a writer’s skills across the board.

  2. I can really relate to your experience playing Braid. I too grew up on mostly non-ficiticous games on the xBox 360 like PGR 4. I’ve mostly had experience playing racing games so this game did seem like a great challenge. Though over time I have expanded to platform games such as Braid, I have never come across one that is so complex. however, this game was something i found extremely intriguing and the mechanics of the game included things that I had never come across before – specially the reversing of time to complete a level. What I found most interesting was that the game didn’t seem to start off easy and become harder as you go along and it challenged me from the very beginning.

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