How to Play Braid: Cheating, Completion, & Company

Talking about Cheating, Therapy, and Completion in the post-modern platforming game Braid


The question every gamer has debated when stuck on the last challenge of a level: to cheat or not to cheat? Usually the idea of whether to cheat is usually understood in terms of entertainment: on one hand, cheating allows you to get past a part of the level that would otherwise take an additional three hours to complete ; on the other hand – as people claim – cheating ruins the fun since what’s the point of a game if you just cheat? (I would respond with saying that a game’s entertainment and narrative value is diminished when a player is simply unable to complete one aspect of 1000 that a game may comprise of- but this is for a separate debate). The question of cheating in Braid is significantly more complicated because both mechanics and the difficulty of using the mechanics to complete the puzzles add to the narrative; as such, one should ask whether cheating in Braid takes away from the narrative of the game.

Braid Walkthrough
Any game is easy with enough Google searches

At first, I believed the answer was simple: no, cheating diminishes the narrative, so I should not cheat to play Braid. Part of the narrative in the game is facing one’s trauma and not letting it control your life; the difficulty in getting puzzle pieces – the literal puzzle pieces that the character puts together in order to understand what happened in his past – mirrors the difficulty in facing traumatic events. As such, since cheating would relieve the difficulty, it would also lower the empathy one feels for the character and his difficulty with trauma, and as such should not be encouraged.

However, upon thinking again, I have a new belief. I think that on a meta level, cheating is sometimes acceptable in Braid. One of the common themes of trauma is needing support to help face it, and so video walk-through for a puzzle piece that one just simply cannot get could act as a metaphor for admitting help with trauma. As such, cheating as a last resort could fit with the game’s overall narrative. Maybe that’s part of why it is so hard, since the developer wanted people to work together to put the pieces together.

Another interesting video game mechanic that Braid uses is allowing its players to walk through the level with very little difficulty. The ease of simply breezing through life without reflecting on your past is literally displayed with the level design; yet the character cannot reach the true realization found on the top level or complete the game without getting the puzzle. Thus, using only mechanics and not narrative, it shows us how shallow and halting it is to simply walk through the motions of life without putting the pieces of your psyche together.

Braid Image.PNG
A very easy level for the un-reflective player

Finally, I think that the game’s mechanics makes it a great game to play with others, which allows the narrative of trauma to have another layer of meaning. As I said earlier, if cheating is like using a therapist, then playing with others is like being in a group therapy session. It reminds you that even if you cannot put the pieces of trauma together yourself, you are both not alone in your confusion and have friends to rely on.

My semester blog will give hints to why my account’s is EveryMinorDetail; this is my Easter egg, with the egg being the piece of art that I am referring to. This week’s hint is: Color & Light

3 thoughts on “How to Play Braid: Cheating, Completion, & Company”

  1. Hello! I enjoyed your description of using walkthroughs and guides in games like Braid as like “using a therapist,” or making what was originally intended as a single-player experience something collaborative. I’m very interested in the proliferation of Let’s Play videos in the gaming community — YouTube gamers who add a running commentary to their playthrough, often using humor rather than skill to entertain their viewers. Both the game and the guide need to be entertaining, and skillful Let’s Play creators are able to make the audience feel as if they are experiencing the game alongside them, effectively turning a single-player experience into one that can be enjoyed by thousands without losing a “close friend” sort of feeling. Though I am diverging a bit from your point about cheating in Braid, I think your description of using walkthroughs as a valid way to experience the game and my impression of Let’s Play are ultimately the same: even in one-player games and puzzle games, gaming is ultimately a social experience.

    1. Thank you! And although I am not a big fan of Let’s Play videos, I do think they can be a helpful guide. And I do enjoy having gaming be a social experience, which is why I am a big fan of when some of my friends get together to play video games – story-games and multiplayer ones – together. It seems like video games are more like movies to me in terms of experiencing them socially- although I like to be alone when reading a book, I prefer to be with company when watching any movie or playing any game. It really can be a social experience.

  2. I found it a solid choice to continue talking about cheating in your blog post. Given that you took a solid stance it was interesting to hear you reason through the changes in your mind. I thought (before, and now as well) that linking the difficult of the game to trauma (was/)is a very interesting way to look at the design of the game and its overall objectives. While I don’t necessarily agree, I found this “reading” of the game thought-provoking and discussion-worthy. I personally don’t take such a meta-view to difficulty in games, but perhaps I’m not viewing video games with the same lens as my literature yet. But as a result of this, I find that cheating in a single player game is less about cheating the story than cheating your own experiences. Someone who cheats their way through a game, whether it by activating the invincibility cheat codes or looking for puzzle solutions is someone who is robbing themselves of the whole points of those games, but if that’s what someone needs to be happy, so be it. Given how prevalent walkthroughs are, it is hard for me to be upset with people who decide to remove some of their own potential enjoyment of the game – that is their own job.

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