How to Play Braid: Cheating, Completion, & Company

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

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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

The Wimpy Gamer’s Response to Video Games (Narrative vs. Combat)

Growing up with an older brother, I was fated to experience firsthand one of the most disturbing cultural phenomena of our time: The “Halo Party.”

Whenever I heard a series of loud, barbaric shouts emanating up from the basement, I could immediately infer what was going on down there and knew that it was in my best interest to stay away at all costs. There were a few hapless occasions, however, when necessity required me to venture into the basement’s uncertain depths, straight into the war zone itself.

On these occasions, as soon as I creaked open the basement door, a sharp, pungent stench—cheap cologne mingled with body odor—would immediately clog my nostrils. Silently, warily, I would tiptoe down the stairs, plunging ever deeper into darkness.

When I reached the bottom of the stairs, the image before me was like a sort of sick, twisted camping trip. Huddled around the glow of the television screen in a semicircle, my older brother and several of his friends were frantically jostling their video game controls, engaged in an intense game of Halo™. Judging from their sweat-stained shirts, their gaming efforts must have been causing them a great deal of exertion. Whenever a character died, they would emit inhuman, animal yells of frustration. Quickly, trying to remain unnoticed, I grabbed whatever it was I needed from the basement and clambered back upstairs, into safety.

I probably wasn’t the only little sister in America forced to endure the infamous testosterone-fest known as the Halo Party. After all, the game was—and still is—tremendously popular, not just among sweaty preteen boys, but also among a more sophisticated adult crowd (my high school German teacher, a self-proclaimed gamer, was conveniently “sick” on the day Halo 3 was released. Hmmm…).

It makes sense why Halo has amassed such a devoted following.  To be sure, the game boasts impressive graphics and a fairly engrossing narrative; but, as Matt Thumser so aptly put it, people don’t play Halo to admire the beautifully-rendered trees or to ponder the avant-garde extraterrestrial architecture. Rather, Halo’s biggest allure is that it is thrilling, suspenseful. The epitome of a perfect first-person shooter game, it provides harrowing and challenging objectives for the player to conquer. Gunning down machines, slaughtering aliens, operating heavy artillery—indeed, Halo beckons to the trigger-happy masses itching to blow things up. It is also highly competitive, which is why it lends itself so well to large-group social gatherings.

Perhaps I might mention that I am not the biggest game enthusiast the world has ever seen. In fact, aside from dabbling (rather unsuccessfully, might I add) with LOTRO, my knowledge of video games is mainly confined to older, outdated breeds dating back to the N-64 days—games such as Zelda, Mario Kart, and Super Mash Bros. In my novice opinion, however, I prefer video games that craft a rich, vivid story. This could be because I am a nervous sort of gamer, becoming all jumpy and panicky whenever I am faced with the prospect of attack, so I find it infinitely more enjoyable to stroll around, admiring the scenery, than to subject my poor avatar to humiliation. But I do think that a meaningful, engrossing storyline—especially when coupled with a series of interactive objectives—goes a long way towards immersing the gamer.

This is what makes LOTRO the ideal game: it seamlessly incorporates both of these aspects to form one comprehensive, all-encompassing video game. With its abundance of quests and battles, it would undoubtedly appeal to the legion of Halo enthusiasts, who seek the thrill of challenging combat; but it also provides an intricate, magical world and a captivating storyline to intrigue the less-competitive, more story-based breed of gamers. For someone who—to put it bluntly—sucks at video games, LOTRO offers more than pure combat to keep me engaged. Perhaps in Halo I couldn’t stop to muse at the beautiful landscape without being annihilated by a friendly alien; but in LOTRO, at least, I can take a few moments and explore Tolkien’s fantastical realm.

Anna Dickens