Braid Creator on Games as "Sh**ty Action Movies"

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Braid Creator on Games as "Sh**ty Action Movies"

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Intelligent-gaming messiah, Jonathan Blow, has returned to save us from stupid games.

Since releasing Braid back in 2006, Blow has been dividing his time between work on The Witness and vocal criticism of the gaming industry. Blow's comments are usually relentlessly self assured, vitriolic, and dryly funny; his recent comments to The Atlantic are no exception.

In a profile piece entitled The Most Dangerous Gamer, Taylor Clark paints Blow as your typical grumpy genius, and Braid as the sole beacon of intelligent gaming in an ocean of mindless shooter sludge. Framed with a picture of Blow looking all austere (though the picture's effect is diminished somewhat by his uncanny resemblance to New Radicals frontman, Gregg Alexander), the piece is hilariously dismissive of gaming as a medium - my favorite line: "the form remains an artistic backwater, plagued by cartoonish murderfests and endless revenue-friendly sequels," - but that's down to Clark, rather than Blow himself. Filtered out from the smug, Blow's comments are quite insightful.

Harsh, but insightful.

"If the video game is going to be used for art purposes, then it has to take advantage of its form in some way particular to that medium, right?" he told me. "A film and a novel can both do linear storytelling, but novels are very strong at internal mental machinations - which movies suck at - and movies are great at doing certain visual things. So the question is: Where are games on that same map?"

Later, he discusses gaming's relationship with cinema:

"The de facto reference for a video game is a shitty action movie," Blow said during a conversation in Chris Hecker's dining room one sunny afternoon. "You're not trying to make a game like Citizen Kane; you're trying to make Bad Boys 2." But questions of movie taste notwithstanding, the notion that gaming would even attempt to ape film troubles Blow. As Hecker explained it: "Look, film didn't get to be film by trying to be theater. First, they had to figure out the things they could do that theater couldn't, like moving the camera around and editing out of sequence-and only then did film come into its own."

Personally, though I agree with Blow in theory, I've aways found his criticism really only applies to mainstream titles, and even then, only partially. I don't mean to diminish Blow's accomplishments, but independent developers (and even some non-independent ones) were making intelligent games with strong authorial voices long before Braid was released, and they've continued to make them since.

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The big problem is that gamers, like movie goers, prefer action moives and shooters rather than Citizen Cain. For every one person who watches a Visconti film there a 1000 that watch a Michel Bay film. If you had to put up 50 million of your own money where are you going to put it? There are indie films and indie games but they are never going to be the mainstream. Sure there is going to be a breakout hit now then, but by and large its only ever going to be a niche product.

What the gaming industry is lacking is a golden era like the 70s for moives. There are no gaming equivalents of the Godfarther or Taxi Driver. Stories with enough sex and violence to keep the blockbuster crew happy and enough character and emotions to appeal to the indie crowd. Now I'm sure theres going to half dozen posts saying that this games has a great story or that game, but lets be truthful they aren't. Most games plots are rather clichéd and run along the rails of expectation. I'm not saying they are bad and I don't enjoy them, I'm just saying they are not great.

That IS an uncanny resenblence, Wow....

The article as a whole is... bleh, but Blow's (enjoy highschool much?) comments are much more informed.

This comes from a guy whose only game was kind of mediocre.

Braid was nice to play and had pretty visuals and concepts, but the storytelling was an asshole to you at the end. Oh, you didn't know you had to collect those stars to get anything resembling a coherent ending? And if you don't do things exactly right you have to start over? And one of the stars takes two hours to get?

Pfffft.

Gaming is just as artistic now as it was the day Asteroids came out. There are some games that are good art and there are some bad ones. Saying that the medium is a "artistic backwater" betrays either serious ignorance or stupidly high expectations of what can be considered good art.

I don't know. This is a little harsh and overly focused on Call of duty and it's clones (C'mon, we all know what he was talking about). When he says citizen Kane, I think of videogaming's anti-capitalism magnum opus, "bioshock", but the thing is that in the cinemas, bioshock would essentially be a "s***ty action movie", only one with a message, and a unique stylised setting. Point is, games can be those action movies whilst still being works of art.

I would have said a part of the issue is when game devs generalise their games into movie categories rather than try and define them...

What does Braid fall under in his sweeping generalisation? One of those straight-to-dvd titles that you find in the bargain bin at Blockbuster?

shitty action movies.. yep those are the things that rake in the dollars and gross millions.. game publishers want that so its the market they aim for.. a citizen cane isnt going to out gross action movie x these days

shitty action movies?

other way round actually

a decent action game lets me actually have some fun

a shitty action movie has a few explosions....

also action does not= shit

Games are like shitty action films? Shit just got real.

albino boo:
The big problem is that gamers, like movie goers, prefer action moives and shooters rather than Citizen Cain. For every one person who watches a Visconti film there a 1000 that watch a Michel Bay film. If you had to put up 50 million of your own money where are you going to put it? There are indie films and indie games but they are never going to be the mainstream. Sure there is going to be a breakout hit now then, but by and large its only ever going to be a niche product.

What the gaming industry is lacking is a golden era like the 70s for moives. There are no gaming equivalents of the Godfarther or Taxi Driver. Stories with enough sex and violence to keep the blockbuster crew happy and enough character and emotions to appeal to the indie crowd. Now I'm sure theres going to half dozen posts saying that this games has a great story or that game, but lets be truthful they aren't. Most games plots are rather clichéd and run along the rails of expectation. I'm not saying they are bad and I don't enjoy them, I'm just saying they are not great.

But that's gaming trying to be movies, I don't want that. Games can be considered as classic as Godfather without the story, but because of the gameplay or interactive atmosphere for example, things movies cannot do.
Oot is a classic and has a pretty normal story.

It may not be popular to say, but it's true. At least, for a lot of mainstream titles it is.

That's why I like games like Terraria. It makes very good use of video games as an interactive medium, by allowing you to interact with every object in the game. I personally, am in the process of trying to completely obliterate the Underworld biome as best I can. With gigantic water duplicating resivoirs in the sky(that reach the top of the screen and make it down to be the bottom half, and drop down gigantic hellevators in both sides of the screen, probably 300x times more water than the entire map normally comes with), so that I can perpetually flood hell more than it can evaporate, and loads of homes down there(which doesn't appear to have slowed down evaporation much, sadly) and attempting to make several artificial dungeon and meteorite biomes down there.

Because that shows truly interactive qualities in gaming, to be able to literally cultivate an entire fictional island to your liking. And there's nothing like a "bad action film" about that. Just exploration and creation.

... I will destroy that Underworld biome yet... by hand! I'm going to find a way to remove every last drop of lava from there. And keep permanent oceans of water that never evaporate. Somehow. I will destroy you hell, I'll destroy you yet. You will be my ocean. And full of snow, too.

*ehem*

Sorry for talking about Terraria so much. I also think that Chrono Trigger is a flawed, but very intelligent take on time travel in media. If there were a list of games I think should be up for the "Citizen Kane" of gaming, Chrono Trigger would be among them. Personally, I'd give it the first spot. And Chrono Cross is practically a deconstruction of Chrono Trigger. It obviously deserves some mention.

I wouldn't consider the Legend of Zelda games "bad action movies" either. Not A Link to the Past, not Ocarina of Time, not Majora's Mask, not Wind Waker, not Twilight Princess, not Skyward Sword, none of them.

And Katamari Damacy doesn't come even close to being a bad action movie.

Oh, and let's not forget games like Journey.

What it means to me is, I'd like more games along these lines.

I think the word 'art' should be abolished, at least when it comes to talking about videogames. I've never been more sick of hearing about the "games are art" discussion then I am right now.

At this point I'm honestly getting more annoyed with all the people claiming that mainstream games are just "shitty action movies" than with with the actual shitty action movie games themselves.

Fasckira:
I would have said a part of the issue is when game devs generalise their games into movie categories rather than try and define them...

What does Braid fall under in his sweeping generalisation? One of those straight-to-dvd titles that you find in the bargain bin at Blockbuster?

I doubt blockbuster would carry his crap. He would be lucky if Walmart stocked it.

OT: I am trying to decide if Mr Jonathan 'Blow' shortened his name to that from
Jonathan 'Blowhard'

Casual Shinji:
I think the word 'art' should be abolished, at least when it comes to talking about videogames. I've never been more sick of hearing about the "games are art" discussion then I am right now.

At this point I'm honestly getting more annoyed with all the people claiming that mainstream games are just "shitty action movies" than with with the actual shitty action movie games themselves.

The games as art thing is annoying me too. To be honest games that put being artistic and having a message before being, idk, fun to play, are stupid in my opinion.

I'd rather play a fun action game than a boring game obsessed with its' own pretentious messages.

Then again I found Shadow of the Colossus to be like watching paint dry so my opinion is invalid according to alot of the more vocal community.

hey another indie dev talking about art and how good his games are compared to the other shitty ones.

To me he just comes off as someone smarter then me going out of his way to insult me because I get frustrated by puzzles in artsy games and feel dumb when I can't figure them out taking away all my enjoyment out of playing games to begin with.

I'm at least honest, and I will go one step further and call him out as being an arrogant snob. If he wants to make his "artsy" games then let him, but by alienating gamers by insulting them with his crap it will do him no favors.

Intelligent-gaming messiah huh? that does not excuse him for being a douchebag. I hope all his games bomb badly.

Edit: Mispost

SkarKrow:

Casual Shinji:
I think the word 'art' should be abolished, at least when it comes to talking about videogames. I've never been more sick of hearing about the "games are art" discussion then I am right now.

At this point I'm honestly getting more annoyed with all the people claiming that mainstream games are just "shitty action movies" than with with the actual shitty action movie games themselves.

The games as art thing is annoying me too. To be honest games that put being artistic and having a message before being, idk, fun to play, are stupid in my opinion.

I'd rather play a fun action game than a boring game obsessed with its' own pretentious messages.

Then again I found Shadow of the Colossus to be like watching paint dry so my opinion is invalid according to alot of the more vocal community.

It's not so much the games themselves that I have a problem with; If they're good, they're good.

It's just the constant yammering by indy developers and everyone else that games should be so much more then what they are now, and that to be taken seriously as a art form, yadda yadda yadda...

For a billion dollar industry, the games world has such a low self esteem.

"Hazabaza1 on pretentious indie game twat."
Your game wasn't even that good you prick.

I'd probably care about what this guy had to say if he actually made any good games.

I like Blow's approach to making games; he's driven by love for the medium, and not motivated by the bottom line. I honestly don't think he's actively trying to make a game that capitalises on the idea of "games as art". I think he's trying to make a puzzle for people to work out. Not just a puzzle in the sense of "turn the blocks to form a picture", but more a puzzle for the mind to tinker with, analyse and try to extract meaning from. People think too much about game mechanics and not enough about what the game-maker is trying to say. Obviously, game mechanics are important - it's a game, duh - but people are too focused on what's going to give them the quickest, simplest form of enjoyment, and not enough on food for thought.

The thing about Braid and people not understanding it is that they were trying to work out what Blow was thinking at the time, and that's not the point; the point is that you have to find your own meaning, let your brain do the deciding for you. He's not trying to make people feel dumb, he's just trying to get people to think more about why they do what they do in games; are you jumping on top of that Goomba because it's evil and out to kill you, or are you just doing it because it gets you a high score and a new level?

That's what I think anyway.

Anyway, what's this Miegakure they were talking about? Solve puzzles in four different spatial dimensions?! Where do I send my money to?

He's right about one thing: "Gamers seem to praise games for being addicting, but doesn't that feel a bit like Stockholm syndrome?"

I'm increasingly tired of (MMOs in particular) utilising Skinner box mechanics in an attempt to keep me hooked in the absence of a decent game. It'd be a bit insidious, if it was for the fact it's more likely laziness.

This guy just doesn't stop with his snide remarks. Typical. It's hard to get on boat with someone who can't see other gems that aren't just "shitty action movies" on the video game market today other than him proclaiming his game to be some masterpiece that's the only thing that is apparently worth a damn on the market. This kind of arrogance annoys me and while he may be right that some games need to move past certain aspects that are holding the gaming scene down, we can't simply just stop making games that people actually enjoy. Who cares if they're not art to you? If they're fun, they're doing their job in my opinion. And if they get to a high enough level to be considered art as well? Even better.

Hey it's The Path again.

Never played braid...not sure why have an odd aversion to 2d platformers.

Somebody really needs to shut this guy up. Making one average game which is somewhat artsy doesn't entitle you to slander the rest of the industry. Unless it does, then I need to make one so I can keep screaming at Valve in interviews to make Half-life 3.

He is definitely right, although he might want to consider learning from the point he himself makes. People (that includes indie developers) need to stop assuming that "Art equals Aesthetic". You CAN have a modern first-person shooter in brown/gray/red and let it still be art - if the gameplay is something new, something exciting, and something that makes you appreciate gaming even more.

Likewise, not every watercolor-artsy-comic-indie-retro-experience is "art-in-games". Some of them are. Some more obviously than others (Passage, for example, qualifies, as does Facade) but you don't have to be pretentious to be "art-in-games".

So yeah, what sound is to music and radio, what colour and shape are to painting, what light, camera work, acting and writing are to film - to games, that's interactivity and gameplay. Neither of these are mutually exclusive, though.

Edit: Also, there's "gameplay" and there's "context". Sometimes, providing new context to old gameplay can be just as effective as trying to re-invent the wheel on the gameplay front. Some of the greatest games of the past few generations (Half Life, for example), changed context instead of gameplay to great effect.

Casual Shinji:

SkarKrow:

Casual Shinji:
I think the word 'art' should be abolished, at least when it comes to talking about videogames. I've never been more sick of hearing about the "games are art" discussion then I am right now.

At this point I'm honestly getting more annoyed with all the people claiming that mainstream games are just "shitty action movies" than with with the actual shitty action movie games themselves.

The games as art thing is annoying me too. To be honest games that put being artistic and having a message before being, idk, fun to play, are stupid in my opinion.

I'd rather play a fun action game than a boring game obsessed with its' own pretentious messages.

Then again I found Shadow of the Colossus to be like watching paint dry so my opinion is invalid according to alot of the more vocal community.

It's not so much the games themselves that I have a problem with; If they're good, they're good.

It's just the constant yammering by indy developers and everyone else that games should be so much more then what they are now, and that to be taken seriously as a art form, yadda yadda yadda...

For a billion dollar industry, the games world has such a low self esteem.

"Indie" Developers generally need to shut their mouths. Same with the so-called "Analysts" who try and predict things that are not set in stone. To me, it seems Mr. "Blow" here is just trying to validate his own intellect instead of bringing some good commentary with occasional snippets of common sense (which is what he apparently does, at least that is what it seems to me). We all know that, to move gaming forward, we need to stop with the constant sequels and move further away from the "FPS" genre as a whole, which we have been doing, albeit very slowly.

As a final note: Journey was a far better game than yours Mr. "Blow", don't consider yourself to be the end-all, be-all of artistic games.

I get Jo-Blo's message (if people don't already call him Jo-Blo they totally should) but the way he comes across when conveying that message makes me want to kick his pretentious teeth down his throat give him a stern talking to. Then I see this and laugh:

Casual Shinji:
I think the word 'art' should be abolished, at least when it comes to talking about videogames. I've never been more sick of hearing about the "games are art" discussion then I am right now.

The worst thing to ever happen to art is that it was given a name.

OT: I don't get why we can't have both - big-budget first person shooters aren't going to make the smaller indie 'artistic' titles go away, the same way that $200 million blockbuster flicks haven't done away with smaller, independent productions and arthouse films. To begin with, there's no reason anyone who doesn't play games should have to take games seriously as an 'artistic' medium, but if you're in that mindset I believe the true strength of a creative medium is in its breadth. There can be all kinds of stories for all kinds of people, different experiences for different people. Saying 'Games should be art and art in gaming can only be done by removing X and adding Y' is far more crippling than any Call of Duty or Halo.

ITS FUNNY BECAUSE HIS GAME IS NOTHING MORE THAN A MEASLY MARIO KNOCK OFF. oh whats that? it has a "message"? no sorry, i thought we were talking about games, and as far as the GAME goes, its just a mario knockoff. putting a bioshock-esque question in there doesnt make it less of a knockoff.

I don't always like what Blow has to say (I quite often find much of what he says to be rather pretentious), but what he's saying here is very true. Self-evident, but true.

Here's an idea...

...why not have both?

Casual Shinji:
t's not so much the games themselves that I have a problem with; If they're good, they're good.

It's just the constant yammering by indy developers and everyone else that games should be so much more then what they are now, and that to be taken seriously as a art form, yadda yadda yadda...

For a billion dollar industry, the games world has such a low self esteem.

Oh I agree, gaming is in a good shape as it is, it's the biggest entertainment market in the world these days for a reason.

I just hate when games are praised and praised for being artistic and having great visual design and blah blah blah. But then it's actually a rather simple and rather boring puzzle platformer and not actually something particularly unique and special. Like Limbo. Limbo is exactly that to me.

A good example of being unique without sacrificing gameplay and enjoyment for "art" or just not using "art" as a main selling point was I Am Alive, I found that to have really nice visual direction and be nice and unique and fresh, whilst also having really solid survival gameplay.

Hecker:
"Look, film didn't get to be film by trying to be theater. First, they had to figure out the things they could do that theater couldn't, like moving the camera around and editing out of sequence-and only then did film come into its own."

Yes, because as we all know, COD doesn't let you actually play, ever. Nope, those buttons in front of you? Totally unresponsive. And there's certainly not the single largest grouping of online multiplayer in human history to prove that statement not only wrong, but actually showing a pretentious idiocy beyond words.

Yeah, shut the fuck up, you hyperbolic fuckwit. Amazingly, films didn't get where they are by shitting over the techniques used in theater, like using actors to act, and replace it all with just camera movements.

As for that claim they're trying to be action movies....did Blow ever actually learn game design? I'm genuinely curious here. Anyone who would criticise games for having your objective be killing people be the deault sounds like someone who just doesn't understand the concept of interactivity.

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