The Break Room Interviews: Jonathan Blow
The creator of Braid talks about his latest project, his willingness to speak his mind, and his ideas on how to elevate the cultural significance of games.
by Tyler Winegarner on
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Yes, because nodding your head and smiling isn't considered to be just basic kindness while in a conversation.
I wouldn't call Braid art or compare it to movies or novels, but it did provide an interesting, unique, and even fun experience. Heavy Rain is pretty close to being a traditional point-and-click adventure game, but it has almost no puzzles and ends up feeling more like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel or interactive movie. I say this after watching a walkthrough, which leaves me with little to no desire to play the game since there isn't much meaningful interaction, it is heavily story-based, and I've already seen the whole story. I may play it someday anyway, but I'm thinking I'll wait a few years until I forget enough of it for it to be interesting.
Good interview. It seems to me that real Perspective is essential if you are honestly working to raise-the-bar in gaming. It also seems to me that real Perspective is essential to raise-the-bar generally with anything that is important or meaningful in life.
I agree with him on what you want out of games changing as you age. These days with both TV and games I want to play something that leaves me feeling that it was worthwhile and challenged me in some way (either that or has very well realised characterisations that can play to my emotional intelligence).
These days I find it really hard to get behind a game unless it has that deeper hook or in Japanese (so I can focus on my language learning)...but nowadays just having the latter doesn't do it for me. A lot of the games I play suddenly seem big and dumb...and I don't mean the obvious ones like explosion-filled action games; there is something contrived about many games in general as the actions characters take in games for instance are often the result of game-logic rather than something any person would do in the situations they found. When you step back and look at what the characters are doing (and why) it suddenly seems really bizarre.
Well we will have to wait and see.It does though sounds very interesting and the interview is very well done congrats
Elevating the cultural significance of games is no more difficult than raising the bar on quality, including in basic concept and development, and disowning trash media and content from what should be an otherwise-respectable artform...OF COURSE I am referring to content and rating, EVERYTHING ELSE by comparison is irrelevant when discussing trash games, not when we really want to make games respectable.
i don't understand why anything he is saying is considered controversial. it's all extremely obvious. even tom was too embarrassed to tell jonathon that gamespot gave red dead redemption game of the year (unlike journey). everybody knows that game publishers, like movie producers, won't take large risks and game critics can only compare games to other games. anything with a little story that makes sense seems deeper, even when it isn't. the takeaway is the developer's like jonathon and journalists like tom are trying very hard to push things in what they believe is the right direction... which is happening, albeit very slowly.
It's strange; I like his GAME, I'm looking forward to 'The Witness', and I agree with most of what he has to say, but I hate HIM. He seems to be putting on this tortured artist/fragile genius mask, and that's all that kind of attitude is, just a show for the person doing it.
Good interview. Relaxed, insightful and very well articulated. A nice way to begin a Sunday morning.
The problem is industry and prestige, Game Publishers don't care about the artform, its the nature of their business to care about quarterly statements but the developers that do care about art need the publishers to make the game, so most AAA's end up in a stalemate of interests. The counter to this is prestige which movies have in the form of Oscars/Baftas/Sundance/Cannes etc... Until we have more developers/publishers that chase a prestige rather than survival through money it will be very hard to gain cultural significance. Also to move into a higher realm of art, Game Fans need to accept change, without change things can't move forward but without the fans they can't keep doing what their doing (another stalemate of interest) in the end... its hopeless really lol
The Thomist philosopher Etienne Gilson wrote:
Obviously, if there is in a substance anything that is act, it is not the matter, it is the form. The form then is the very act whereby a substance is what it is, and, if a being is primarily or, as Aristotle himself says, almost exclusively what it is, each being is primarily and almost exclusively its form. The distinctive character of a truly Aristotelian metaphysics of being...lies in the fact that it knows of no act superior to form, not even existence. There is nothing above being; there is nothing above the form, and this means that the form of a given being is an act of which there is no act.
This is why games are the most significant cultural form in a world that offers such limited possibilities for so many. You can exist via games in a world that is virtually without possibilities beyond selling your labour for long periods of every day and being continuously assessed while being denied access to anything (the other main experience of people).
Chico86 - took the words out of my mouth. The discourse was deep, meaningful, and insightful. They touched on a number of issues that I have been struggling for many years to put a face and name to. I especially like the comparison to film, literature, and other art forms. Well done!
Hands down the best gaming interview I've ever seen in my life, right here! Thanks Jonathan and Tom, truly.
I wondered a bit about the life of those goomba/lion head guys in Braid. They get shot out of a cannon often right into a deadly situation like a pit of flaming spikes or whatever. Do they not have an existence until they are shot out of the cannon? That's a cruel life. Do they have a family of little lion heads that they are being taken from? I don't know which one is worse.
The less than enthusiastic "ouch" noises always make me smile though. You have terrible little lives. Show it, furry Camus.
I like his critique of BioShock. I had the same take away from it. Its message was hidden behind the game play.
There's a growing problem I've been thinking about for awhile and it comes out a lot in this video. Elitism, and Tom is LOVING it :), he's the perfect choice for this interview. Game journalists, which in the gaming industry are also reviewers, are losing touch with the actual gaming public. It's part of why indie gaming is so hyped now, and yes I believe it is hype, many indie games are shallow and have nothing innovative in them, they just use simple graphics and claim it's some unique art style. And before you flame me with examples, I said MOST not ALL :).
Personally, for me maybe not everyone, story is not a big problem in games today. What turns me off from many of today's games is simple gameplay mechanics, things like quick time events and heavily scripted sequences that give the damned cinematic experience everyone talks about now, at the expense of gameplay. Shooting guys in the face can be a great game, I just prefer to do it in a game where I need to make good use of tactics to succeed at it.
There's nothing wrong with shooters you know, just like there's nothing wrong with other genres. As an example, Call of Duty, the game everyone loves to hate now. I haven't really played it since it left WWII, and I don't care for it much, I actually think it's too simple, too run and gun. But, I cannot deny that it has to be doing something right to be so popular and enjoyed by so many people. I'm looking forward to a game called Takedown because it's supposedly going to be all tactical and more realistic. Still, I don't feel the need to call the CoD fans stupid idiots for liking their game that might be considered more simple and less difficult. Hey, even if the tactics are very simple, being fast enough to make a shot in a so called twitch shooter takes skill, it's just a different type of skill than other games.
Ah, my comments are kind of disjointed but I'm just getting tired of this subtle (sometimes not so much) condescending undertone I keep getting from many of today's gaming journalists.
@Jazztickets Because the museum was taken.
@Articuno76 I can absolutely relate to that. A good indication is when you think about how you approach puzzles or challenges in a game. Do you actually put yourself in the characters' shoes and try to figure out a solution for their situation, or are you just analysing the game rules and mechanics on a superficial level, and try to find a way how to beat them? When it's the latter, I find that I get bored a lot quicker. You're getting better at playing one specific game, but it's not something that stays with you when you stop playing it.
It's very similar to films. Either you're really involved with the plot and characters, or you're basically just trying to figure out which Hollywood cliché they will bring next. Might be good for easy entertainment, but I usually prefer one that you can think about, discuss with others, and want to watch again some day. I only have time for so many films/games, so I'd rather watch/play something that I get the most out of.
Gamers haven't been just teenagers for a long time now, and bringing more meaningful titles must be a huge, virtually untapped market.
@Otacon6669 Licensing fees incoming!
@Chunkman Hah, we're in the same boat you and I ! :)
@hystavito Personally, I am fine with being accused of "losing touch" with the gaming public (whatever that means; I am *part* of the gaming public, as far as I'm concerned) if it means that I can support games that try to do something more emotionally and intellectually engaging than shooting guys in the face. If you are content with a bunch of shooters, and not having games emotionally or intellectually challenge you in other ways, that's fine. I'm glad, however, that many of us know that games can be--and often are--much more than that.
@RetroSEAL he was promoting it on twitter with links and wishes
@ABEzilla116 Those publishers are very few today. But like in music the good news is that they have lost a lot of importance. AAA publishers spend millions on ever flashier graphics for their titles, but today Indie developers can use technology that would have been cutting edge just 5 or so years ago, for very little money. Let alone the possibilities for independent distribution. 20-25 years ago you could create a top-of-the-line game with a couple of friends. We're slowly getting there again.
@Travis_Odell You seem like a very pleasant person.
@Kevin-V @hystavito But you see, you're doing it right there :). I'm not being a jerk or feeling insulted, honestly, but look at what you said and how you said it. Instead of saying that you are glad those other games exist, you said you are glad that many of you know they can exist. I just looked up the definition of elitism, and that is a key element :).
I'm like a grumpy old gamer now that dislikes many of today's games, and that would include many of those games that do not challenge people intellectually or emotionally. But it's not because I think they are lowbrow or something, they're just different.
@Gwoolhurme @hystavito Agreed. I don't see it either. I don't know whether he sees something we don't or what. I pretty much agree with Tom and his thinking on games but I don't consider myself an elitist or a snob. And on another point one of the most annoying things in the world is another person telling you what your motivations are. You will never know.
@hystavito I hardly find game journalists, especially on this website to be elitist at all, nor did I understand your point? This isn't a troll I am legitimately confused as to what you mean, or rather what I am not seeing. As for indie games, as you said your self, you are an old gamer, and indie games can at times give you a sense of challenge or retro feeling at times. For me the real draw is, it's a team of a handful of people creating beautiful games, that at times hold up better than large studios. At many times, these people get zero exposure except for sites like these...
@RetroSEAL @obsequies I haven't gotten it yet, its on sale for 15 with a regular of 20. I've heard one person say that its short but I've heard other say that it took awhile maybe the guy that said it was short didn't know what he was talking about or was trolling I dunno. I've been wanting to play it for awhile though, its probably great for an indie but I just hope it doesn't get high expectations.