TIGInterview: Jonathan Blow

By: Leigh Christian Ashton

On: May 11th, 2009

Jonathan Blow

I’d find it hard to believe anyone visiting these pages would need an introduction to Jonathan Blow, the amazingly talented game developer/guru seems to be everywhere at the moment, his game Braid being the darling hit on Xbox Live and having recently stormed onto the PC. I took the opportunity to fire some questions over so that he could pour some honey into my ears in reply (except, being an email interview, i guess it would be my eyes? and metaphorically at that?)

Anyway, without further ado, please read on..

Leigh: Jon, hello, thanks for taking the time to answer some of my questions. Could you please introduce yourself to the crowd?

Jon: Hi, my name is Jonathan Blow. I make games! I started out in games as mainly a technical guy, but recently I have been thinking ever-more about design, and on Braid I cared much more about the game design than the technical parts.

Leigh: You’ve just released Braid on multiple distribution platforms for the PC. With a longer than average development cycle for an independent developer, you must be pleased to see it finally go out the door?

Jon: It’s nice to have the game (mostly) done. There’s still the Mac port to watch over (though I am not handling the porting of that; Hothead Games is doing it), and the question of whether Braid is going to appear on any other consoles.

Leigh: Though originally developed for the PC, you released Braid first for the Xbox 360, Did this add substantial development time to the project? How complete was the PC version prior to the switch?

Jon: The Xbox 360 version definitely did add substantial development time to the project; there’s a lot of work to do for a platform like that. However, there wasn’t really a “switch”. It was up in the air which platform would be the first release, and eventually I decided on the Xbox 360. At that time the game was pretty much done from end to end, in terms of the number of levels and the puzzle design, though that had been true for a while (the IGF award-winning submission of Braid was the complete game, and that was back in December 2005; I signed with Microsoft in mid-2007). Even after the Xbox 360 was chosen as the target platform, there was a lot of work left to do on the basic game — I was still working heavily with David Hellman to determine how the game would look, and to produce the graphics and do the programming required to place them in the levels.

Leigh: Has the PC version benefited in any substantial way from the inclusion of a port to the 360?

The Braid Title Screen
Jon: It was nice to have a solid, well-defined platform to focus on while finishing the actual game part of the game, before having to worry about all the programming involved in dealing with PC compatibility issues. So I think the game benefited some from my being able to focus on a single tangible experience that the user would have.

Leigh: Braid feels like a game you want people to become emotionally engaged in more than just played, do you feel its important for games to be more than a test of skill or memory?

Jon: I wouldn’t ever claim that all games should be a certain way. There are a lot of possibilities for where games can go, and it’s probably a good idea to explore them all.

Leigh: Is it better to elicit emotional responses through gameplay or narrative? Does it matter if either is well done?

Jon: I gave a whole lecture recently about why I think story-based games have a lot of problems. Here’s the link: http://braid-game.com/news/?p=385 . If a designer is thinking about making something emotional through narrative, I would encourage some kind of narrative structure that is not trying to be a conventional linear story. Of course the gameplay route is also full of untapped potential, but there are reasons why it can be difficult to make headway there, which I discuss in the lecture.

Leigh: You spend a lot of time making prototypes of different gameplay mechanics, is it as much about implementation as innovation?

Jon: If you mean about enjoying the craft of programming… I have to admit I don’t really enjoy programming very much any more, because in order to get things done I have adopted a style of programming that makes it as simple as I can, so that it is just easy to get things done, and it only requires time and a lot of typing. So I am not really solving any difficult puzzles or challenges when programming, as beginning programmers might. On the plus side, this means I can program in a relatively efficient manner; on the minus side, it’s a less-engaging activity. I make up for that on the design side; whether I am making a prototype or a full game, it’s about exploring some interesting space of ideas. Programming is now just the implementation detail of how I do that exploration.

It’s not really about innovation so much as exploring interestingness. There is this idea of chasing innovation in game design that I used to be a big proponent of, but that I now suspect is a little bit misdirected.

Leigh: You’re not afraid to throw away cool ideas when they don’t feel right at the prototype stage. A lot of other developers might not be so detached from their ideas.

Jon: These things are true! I try to encourage people to be willing to delete stuff that is mediocre or just kind of good – or at least put that stuff in a closet for some future day – so that they can focus on the stuff that is great. Many people don’t think that way, though. When it is so hard to get anything substantial done, you just don’t want to throw away any of your hard-earned progress. One solution is to make it easier to make progress.

Leigh: Should all games try to innovate? Is re-interpreting the implementation of an innovative new mechanic as valid? I ask because it’s worth noting a number of games have time-play in them now.

Sorry, but the princess is in the other castle..
Jon: I think gameplay innovation can result in things that are interesting, but at the same time it doesn’t automatically result in something that is deep — often it’s a gimmick. I am interested in deepness and richness of game design. You can get that with deliberate innovation or without; I think the issues are orthogonal. At the same time, I think if a designer is working on something he really cares about, and is really exploring some ideas in his own style, bringing his own particular insight to the table, then he will automatically come up with something different than most other games; furthermore, this will be a deeper, more-compelling kind of innovation.

That’s what I meant earlier about the deliberate chasing of innovation being a somewhat misguided pursuit. Yes, you can make neat stuff that way, but the innovation will come to you for free if you do things a different way, and you are likely to end up with a different result.

To take a specific example, Braid would be kind of interesting if it were a game with gimmicky time-manipulation mechanics, but I think that many players find it more interesting than that because it is built on a core philosophy and a thorough exploration of a certain set of ideas. Players can feel that, even if they can’t say what the philosophy is or explain the ideas being explored.

Leigh: With talk of innovation and emotional investment, there are still some very conventional design choices like jumping on the head of monsters, moving platforms, ladders, levers and collectables. Is this saying fundamentally there’s not so much wrong with games as they are, they just missing those one or two extra ideas to make them more worthwhile?

Jon: I did these things because they were right for Braid; for another game, I would do something completely different. I don’t think you should take the presence of these elements in Braid as any kind of statement about whether anything is or isn’t wrong with games as they are.

Leigh: Can you talk a little about what inspires your design choices?

Jon: I’d like to, but this is a very broad question. Hopefully in the previous answers I have at least given a little bit of information about this.

Leigh: What about games that you enjoy, are there any real favourites you can say have had an impact on you in some way?

Jon: There are a lot of games that I’ve played that I enjoyed and that influenced the design of Braid. Probably too many to name. Games that currently spring to mind as “favorites” are very different and probably didn’t influence Braid too much (examples: Netrek, and Counter-Strike sometime around the beta 4 – beta 5 timeframe).

Leigh: Since Braid is a platformer, I want to tell you my favourite platformer of all time was The New Zealand Story. Any chance of a remake with time reversal? :)

Jon: I never played The New Zealand Story! Maybe I’ll be able to check it out sometime.

Leigh: Heh, I was only joking, but have you ever wanted to remake any old favorites, felt there was an opportunity missed that you’d like to explore?

Jon: I often get the idea to remake old games, though I usually don’t do it. Actually, though, one of the earlier ideas I was playing with in Braid was that there would be secret levels with remakes of classic games, modified with the time rules of each particular world, accessible when you finished each puzzle. I had an entire remake of Mountain King in Braid at one point. I think it was better than the original Mountain King, with more-sophisticated gameplay, but it didn’t fit what Braid was becoming, so I eventually took it out.

Leigh: Thanks for your time Jon! It’s been really great to hear from you.

Jon: You’re welcome!

Jonathan Blow created Braid for the Xbox 360 and PC which is available now at various digital outlets. You can view the Braid website, Jon has a blog and he is also a workshop organizer at The Experimental Gameplay Workshop

To top it all off, he’s an indie superhero who could talk the hind legs off a donkey, bravo sir!

  • http://www.indiebird.com Alex Vostrov

    All in favour of striking the word “pretentious” from the English language say “Aye”.


    I share your frustration, but that was unneccesary. Assaulting a man with a caps lock like that is ungentlemanly. I disagree with his position as well, but he’s been courteous so far. Let’s not turn this into a flame war.

  • braidfan99

    And yes, what Jonathan Blow says is fact. Braid isn’t a good game for nothing. The sheer status of what Braid is alone is enough to make Jonathan Blow an authority and the single most factual person on everything related to game design ever.

  • give up please its hopeless

    There really is no hope in debating anything here since Jonathan Blow is the self appointed God of indie gaming, game design, and everything. And his people have their noses so far up his ass, and are so deeply wallowing in his brilliance that you can’t even hope to convince them otherwise.

  • http://www.indiebird.com Alex Vostrov


    I swear, we need a sarcasm detector for the Internet. I’ll pay quite a bit for a working one.

    Let’s not put Braid or Jon Blow on a pedestal. Braid was very well made, and I find his vision compelling, but he’s only mortal, after all.

  • alspal

    Falsion, what makes you a self appointed judge of everything?

  • not falsion

    jonathan blow is awesome. my opinion doesnt mean shit. disregard what i say i suck cocks

  • http://www.indiebird.com Alex Vostrov

    @give up please its hopeless

    Well, if you bothered to articulate why you feel this way, perhaps people would actually listen to you. As it stands, all I see is an assortment of standard malcontents.

  • falsion

    You know, maybe someday I will make a game and it will become successful like Braid. Even if that were to happen, I won’t let my success get to me and try act like the one who can tell everyone else what a game should or shouldn’t be.

    Whatever, I’m done here. At this point this is nothing more than a flamewar, especially with the recent comments here that actually are “trolling” now.

  • lolsion

    in other words im stupid and nothing of value was lost

  • lolsion

    in other words im dumb and nothing of value was lost

  • http://www.indiebird.com Alex Vostrov


    That’s too bad, you seem to be sincere in your beliefs. It would be nice to see what lies at their root.

    If you made a succesful game, wouldn’t you want to share your knowledge with others? That would involve saying that certain things are better than others. Like it or not, but if some games can be excellent, other games have to suck.

  • Paul Eres

    Jon, thanks for your reply to my comment. Sorry for this late response, but I still have a question: although falsion is an idiot who uses personal attacks (irony intended), he did bring up one good point early on: that you basically said that games with linear narrative can’t evoke emotion very well. But in my experience and in the experience of many people who play games, it’s *exactly* games with a strong linear narrative that evoke the greatest emotional response. I’ve never played a game with a procedurally generated story (branching stories or stories that are slightly interactive don’t count) that can compare emotionally to games with linear stories. So I don’t think “If a designer is thinking about making something emotional through narrative, I would encourage some kind of narrative structure that is not trying to be a conventional linear story” is a good encouragement, considering empiricism.

  • falsion

    “If you made a succesful game, wouldn’t you want to share your knowledge with others?”

    Yeah, but there is a difference between sharing your knowledge with others, as in things like what exactly goes into your mind when you make something, what works in making a game, etc. and saying what you think a game should or shouldn’t be and denouncing things that just don’t happen to work for you. I would do the former, but the latter I just can’t wrap my head around.

  • Chris Whitman

    You know, I’ve never heard a designer try to put more weight on the decisions and preferences of other people than Jon seems to. It’s probably why I tend to enjoy his lectures more than those of other people — because he isn’t ignorant (or in denial) of the fact that a game is a complex organism, and what matters is that the parts work together.

    I mean, sure, there’s probably a bit of a bias towards non-story-based games in there, but he only rightly points out the associated difficulties. I’ve never heard him say outright that story-based games are bad or that you just shouldn’t do them. And he tends to cite examples for these problems and present well-reasoned points.

    If that sounds like too much opinion to swallow… I don’t know, don’t read interviews or listen to lectures? I’m not going to say you’re ‘deficient’ for disliking the interview, but there are lots of people who enjoy talking about this stuff, so I guess the best recommendation I could give is not to participate if you don’t want to.

  • http://www.indiebird.com Alex Vostrov


    What if you thought that a particular game was really bad? Not in the sense of poor execution, but damaging artistically? Why is it that other people’s work sacrosanct? Criticizing other games is part of the dialogue. Jon doesn’t do this out of arrogance, he has very good reasons for his opinions. Perhaps you don’t agree with them, it that case you should address his arguments.

    @Paul Eres

    I feel that linear narrative is a red herring as far as interactive works go. Other media can do it much better than computers, so aping them is a dead end. The problem is that computers can do so many things that it’s easy to go down side passages. Movies are familiar and relatively easy, so that’s what the industry leeched onto.

    I think that once we’re comfortable with the medium, we’ll be able to have equal or greater impact compared to static media. Then again, maybe I’ve been listening to Crawford too much.

    I can’t really justify my optimism for the procedural approach other than saying that it’s more true to the medium. That said, it’s possible that we’ll need hundreds of years to reach parity. If you thought that it was a fool’s errand, I wouldn’t quibble. The proof will be in the pudding, either way.

  • Chris Whitman

    And yeah, the assertion that the moment you enjoy someone’s lecture you think they are the master of time and space is just stupid.

    I enjoy things all the time, it isn’t like I have to construct a pantheon out of them. I hate being painted as some kind of sycophant for just liking something, so can we cut that out too?

  • Mike W

    Then again why IS Jonathan Blow in a position to give lectures to people on game design anyway? Because he made a single successful game that managed to get decent exposure on XBLA?

    The thing is though, anyone can become successful if they try hard enough and are given the right circumstances, even this falsion guy here, but does that make them an authority on game design? I mean, would you want falsion, who under the right circumstances probably could make a successful game, to be dictate to you what or what isn’t a good game? Cuz that’d a very scary thought indeed.

  • Lyx

    How about this: Fix your deficits instead, then you wont have to consider people who are successful as a threat :-) Or if that doesn’t work, start a real pub brawl instead of abusing teh interweb for a virtual one :)

    Seriously, almost noone here cares about your personal “issues” – and especailly not your “management” of those.

  • Paul Eres

    “I’ve never heard him say outright that story-based games are bad or that you just shouldn’t do them.”

    And nobody is saying he has (except maybe falsion). But he did say that if you want to make something emotional with narrative, traditional storytelling isn’t the way to do it.

    Which is just kind of false on the face of it to me. I’ve played tens of thousands of games, so I’ve a pretty broad knowledge of which games have evoked emotion in me and which haven’t. And it’s usually games with linear stories that did it. I don’t think making Ico procedurally hold Yorda’s hand (for instance) is as emotional to most players as good old pre-written dialogue in, say, Vanguard Bandits (which did have a branching story with five interesting branches, but all were pre-written and used traditional storytelling).

    I think it’s fair if he personally hasn’t felt very emotionally attached to games with linear stories. Maybe he just doesn’t play the games I play, who knows. There could be a lot of explanations. But I think it’s bad advice to basically say to game developers: if you want to make something emotional through narrative, don’t use traditional storytelling techniques in games. Because it’s not true, they have a far better chance of making something emotional for the player if they use traditional storytelling techniques.

    Does that mean that there isn’t some inherent contradiction between linear stories and interactivity? Does that mean that he isn’t write in his points or criticism? Of course not. But it’s nonetheless wrong to suggest that traditional storytelling in games has a worse chance of evoking emotion than experimental non-linear procedurally generated stories. Maybe one day we’ll be at the point where things like Storytron can be emotionally compelling. But until we are, it’s bad advice to tell game developers to just disregard the thousands of years of collected wisdom on narrative and storytelling.

  • falsion

    Mike W: Uh, what? You know what, I’m not going to even bother with that comment.

    Lyx: What the hell are you talking about? Abusing the internet? What the hell have I done besides say that I don’t really agree with the way Jonathan Blow does things? Personal issues? Where the hell are you getting this stuff from?

  • Lyx

    “Then again why IS Jonathan Blow in a position to give lectures to people on game design anyway? Because he made a single successful game that managed to get decent exposure on XBLA?”

    There are many people who made successful games. Yet only a few of them give lectures. What does that tell you?

    Mainly, that even though a successful game may help, its not the only thing which matters. Hint: Designers have created works which became popular, without at the time of the creation being aware why it would work out. With Blow, that is not the case: When he created, he was aware of what he was doing and why. BUT: Even this is not enough, unless you also have the skills to communicate this understanding – which is another skill which applies to Blow.

    So you see: It is not ONE thing, which mattered, but the combination of multiple aspects.

  • Daniel

    I bought Braid for Windows and played it all the way through with the help of various YouTube videos and FAQs.

    I have mixed feelings about the game. Asthetically it’s probably of the most beautifully crafted games I’ve come across in a long time.

    But, at times I really hated it and at other times (perhaps in moments of honesty) I realised that I was just frustrated that I sucked at solving the puzzles.

    Maybe it says more about me than the game that I had such negative feelings at times? I don’t know. Maybe I should have been more patient with it?

    Thumbs up either way, for making something so interesting, if not controversial.

    So (back on topic) it’s great to hear what the man has to say about game design. Let’s face it, the industry has been very stagnant in this area for a long time…

  • http://erikbriggs.me Erik Briggs

    @the whiners: The question of Jonathan Blow’s credibility isn’t one that lowly readers here can refute. Its a matter for the whole industry, and as such, you lose. You individually can think what he says is crap, but that is your own opinion. He never says that his opinion is anything more, its TIG and the rest of the industry who have given him the respect because he has earned it. Do your reading and research. If you listen/read/watch the things he says (not just in this interview), its quite obvious that he puts more thought into game design than you or some paltry reviewer. It’s just flat out stupid to say that your opinion holds as much sway as his. Sure, you have as much right to yours as he does to his, but he has something to back it up: an award winning game. If you didn’t like it, you can’t change the fact that the rest of the industry did. Go check out metacritic. It’s almost universal.

    If you disagree with what he says, prove otherwise by actions. Don’t sit here like a troll and complain. Go make a game with a linear story and prove that they can still hold as much as another type of game. View it as a challenge rather than a dumb opinion. You can think for yourself, and nobody says that what Jonathan says is law.

    As for me, I listen to what he has to say because it has an academic ring to it which is rare in today’s industry. The industry is filled with crap, but there are gems to be found. Lucky for us, its more commonplace in the indie scene, but it is still rare nonetheless.

  • falsion

    “Which is just kind of false on the face of it to me. I’ve played tens of thousands of games, so I’ve a pretty broad knowledge of which games have evoked emotion in me and which haven’t.”

    “But I think it’s bad advice to basically say to game developers: if you want to make something emotional through narrative, don’t use traditional storytelling techniques in games. Because it’s not true, they have a far better chance of making something emotional for the player if they use traditional storytelling techniques.”

    Yes. That’s pretty much what I’m trying to say except I suck at making arguments and I say things in a way that makes people think I’m trolling.

    Okay, maybe it was my fault for not stating specific examples like you did. But you pretty much nailed it in the head what I was thinking.

    The thing is makes these kinds of statements and giving such bad advice and that’s just what I dislike about it all so much. I wouldn’t mind it so much if he just said that he isn’t really effected by traditional storytelling and that it doesn’t suit his tastes, rather than just saying that flat out they shouldn’t use it to convey emotion.

  • falsion

    *he makes

    er, typo again sorry

  • http://www.indiebird.com Alex Vostrov

    @Mike W

    The reason why people listen to Jon is that he can present his arguments in a well reasoned form. Braid is just the cherry on top, giving substance to the theory. To be honest, I don’t even feel like it’s the best representation of the ideas in his lectures. It’s an awesome game, but it feels like he’s progressed beyond that philosophically.

    @Paul Eres

    Doesn’t it feel weird though? It’s like having stills with text in a movie. You can do that, and maybe you can make an awesome story that way, but wouldn’t it be better if it was a book?

  • falsion

    Oh and please don’t bring up the “if you haven’t made a game, you shouldn’t have an opinion” argument. I think we already went over this on the last comment page or so a while back.

  • http://www.indiebird.com Alex Vostrov


    I don’t think that it’s fair to take the comment about linear narrative in isolation. I can’t read Blow’s mind, but I’ve listened to his lectures and might have a guess at the thought pattern.

    One of the things that he talks about is the conflict between the procedural meaning of a work and the meaning of the linear narrative. His argument is that most games fail to harmonize these two things and thus convey a discordant message. That’s why you might want to stay away from the conventional approach.

  • Paul Eres

    @”Go make a game with a linear story and prove that they can still hold as much as another type of game. View it as a challenge rather than a dumb opinion.”

    Done and done. You don’t actually remember which games I’ve developed, do you? :)

    I don’t view it as a dumb opinion. I’m not saying Blow’s dumb or arrogant the way falsion is. I’m just saying he may be missing something: that empirically, the most emotional responses people get from games tend to be from games with linear stories.

    @Alex Vostrov:

    I can’t say it feels very weird, no. And no, I don’t think it’d be better if it were a book. Is that old “if you want to make a story in a game, write a book” argument the really the best you can come up with? Don’t you see how silly that type of argument is? Stories exist in dozens, maybe hundreds of media. It’s not just books. It’s books, movies, songs (through their lyrics), poetry, plays, games, and on and on. All of those media have *successfully* told captivating stories.

    I think the basic thing I find wrong with this attitude of “I’ve never played a game with as good a story as a book or movie” is that I have, and that just the fact that someone else hasn’t can’t really convince someone who has of the idea that games can’t do stories as well as other media can — because they can. It’s also dismissing (and dismissive of) a huge section of people who play games who enjoy the stories they contain, and telling all those people basically: no, you’re doing it wrong, you shouldn’t tell stories linearly in games, it’s not good even though you enjoy it.

  • http://www.indiebird.com Alex Vostrov


    “Oh and please don’t bring up the “if you haven’t made a game, you shouldn’t have an opinion” argument. I think we already went over this on the last comment page or so a while back.”

    He’s right about this, guys. I haven’t ever designed a car tire, but if it spontaneously exploded while driving, I’d call it a pretty crappy tire.

    You don’t need to have done X to have an opinion about it. However, if you want others to pay attention to what you say, you DO need to present a well-reasoned argument.

  • Lyx


    I think you’re here falling into one of the traps in which falsion as well fell: That you like something tells you nothing about “what is possible”. Different scales of rating, you know? At this point in time, most people know traditional storytelling. They have experience with that. They also know about a few attempts of dynamic stories… mostly attempts which still kinda stick to the traditional style and which just modify it a little bit to get multiple paths. So, if what does that tell you about the rating-scale at work here? Right: We havent seen many successful attempts yet of interactive stories – and when i say interactive here, i do not just mean “the player can press some buttons”… rather i mean that the story is CREATED by the interactive aspect: Playing the game creates the story.

    To compare it to the earlier MMO-Analogy: It may very well be that most of current MMO players are satisfied with what those games currently are, and that they like it – but that tells you nothing about what may be possible beyond that, and how satisfying that would be to those players.

    Here’s my take on it: The major advantage of a static story is that it is cheap. You dont need to design mechanics, you dont need to design AI, you dont need to take into account any kind of dynamics. You just write the story – which means that you can put all your effort into that single story. Depending on the preferences of the player, the story may very well be emotionally intense to that specific player.

    1. In that specific regard, it is not a game – it is a novel or a movie. So without other elements in the “game”, it doesn’t even make sense to call it “linear storytelling in a game”. What you created in that regard, was perhaps a wonderful novel, but not a game. That doesn’t make it by definition better or worse – its just that its no game in that regard – its something else.

    2. What if we do not only take players into account which optimally match the story? Well, in that case a strength of dynamic stories becomes apparent: They adapt to the player. What the player experience is no longer “the game story”, but rather HIS/HER story. This is important, because it means that the story has a connection to the person playing it… and this, if done well, does increase emotional attachment and intensity.

    3. Interaction itself is strongly linked to personal attachment and building a relationship with something. In the case of interactive stories, the player is no longer “told” the story, but rather he partially is “doing” it.

    So, my take: Interactive stories have far more emotional potential – but they are also much more expensive. A lot of that expensiveness comes from having to create an “engine” for something like that and having to do lots of research beforehand – to do it really well, you need to understand how the characters in your game “work”, not just “what they are doing”. After one did all that homework, future games building on that may be significantly less effort… but well, nowadays this is an obscurity, so you’ll have to do everything yourself – and this “everything” may very well be enough workhours to do 4 other linear or “multiple-ending” games instead.

  • Paul Eres

    I don’t disagree with any of that, Lyx — I agree that interactive stories have potential. I’m one of Crawford’s biggest fans, I’d be thrilled if procedural storytelling actually worked, and I fully expect it to work one day. But it hasn’t yet, and until it does, it’s bad advice to tell developers not to tell stories in the traditional fashion. Plus, I think that potential we desire will best be realized not by abandoning thousands of years of wisdom on storytelling, but by embracing it, altering it, and adapting it for interactive media. Instead of seeking reasons why traditional storytelling won’t work in interactive media, it’d be more productive to look into how interactivity can be adapted so that it can make traditional storytelling *better*, not just entirely replace it.

  • xerus


  • http://www.indiebird.com Alex Vostrov

    @Paul Eres

    Firstly, I’m not disparaging people who enjoy game stories. A story is a story regardless of the medium. It it’s interesting, that means that the artist did a good job. The question is though, could it be better? I can shoot Citizen Kane in Quake 2 machinima, but it’s much better as a movie.

    Secondly, I don’t see what’s silly about my argument. Perhaps you can tell me what’s beneficial about doing a linear story on a computer. Why is it superior to a book or a movie?

    As I’ve said, you COULD have a movie that consists entirely of stills with text. Let’s say it’s the text of Paradise Lost. If that’s how Milton wrote his epic, it would still be a great work. Now, why would you want to do that if you have a choice?

  • Paul Eres

    I’d love to continue discussing this Alex, but think it’d be best to address this in a better place than this thread. Are you a member of the TIGSource forum? We could create a thread about this. I prefer discussion there due to email notification, ease of quoting, ease of editing, avoiding anonymous internet trolls intruding randomly into the discussion, etc.

  • http://www.indiebird.com Alex Vostrov


    You’re right, this has gotten a bit off-topic. I’m a member of the forum, of course. Where else could I release my games? =)

  • tomelin

    What, Blow on TIGS ? AGAIN ?
    How long do you people need to push that mediocrity out of the water ? Let it sink already. I swear, all this Braid rage really smells artificial, i havent personally met anyone who got such a fangasm from it as you guys are, everyone i know said it was a “meh” game.
    Not to mention Blow totally betraying his original supporters and going to consoles, great job on alienating people who dug up your name out of the scrap heap.

  • Radix

    Play New Zealand Story.

  • http://erikbriggs.me Erik Briggs

    @Paul, I wasn’t singling you out. And no, I didn’t know who you were by name, the same as you don’t know who I am. Sorry for that, but I don’t have time to read everything in the indie scene. It’s things that grab my attention that do get read, however, and most things by Jonathan happen to be on my radar lately. By definition you haven’t been whining, since your arguments contain logic that can be followed by those of us who can actually read :).

    Regarding it being bad advice to tell someone to try procedural storytelling: I don’t necessarily agree. Who is going to finally make this happen if not game programmers? Why not tell them to try it, or how else do you think it might happen? I do agree that unless you think you’ve got the right sauce, that going with what works is never a bad decision.

    That being said, I respect Jonathan for having the balls to say stories in games are crap. Some people are bugged by his “arrogance,” but really, who else is going to tell people that their boring stories suck? Most of today’s consumers aren’t doing it. I don’t necessarily agree with what he says all the time or how he says it, but I do understand what it is that he is trying to say. He is encouraging people to (pardon the cliche) “think outside the box.” He doesn’t say “this is how you make innovative games,” but rather says that thinking outside the box will lead you in the right direction. Why not do a little exploration rather than taking the well-worn trail. Everyone has their own path. Some people will make great games following the time=tested paths, while others (yet undiscovered talents) will walk on these less-traveled paths. It is these who will be bringing new things to light.

  • Paul Eres

    Here’s the thread about the topic of interactive storytelling vs linear stories in games, I think it’s best to move it to there for the interested:


    @Erik: I will respond to you in that forum thread. If you don’t have an account there, sign up! The forums are fun here.

  • helldiver

    Jonathan Blow isn’t relevant and any claims about how much a genius he is are overblown due to his success with how overrated Braid has managed to become.

    In the reviews for Braid, all they talk about is how its a work of art. That it is stunning, and beautiful and mesmerizing. Some even say that the gameplay feels rather incomplete as a puzzle platformer, yet still give it perfect reviews for being a work of art.

    The thing is though, as a game it’s rather lacking. It’s nothing more than a jigsaw puzzle game dumped on top of a platform game where the platform game is secondary and used as nothing but a means to find pieces for the cross word puzzle game. And to make it even worse, the platform game aspect of it has no point beyond finding puzzle pieces. And you can’t go to other levels without completing them, but completing them does nothing since the game is really just a jigsaw puzzle game and not primarily a platformer.

    Yet that’s ignored because the game and overall feel and style of it amazes the shit out of the reviewers.

    Jonathan Blow if anything just managed to make a game that just really impresses people so much that they don’t really care if its much of a game or not.

    Yet, he acts like he can comment on what makes a game when he has failed to make a game but just an interactive work of art. The only people who actually think he is relevant are those too stupid to realize just why his game was so successful in the first place, and that is for all the reasons other than it being a game.

  • judgespear

    “Who else is going to tell people that their boring stories suck?”

    I have a better question, who is going to tell Jonathan Blow that his stories suck?

    Because anyone who does is automatically considered a troll, while Jonathan Blow can go ahead and tell everyone this and is supposedly infallible according to you.

    For example. Braid had some bizarre analogy about an couple in Manhattan that made no sense, among other things which completely fell flat and were nothing more than vague stabs in the dark about things that Jonathan Blow himself can’t even elaborate on. The whole “your interpretation” thing, where you are supposed to put together an image out of very little. How is that conveying emotions or doing any of the things Jonathan Blow even lectures on?

  • Chris Whitman

    “i havent personally met anyone who got such a fangasm from it as you guys are, everyone i know said it was a “meh” game.”

    “Jonathan Blow if anything just managed to make a game that just really impresses people so much that they don’t really care if its much of a game or not.”

    Yeah, it’s a ‘fangasm,’ and we all really hate Braid, we just pretend because it makes us feel special.

    How hard is it to grasp that some people actually like it? I understand you don’t like it. I never showed up to your house and forced it down your throat. Are you really both so unimaginative that you can’t grasp someone else having different preferences?

    If you think the entire internet should be tailored to your preferences, get used to disappointment. Otherwise, what the hell are you complaining about?

  • http://www.indiebird.com Alex Vostrov


    You must have played some other game called “Braid” than I have.

    The game that I played was a game that explored time manipulation in the context of a platformer. The puzzle bits were only there to serve as goals for you to reach.

  • judgespear

    Maybe that is a reason why people take issues with him saying how things should or shouldn’t be because he himself doesn’t even actually do most of the things he tries to talk and share his “expertise” about.

  • moi

    I find all these unending discussions about “GAMES AS ART” boring. Maybe I have nothing to do on TIGSOURCE?

    Anyway what’s the point doing a non linear story? everybody knows that most players will act like autists and restart the game until they have seen all the endings.
    And I agree with avoidobject that non linear games generally convey less emotion than linear games, just like movies convey more emotions than videogames in general.

    Also most of these so-called high-class intellectual academic artsy games are almost always just super mario clones. Sometimes just an extended Mario tutorial.

    You guys are taking all the fun out of videogames with your aert.

  • Chris Whitman

    “The thing is though, as a game it’s rather lacking.”

    I’m tired of arguing with people that a game isn’t just one set thing, so I’ll pass the buck to the German philosopher Wittgenstein (excerpt from Philosophical Investigations, Part I):

    “66. Consider for example the proceedings that we call “games”. I mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on. What is common to them all? — Don’t say: “There must be something common, or they would not be called ‘games’ ” — but look and see whether there is anything common to all. — For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. To repeat: don’t think, but look! — Look for example at board-games, with their multifarious relationships. Now pass to card-games; here you find many correspondences with the first group, but many common features drop out, and others appear. When we pass next to ball-games, much that is common is retained, but much is lost. — Are they all ‘amusing’? Compare chess with noughts and crosses. Or is there always winning and losing, or competition between players? Think of patience. In ball games there is winning and losing; but when a child throws his ball at the wall and catches it again, this feature has disappeared. Look at the parts played by skill and luck; and at the difference between skill in chess and skill in tennis. Think now of games like ring-a-ring-a-roses; here is the element of amusement, but how many other characteristic features have disappeared! sometimes similarities of detail.”

  • Chris Whitman

    And yeah, moi, because Jon made a puzzle game about time manipulation, now no one else can make a regular ol’ platformer.

    Way to go, Jon.

  • moi

    I don’t get what you’er saying chris whitman. You high?

    Also for everybody here: there is an old saying
    “You don’t have to be a cook to say that the food is bad”

  • lolz

    Then again Wittgenstein was a homosexual so his opinions are pretty much irrelevant.