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  1. AndersH
    AndersH August 11, 2008 at 5:53 am |

    Thanks for a good analysis, I just finished playing it the other day, though I’ve not managed to get the green books in the epilogue. I guess I have to tinker with it a bit.
    I started feeling there was something a bit odd and creepy about the text on… world 3? The one about mistakes. So I was a bit troubled about it until the twist, where you find out that yes, Tim really is someone who doesn’t understand other people/women and relationships. He felt like a more extreme version of a forum (gaming) nerd, to be honest.

  2. Fervent Effervescence
    Fervent Effervescence August 11, 2008 at 9:08 am |

    Basically, Tim is needy and overly analytical. He thought he and his “princess” were working together toward some shared ideal, but she felt burdened by his needs and backed away. So he set about trying to understand why, and she felt like a science experiment. Eventually, as much as she cared for him, she put up a wall. He pressed his face up against it, and couldn’t understand why she didn’t let him in. Maybe when he’s not so needy, she said. Maybe.

    But he still didn’t understand. He knew he did something wrong, he knew things weren’t right between them, but couldn’t figure out why. Thus the analysis over the course of the game. Eventually he hits his epiphany, and realizes the cause for everything. So he takes what he’s learned and builds his own castle — a small one, a work in progress.

  3. Speck
    Speck August 11, 2008 at 4:53 pm |

    I played through the epilogue again and noticed a few things: first, I don’t think that the woman standing in front of the scientist is a real woman – “Ghostly, she stood in front of him and looked into his eyes….But he would not see her; he only knew how to look at the outsides of things.”

    I also think the particular treats that the little boy is lusting after in the candy store vignette in the epilogue are interesting: “…the chocolate bar and the magnetic monopole, the It-From-Bit and the Ethical Calculus; and so many other things, deeper inside.”

    Compare this with the text from the books in the clouds of chapter 1:

    “People like Tim seem to live oppositely from the other residents of the city. Tide and riptide, flowing against each other. Tim wants, like nothing else, to find the Princess, to know her at last. For Tim this would be momentous, sparking an intense light that embraces the world, a light that reveals the secrets long kept from us, that illuminates – or materializes! – a final palace where we can exist in peace. But how would this be perceived by the other residents of the city, in the world that flows contrariwise? The light would be intense and warm at the beginning, but then flicker down to nothing, taking the castle with it; it would be like burning down the place we’ve always called home, where we played so innocently as children. Destroying all hope of safety, forever.”

    Now consider the opening scene: Tim on a rooftop, staring out at a city that looks like it’s on fire. Even the title, “Braid,” seems to be made of flames.

    I think the princess that Tim is chasing after throughout the game isn’t a woman that he drove away with his manias about protection and control. She’s a metaphor for the deep truths of nature that he desperately wants to discover, as a scientist. Unfortunately, his discoveries, the ones that were reserved for when he was “older,” end up ushering in the destruction of the very world he wanted to improve.

  4. Speck
    Speck August 11, 2008 at 5:18 pm |

    Yeah, there’s definitely more than one thing going on here – perhaps I should have said the princess isn’t just a woman he drove away. Speaking of women that Tim drives away, one aspect of the story I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere yet is Tim’s wife, who he abandoned in pursuit of the Princess, be she real or metaphorical. The whole sixth level is built upon Tim’s wedding ring, which he tries to keep hidden, because it weighs upon him and slows his progress. I haven’t quite figured out how the paintings from the 5th and 6th levels fit into that, though.

  5. tenacitus
    tenacitus August 11, 2008 at 9:34 pm |

    So you are a game designer and a lawyer then you write all these posts on the blog, amazing Holly.

  6. Anon
    Anon August 12, 2008 at 12:48 am |

    Unfortunately, the secret ending isn’t quite as happy, but it does fit into the whole obsession theme.

  7. sara no h.
    sara no h. August 12, 2008 at 1:38 am |

    Well, count me among the blown-away-can’t-wait-to-play crowd. I’m glad you’ve posted spoilers though, because looking over some of the puzzles as reviewed at Arthouse Games, I’m not sure I’d ever make it there! I’m a notoriously impatient gamer – even games I love, love, if they take more than a week or so of casual play to beat, I usually end up forgetting all about them. :P

  8. Dissent
    Dissent August 12, 2008 at 3:50 pm |

    Spoilers for secret ending follow.

    Anon I disagree with you. If you get all the stars then you finally get to touch the princess and she blows up/dissappears. Then can go back to the epilogue level then the home level. Then you see the constellation filled in and its Andromeda-the chained maiden. A lot of people interpret this as a ‘bad ending.’ Tim captured and enslaved the princess.

    I think people might be mistaken about Tim ‘getting’ the princess when you get all the stars. Its not a ‘bad end.’
    When Tim gets all the stars, its not that he finally catches the princess-she disappears after all. Its that he finally realizes what she was all along. An inspiration, not a person. Tim doesn’t hold the princess, he sees a bunch of stars in the sky that look like a princess that is chained up. The constellation represents what started his journey in the first place. He mistakes a metaphor for reality. When you finally get all the stars Tim finally sees her what she is-unreachable stars in the sky.</SPOILERS

  9. Ari
    Ari August 12, 2008 at 7:48 pm |

    I was really surprised nobody mentioned the recurring theme of alcohol in the jigsaw puzzles- drowning sorrow? Abusive relationships? Red Herring?

    The narrative here is so fractured and analytical that it’s wonderful to speculate about. Obviously quite intentional though. :) Is the theme really about obsessive love or is that just a front for a more subtle message about obsessive dreams of control, and how nuclear ambitions have the same terrible consequences? I’m going to have to cop out and say I actually like every interpretation of the game I’ve seen thus far.

    The one personal theory I will venture, I think, is on the whole “woman left behind for the princess” bit in the world five prologue becomes a lot clearer if you come back to it with the whole “tim is living time in reverse” bit. When he “leaves” her, he’s actually meeting her for the first time- hence why she loves him, Princess be damned. I like to think we got the happy ending and redemption for his mistakes halfway through the game, but our unreliable narrator hid it from us. ;) Of course, I’m probably counter-intentionally mashing up the backwards-themed ending with the shadow-themed midpoint.

  10. Dissent
    Dissent August 12, 2008 at 8:23 pm |

    The last flag is code for:
    Communication is needed.
    AKA “We need to talk.”
    I mean that lends itself pretty easily to the relationship motif.
    The thing I wonder is the significance of the last world being World 1.
    Perhaps what we see there is just the start of Tim’s journey. Its not as much closure of course. Doesn’t the penultimate castle guy just ask if Tim is sure the princess is real?

    After reading some of Blow’s other speeches/rants (his words not mine) I think maybe the gender/relationship thing, while valid, is subplot. His main theme seems to be motivation as innovation. Why do people play games/keep playing games? Blow was pretty critical of games like WoW that seem to reward/encourage anti-social behavior. And not just that they require a lot of time/effort, but that they require the player to take amoral actions without much justification/context. The player just kills something to hit another level, or get another piece of gear. I think Braid is Blow’s Anti-WoW. No grinding, no gear, no way to lose a life. And at the end, you realize the thing you were pursuing is a fantasy.

  11. Lauren
    Lauren August 12, 2008 at 11:10 pm |

    Hey Holly, just wanted to say that even though I’m not much of a gamer (I might be if I had more time and money to spend on the damn gaming systems) I do heart your game analysis. Good writing.

  12. infernalserpent
    infernalserpent August 13, 2008 at 6:03 pm |

    Seconding the hearting. I wasn’t sure if I was going to buy this game for financial reasons, but your analysis and the discussion here in the comments are tipping me over that way. Now I want to see and experience it for myself!

  13. Dave
    Dave August 14, 2008 at 7:56 pm |

    These are all really interesting interpretations, and I’m glad I stumbled upon this. :)

    I don’t know if any of you noticed, but in the house, the painting from world 4 of the guy looking in a room is the Princess’ room, Then one of the other paintings is another room in the house.

  14. Tom
    Tom August 17, 2008 at 5:56 am |

    Holly: I had just the same take on the secret ending. It only takes one guy to ignore his girlfriend trying to get those stars for Braid’s message to ring painfully true. And I’m sure that’s happened dozens of times by now.

    It’s worth mentioning, though, that neither the conventional ending nor the extra one actually end the game. That seems to be a key theme – even if you get what you want, it’s not over.

    My take on the conflicting evidence about Braid’s subject – girl, truth or atomic bomb? – is that Tim is the same guy throughout, but the nature of the Princess changes with each chapter. At first she’s a girl. Then he gets the girl, and is pursuing his work, his scientific obsession, and she’s sat at home sadly accepting that his interest now lies elsewhere. Then he achieves the understanding he was after in his work, but wants to put it to use. Then we are all sons of bitches.

    And post-nuke, even after his obsession has killed the very figure of the princess – be she innocence, safety, truth, mother earth or the love of a girl – some Tims /still/ seek a princess in even more unknowable, unreachable places, ignoring the Earth they’ve ruined for the stars.

    She’s different this time, not a girl just one castle away from reunion, but a thing which even when attained and understood, remains a chained maiden in the sky, light-years from us. That could be seen as either acceptance or eternal frustration on Tim’s part, depending on what kind of Tim you are.

    Braid says a lot of harsh things about the male psyche that, as a man, I find uncomfortably accurate.

  15. » Thoughts on: Braid. » Thoughts on: Braid. August 17, 2008 at 4:02 pm |

    […] admittedly, she did point me towards this rather excellent post at, which happens to cover a good proportion of my thoughts on the subject already, but […]

  16. Frank Lantz
    Frank Lantz August 19, 2008 at 11:29 pm |

    Very nice analysis. It’s especially interesting to consider all of these themes within the context of Jonathan Blow’s quest for Art. The candy behind the glass is sweet, sweet Art, so close he can almost taste it. With some games (or movies, or songs, or paintings) you feel like you are in good hands, and you can relax, you know you are being carried somewhere and even if you are not sure where, you know you will be well taken care of. Braid isn’t like this. With Braid there is a feeling of something off, desperate, out of control, in control, control pushed past the breaking point, all of the deliberate design decisions tightened until the pieces they were meant to join have begun to crack. It’s quite tragic and lovely, actually. It’s lovely. I really do love it.

  17. Waffle
    Waffle August 25, 2008 at 11:06 pm |

    This game made me tear up and almost cry. When I was forced to watch the princess running away from me and into the arms of the “villan”, it was a perfect replication of the feeling of realizing that all of the work you’ve put into a relationship was really working against it – it’s now destroyed and there’s no way you can undo it.

    It even upsets me a bit at the moment, because I didn’t really want this feeling or to start thinking about relationships I’ve botched – I just wanted a distraction and some fun puzzles.

  18. Infovore » links for August 26th
    Infovore » links for August 26th August 26, 2008 at 8:01 pm |

    […] Feministe » Hair-pulling and braid-weaving "It seems to me that Tim and the nameless characters of the epilogue represent archetypes of some kind. They don’t stand in for every man and woman, certainly, but they’re emblematic of a certain kind of dysfunctional relationship, one where “I’ll protect you” turns into “I’ll control you.”" A smart, sharp reading of Braid, that understands its gameiness. (tags: braid games criticism writing critique narrative ) […]

  19. Lynn
    Lynn September 2, 2008 at 10:37 pm |

    I was curious…but just reading this review induced a major bout of PTSD. I’d rather see actual developed female characters than control freaks being outed as control freaks.

    I can’t comment on the game, since I don’t think I’ll be willing to pay money to act out that relationship ever. But it occurred to me that Blow was doing the same thing that the Columbine RPG did: appropriate someone else’s game and paste a tragedy on top.

    I know most people don’t have the experience of desperately locking a succession of doors against someone who doesn’t want to understand ‘no’, and so I know this response is not normal.

    But it does seem in order for this to be successful, people do have to be someone entertained/unaffected by the scenario to appreciate the plot twist.

    (…Looking forward to the Beyond Good and Evil sequel, and hoping they keep Jade’s voice actress.)

  20. RadonPlasma
    RadonPlasma September 18, 2008 at 3:59 am |

    AGH. And here I had almost given up on wringing any further enlightenment from that experience. Many kudos to Holly, et al, for such masterful analysis of the material. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been privy to the secret ending, but from your descriptions, I think you’re right. Damn, it’s getting late. I’ll catch you guys some other time.

  21. Sam
    Sam September 21, 2008 at 1:01 am |

    If you examine the paintings more thoroughly you realize that in painting 1 Tim is with a women maybe his wife, maybe the princess, in painting 2 hes at a dinner table toasting to something might be with the family of his mysterious lover. But then in painting 3 you see a man entering a room (maybe its Tim) and another mans face in the sheets of the bed (maybe its his wife/princess cheating on him) and from then on his expressions and view of the world seem to change, within the text and in the paintings. Hes in an airport in painting four and everyone around him is up and facing the right but Tim is facing the left and sitting, depressed. Painting five is what gets me Tim is standing next to what i think is a garbage can with a golden light that somewhat looks like a ring, and the ring is shining and illuminating Tims face. The world around Tim is dark and evil looking, but not the ring. He is eying it greedily looking upon it not being able to part with it, because it resembles all of the good things in Tims life the things he used to have and he cant bear to part with the last piece of light within him, but also the very thing that wells the darkness and the monster beneath.

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