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[WARNING: The below post contains some small spoilers.]

Braid is a very strange game. I just finished it and I'm not sure what I feel. I wasn't expecting something so... lyrical, maybe? I don't know what the right word is. Braid is one part poetry, two parts hard-core puzzle game. I'm not sure how seriously the metaphorical layer is meant to be taken. On one hand the poetic bits feel very "separate" from the game. You can simply ignore all the text if you want. Yet the graphics, the lovely Van Gogh-like art style, is a bit harder to ignore. The music also does much to create an introspective, dream-like mood. Even without the text, it's difficult to take Braid simply as entertainment.


The big mystery of the game, I suppose, is what the gameplay has to do with the story. There clearly is a connection, but it seems deliberately obscure. On the most basic level, Braid's traditional platforming elements and time manipulation stuff seems intended as a loose metaphor for the trials, mistakes, and corrections in a relationship. The "princess" of this game seems like some weird ideal of romantic love that the protagonist is forever in search of. Or maybe she's a metaphor for failed relationships? I have no idea really. Whatever the case, it is clear that she is a metaphor, which, at least, is something Braid seems determined not to let the player walk away from the game without realizing.

I haven't put much thought into interpreting Braid. I finished it after several hours of play, and my immediate impression is one of dreamy confusion. I confess to reading most of the text quickly, without really trying to find a coherent thread in it. I'm not sure if there is one, or if the text bits are meant to be disjointed fragments. The only reoccurring theme is the princess. This is probably why the final sequence, where you finally find the princess, gave me an emotional reaction. I couldn't believe I got so close to her, and even cooperated with her, only to have time rewind, and have her disappear like a phantom. Did I do that on purpose? Why was rewinding the only thing I could do? I wanted to be with her, if only to get some answers to all these bizarre feelings and images. But she just vanished.


Braid makes the most sense if you conclude that everything in it represents a dreamer's waking life filtered through a host of subconscious symbols. It feels like the dream of a gamer, an expression of the collective unconscious generated by a life-time of game playing. This, to me, explains all the references to other videogames, which are all videogames with princesses. Braid may be an attempt by a gamer to make a game that expresses the connection between frivolous game conventions and real life, of how silly ideas like "save the princess" seep into our consciousness and become part of our shared cultural experience. It may be an attempt to reform that silliness, by giving these ideas metaphorical value they normally lack. Braid could be seen as a critique of games like Mario in this way, where "saving the princess" is just some meaningless goal. Here it is meaningless as well, but its phantom nature has been twisted into a meditation on the elusiveness of happiness. The design goal of Braid, in essence, seems to be to reformulate the words "I'm sorry, but the princess is in another castle" as an existential crisis. So that when the dinosaur eventually asks you "This princess... does she even exist?" you honestly don't know. Even at the end, when you find her, she may still just be a phantom... one that you are forever chasing.



Did you notice too that, in the forward direction, it looked like the princess was actually trying to trap/stop you? and the dialogue with the knight that was previously confrontational was now a plea for help?

I completely agree that game leaves a lot open to interpretation, I hope it will create some interesting discussion in the gaming blogosphere.


Yeah, what Matthew said. You weren't collaborating. In the end, you were running in opposition to "true" time and you were hurting her all along.

In the Epilogue stage, did you notice the areas where you can stand to change the text? It does this thing where the text shifts to show that you are not the great guy you thought you were, and matches quite nicely with the last level.


I knew there was something fishy about that last level, but... wow, now that I think about it, you're right.

It seems pretty clear that Tim is a stalker, and that he is seeing everything backwards, which is why he thinks the princess likes him. At the end, you see everything forwards for the first time, so that everything which seemed like cooperation was actually her running from you, because you were a sick dude looking through her window.

Man. Now I feel gross.


Philip and I had an interesting discussion just now. We were talking about the whole "stalker" sequence at the end, and he observed that this scene does not take place at the end but at the beginning. Remember, you *begin* in world 2. The final sequence is, in fact, world 1. This makes me think that the stalker episode at the end is actually the first thing that happens chronologically, which suddenly makes the opening narration of world 2 make sense, about Tim "making a mistake" and that "the princess was taken away."

Not that this makes the stalker stuff less creepy, but it does suggest it's the beginning of an interpretation of Braid, not the ending. I'm still not convinced worlds 3-6 are even about the same relationship. They seem more to be different men who have different relationships with their "princess," not all of them based on adoration. One of them, the one from world 3 I believe, wants to be free of his "princess."

In any case, Braid keeps getting more and more interesting the more you think about it.


I don't quite agree with the "Tim is a stalker" conclusion that a lot of folks have come to. While I can see it, I think it's a meant to be a bit more abstract than that. I wrote up my take over on my own blog.

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