The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

I hear it’s important

This past weekend, the Steam sale was a big pack of Indie games at a huge discount, and it included a fair few games I liked well enough from their demos, so I picked it up. One of the games involved was Braid, which, as you may recall, was heralded by some people as a game that’s "important," and which we should all be willing to pay $15 for.

Well, I did not pay $15 for it. In fact, I didn’t buy it until Steam was willing to sell it to me for $3, because I just didn’t like the demo that much. I’ve now played it, and I have to admit, the later levels are a bit more fun than the earlier ones, and the last level in particular is downright incredible. But is it important in some magical, special way that sets it apart from other puzzle-platformers? You’ll be surprised to hear this, but, actually, no it is not. It’s just pretentious. Spoilers follow, so you may wish to abandon ship now if you care about that sort of thing.

The gameplay is fairly straightforward: it’s a platformer with gimmicks, and the gimmicks are employed to solve puzzles. Every world introduces a new gimmick, and the whole world is themed around it. As you traverse the worlds, you collect puzzle pieces which you reassemble into paintings, just like in Banjo-Kazooie. It’s generally pretty fun, though some of the puzzles can be annoyingly finicky. There are, however, some moments of incredibly boneheaded design — there are hidden "stars" in the game to collect also, and collecting one of them requires you simply to go to the right level and stand around and wait for — I shit you not — two hours. That’s the most egregious example, to be sure, but hardly the only case where the instincts of the designers were just not good.

So that’s as maybe; it’s a decent but not entirely remarkable puzzle-platform game. But what gets people all drippy about this game — and no doubt what people refer to when they talk about it being "important" — is the game’s story. You know you’re in for a good time when I start a paragraph that way, hey? Braid, ostensibly, is about a dude called Tim, and his search for the Princess. The flowery background information books explain this to you. If you’re a bit sharp (and, of course, if you’re paying any attention to the flowery background books), you’ll probably notice early on that something’s not quite right about them, and that’s the case; you can piece it together earlier, but the game’s Epilogue makes it explicit with the following text:

On that moment hung eternity. Time stood still. Space contracted to a pinpoint. It was as though the earth had opened and the skies split. One felt as though he had been privileged to witness the Birth of the World…

Someone near him said: ‘It worked.’

Someone else said: ‘Now we are all sons of bitches.’

That last line sound familiar at all? Braid, taken on another level, is an allegory for the creation of the atomic bomb. All the would-be sophisticates on the internet get very satisfied with themselves when they spot that, and — as I can state with experience — proceed to look down their noses at the lesser players who can’t appreciate what the game really means.

And, of course, they’re wrong too. Braid isn’t about the Bomb any more or less than it’s about a fantasy princess. The whole point of Braid — made from the game’s very first screen all the way through, and made explicit in the awesome final level — is that things can seem very different when seen from a different perspective. The game cannot be labeled with a right way and wrong way to interpret it; the key to understanding it is to realise that it’s both. There’s argument on the internet about the very first thing you see in the game; is the city on fire? Sure looks like it is. No, it’s not burning, it’s just the sunset. Again: it’s both.

So Braid is a tolerably fun game with some annoying parts, and it’s fun to think about afterward, since it does make its point in a very engaging manner. It is not, however, any kind of "important" just because you can read it as making vague, hand-wringing commentary on the Bomb. The only part of the game that really stands out from the pack as far as I’m concerned is the very last level.

August 10th, 2009 Posted by | Games | no comments

Ozzie Guillen likes to make shit up

You know what managers like to do? They like to have their pitchers bean the other team. Keeps ’em on their toes. Lets them know that this ain’t your goddamn granddad’s baseball game — unless I suppose your granddad was Ty Cobb — and don’t you forget it. Oh, also it makes them stand farther out from the plate so they hit fewer home runs. I guess that’s a plus also. Well, turns out that Crazy Ozzie would also like to have his pitchers hit some dudes, but, for some reason — probably related to how he’s crazy — he needs to tart it up with a whole bunch of fairy stories to make it sound like he’s a victim. I love how Yahoo Sports is completely unsympathetic here; it’s pretty clear they only ran that story to point out what a complete nutjob the man is, since they take pains to demonstrate that the White Sox haven’t really been hit by all that many pitches compared to the Indians, which is the exact team Ozzie’s whining about. Best part: "It gets to the point when they hit us seven times, 20 times in one week and we hit one and they’re the headhunters and that’s a (problem) with major league baseball."

The Indians have hit 32 batters all season long, which is a very easy number to find. So chances are Ozzie’s talking out his ass when he accuses them of hitting twenty of his batters in one week. Also, hey, Ozzie, here’s a neat thing you can do with Baseball Reference: you can look three columns to the left of HBP and find the BB column. There you can discover that the Indians have issued more walks than any other team in the American League, which tells you that their pitchers are bad. They are bad pitchers with bad control and they pitch badly. Way to pile-on there, Ozz. You crazy asshole.

Comedy epilogue: the White Sox have hit exactly two batters fewer than the Indians all season long. Two hit batters? Ozzie, you’re ranting about two hit batters? For fuck’s sake, man, just tell Buerlhe to plunk a couple dudes next time out, take some Pepto-Bismol, and chill the hell out.

August 9th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

I’m not making this up, and I can prove it

I’m serious, guys: swanky Barry Zito has taken some time off from spending the $126M the Giants gave him for no discernable reason and has recorded a song. Apparently he’s twigged to the fact that he’s probably on his last Major League contract, and he’s exploring other avenues for his talent. Personally, I think he should stick to walking a ton of guys and modeling for designer jeans ads, since the singing thing… well.

Barry, you seem like a nice guy, I dig that thing you did last Christmas for the poor kids, but this faux-seventies warbly pop ballad slightly fusion-y shit is just not the way to go. Don’t take it personally.

I’m starting to worry that my Barry Zito obsession is getting out of hand. Not only did I know offhand that he’d done the jeans thing and the kids thing, but when I went to grab his data from Baseball Reference, I found that I already had the Barry Zito player card opened, and I have no idea why.

I think I need to go lie down.

August 7th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Bullshit | no comments

This guy doesn’t think Dusty Baker’s an asshole

Strangely enough, here are many words trying to absolve Dusty of any responsibility for Edinson Volquez’ arm troubles. You’ll be surprised to hear I don’t agree with him. My favourite line: "besides a run of five straight 110-plus-pitch outings in August and September (including that 121-pitch outing) he actually did a pretty decent job handing his young ace." Yeah, well, I’m sure he did fine if you don’t count that.

Johnny Cueto update: 130 IP and counting. 14 starts with more than 100 pitches thrown. Could he be next?

August 4th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Volquez update!

He’s going to miss an entire year. Looks like he pitched 196 innings last year after never having pitched even one-fifth that many before. 196 isn’t the outrageous comedy number I was hoping to see, but it’s a huge workload for a 25-year-old arm that’s never thrown more than 34.

Not coincidentally, 2008 was Volquez’ first season with the Reds.

August 3rd, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Chewing a pale toothpick

Hey guys, look! Edinson Volquez is going in for season-ending surgery on his pitching elbow! Anybody have any guesses as to what could have happened?

August 3rd, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Accuracy in Advertising

I saw this package of curtains when I was at Target the other day. Try not to get distracted by the reflection of my sexy hands while I take the picture, and just focus on the part where it says "Block out over 100% of light."

Now, I understand advertising hyperbole, and I’m fine with it. I’m not the type of person who gets his face bent out of shape by the ads for those useless "hand sanitisers" declaring that they kill five nines of germs or some shit like that. But I do take some small exception to the claim that these curtains block over 100% of light — as in, you know, more than all the light there is to block. I would dearly like to know how they accomplish this feat. My guesses for how this occurs:

• They generate a bunch of light on their other side, thereby blocking out over 100% of light relative to what light there was before.

• They generate massive quantities of the nonexistent "anti-photon," thereby technically generating negative light.

• They’re so good they can block light that doesn’t even exist.

• They bunt, hit and run, and play scrappy, instead of clogging up the basepaths.

August 2nd, 2009 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments