In recent years, the growing field of game studies has contributed to the ongoing cultural debate about what it means for videogames to be an art form that both selectively draws and dramatically departs from earlier forms such as the novel, theater, and cinema. To achieve a sense of videogames as a unique art form requires a more intimate understanding of the new sensorium that they open up—that is, the specific experience of spatiality, temporality, speed, graphics, audio, and procedural activity that they make available. To explore that sensorium, this essay analyzes Jonathan Blow’s independently produced hit American videogame Braid (2008). For all of the ways that Braid stands apart from contemporary videogames, it does so less to dismiss them than to contemplate, historicize, and produce a reading of the videogame form. Moreover, this game uses media-specific techniques to make accessible the material effects of the American military-industrial-media-entertainment network on historical consciousness. Braid adopts the affordances of game form to develop a formally experimental analytic of processing—one that is aesthetic, affective, and interactively experiential as opposed to purely cognitive. The game uses its formal blends and its play mechanics to complicate how history is typically thought and to imagine how it might be engaged or processed differently. Ultimately, Braid interrogates the impulses that drive videogames and the historical subjects that they produce.
1 December 2013