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Monday, November 17, 2008

I've really been enjoying Michael Peterson's semi-regular Comics Column at the House Next Door.


Take this, for instance, from #3, on a game I'd never heard of but now desperately want to play:

One of the works that has dominated video game criticism in the last few months has been Braid, created by Jonathan Blow and featuring the artwork of David Hellman, the artist behind the well-respected webcomic "A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible"—a story about time and memory is disguised as a "Mario"-like platformer ("Calvino's Invisible Cities meets 'Mario'," is how Blow puts it), and its use of unique game mechanics in service of a subtle and rarely-explicated story has prompted a lot of criticism from people on both sides of the Braid argument. What's notable, however, is that the "Is it art?" argument that certain media (like games, and more notably for this column, comics) still bat around with has been eschewed almost entirely. The question instead appears to be "Is it good art?" or "Is it bad art?"—which is a lot more interesting, I find.

Braid is one of a number of recent games that has prompted a lot of discussion with regards to how narrative works in video games and what succeeds artistically. Blow himself recently gave a lecture on the subject that has provoked further discussion. In my previous installment, I mentioned Stuart Moulthrop's essay connecting comics and games in the way the narrative is experienced, with a level of interactivity. This idea is what has led to so much writing and discussion. In these media, unlike in film, the narrative must be somewhat tempered with other elements in order to provide the full issue—a more complicated arrangement than simple pacing.