The Lessons of Braid

Gamers needn’t read reviews for the new Xbox LIVE Arcade game, Braid. This masterpiece is a must-buy, and costs less than a third of the price of most games on the console. It’s a no-brainer; start your downloads.

Braid is one example of exactly where video games should be headed. Like the finest works of literature – poetry, short stories, novels – the game allows the audience to extract meaning from the collection of artwork, words, and play mechanics, interpreting the content in a variety of ways. Though there were certainly very specific topics that designer Jonathan Blow aimed to address with this phenomenal game, each player may come away from it with something slightly different from everyone else – personalized lessons and meaning.


This game is one about life, love, relationships, identity, introspection, and time, and the following is but one set of lessons to be drawn from it, as experienced by but one gamer:

Time and Forgiveness

As I discussed in my column entitled Second Chances, Braid‘s time-manipulating mechanics grant players the ability to take back what has been done and try again – to have our mistakes forgiven. As perfect as that may sound, and as much as we may like to do so, we can’t un-live the events of our lives. However, what we take away from each trial, each error, is the knowledge to do things right – lessons that serve us in the future. While there may be no second chances – no going back in time – in real life, we can still substitute the un-successes that remain in memory with new approaches to similar circumstances that arise in the present moment.

Time and Mystery

Reversing the events of the past in our own minds does little to prevent the march of time from continuously moving forward. Dwelling on these memories can cause us to miss out on present events, becoming completely oblivious to them as they play out. They fall beyond our reach because we are trapped in retrospection. As the time-immune items and enemies of Braid will tell you, turning back the clock in our mental space or finding forgiveness for our actions gone awry, some things will never be forgotten, reversed, or redone. They are written in permanent ink.

Time and Place

In Braid‘s fourth world, time only moves forward as Tim, too, is moving forward. Likewise, regressing causes the rest of the world to rewind. Doors can only be unlocked from one direction, as well. If we hang on to the past, revisiting the times and places in our memories, no progress can be made and no growth sustained. Only while moving forward through our lives will the world around us also evolve. Barriers/obstacles can never be surmounted by approaching them retrospectively, but taking positive steps towards them with solutions in hand will grant us passage.

Time and Decision

Our actions leave permanent impressions on the pages of existence. Even after reversing time in this portion of Braid, a shadow of what we have done remains, and repeats those actions over again – affecting the world in both its past and present states. Our actions are not forgotten, but besides serving as reminders and lessons in our own mental spheres, they also continue to produce consequences in the present, oftentimes playing parts in lengthy chain reactions – undercurrents to the rest of our daily lives.


In one’s own mind, everything surrounding a particular event, person, place, etc. can be isolated and “protected” from the influence of reality. This prevents us from ever making progress with that particular topic. When we become entrapped by those memories, we are crippled as well – -prevented from advancing through life in a healthy way. As we move away from the subject matter that we have made stagnant, we become liberated, allowed to move forward uninhibited. In order to be free, we must discard the parts of ourselves that have become paralyzed.


By no means do my words encompass the full gamut of what Braid has to offer; it will say different things to different people, and the only way to truly understand is by playing it. If you have played the game, do you agree with me? Do you have your own interpretations? Do you think there is more? Do you think there is less? If you haven’t played the game… you must.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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