The Power of Manipulation

After spending a few hours playing Braid, I have to admit that while it frustrated me a few times, I did enjoy it mainly because of the graphics, music, and users’ interactivity. On another note, I noticed that throughout the game there is an overwhelming presence of manipulation from Tim, himself, to the pink rabbits in the third world. From the very beginning of the game Blow manipulates users to believe that Tim is an innocent and apologetic man in search of his lost princess who is being held captive by a “horrible evil monster”, yet at the end of the game we discover that Tim is actually the monster whom the princess has escaped from. (I did not reach the end of the game – I looked it up on Wikipedia)

The books in the cloud worlds help manipulate users further into believing Tim’s innocence because, to a certain extent, they portray him as a lovable and concerned partner – for example, the books read the following about Tim: “For a long time, he thought they had been cultivating the perfect relationship, and “He had been fiercely protective, reversing all his mistakes so they would not touch her.” (Braid, World 3) Users are manipulated into trusting Tim and helping him in his mission to rescue the princess, after reading these quotes, because as we had discussed in class we sympathize with characters that are the underdogs, and have a heroic mission ahead of them. Knowing this, Blow created a perfect plot and character to manipulate users. Blow, however, does provide users with hints of Tim’s true persona in the same books –some of the books read: “The princess’s eyes grew narrower. She became more distant”, “Now his journey to find her again, to show he knows how sad it was, but also to tell her how it was good.” (Braid, World 3) In yet another book Tim claims to regret his decision to leave the princess “to a degree” – this fact alone suggests that Tim and the princess had troubles even before he left her and vice versa.

Judging from Tim’s outfit and appearance, it is also hard to depict him as a monster when he does not have any of the conventional physical traits that a monster would have such as a disfigured face and body, or even quite possibly being part human and part animal. Considering that the game is based on traditional tales of a lost princess and her savior, I expected a literal monster not a metaphorical one – I can say that Blow, in this regard, deceived me. Aside from Tim, I found it interesting that while playing the game users have the capability to manipulate time and go back into the past. Before I caught on to this ability, I was at a point where I was growing increasing aggravated with the game because I could not get myself out of certain situations without pressing the “shift” key, and going back to my past movements. I appreciate that Blow made this ability an important feature of the game because, whereas with the last games that we played for class I could not connect them to an overarching theme, with Braid, I could see the connection that Blow draws between this ability and the fact that Tim wants to go back into time to erase his mistakes.

Along with the idea of manipulation of time comes the reality that time cannot be reversed, and if this were to be an option it would by no means be effortless – which is highlighted in the game. As the game progresses each level becomes more and more difficult, and along with that it becomes harder to manipulate time in order to obtain either a key or puzzle piece. When I first started to play the game, I thought that it was not very difficult but then it suddenly changed and I had to reverse time. Similarly, it is hard for Tim go back in time and erase all of the mistakes he made with the princess. I am not sure if Blow structured the game this way to manipulate users into believing that the game is not as hard as it could seem, or if he was simply following standard game protocols of constructing games from easy to hard.

I also found it interesting that Blow would make pink rabbits the enemies when traditionally they are associated with happiness and sweetness. I think that Blow purposely did this to manipulate users and perhaps even Tim because no one would expect for pink rabbits to be the enemies. There is an element of surprise and manipulation on the rabbit’s part when users discover that they are not friendly and sweet, but evil. This is the same type of feeling that users get when they discover that Tim is the monster that the princess is running away from.

One thought on “The Power of Manipulation”

  1. Good point about the rabbits being evil. They seem to be more concerned with vengeance than the little goombas. The goombas simply go back and forth on their available pathway, whereas the rabbits are apparently being awoken by Tim and chase him in cranky aggression. I never thought I’d find myself saying, “Damn pink bunnies!”

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