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I play Braid to play Braid, so when I stop to read Braid it is because I feel obligated to or because Im not interested in playing the video game any more. The reading of Braid is both separate from the game and consequently, presented as not as important.Theres a much better alternative in the game itself: text that appears during and as a part of the actual game experience. There are the little dinosaurs that say our princess is in another castle and the princess herself in the last level. This dialogue plays out a story that unfolds while the game is being played, as a part of the game. Theres no separation in the final level between story and game. Even the most cynical gamer couldnt argue that the story got in the way of the experience. Living StoryWhat Braid has a smattering of is the entire approach to dialogue in Loren Schmidts Star Guard.
In Star Guard, all of the text in it appears on the background of the level. Braid forces players to stand still to read, but Star Guard takes advantage of its minimalist backgrounds to write directly on the level.Ultimately, words need to be part of the game. In fact, every part of a video game should be a video game. Its easier to ditch words than make them work, but its not worth it to throw out a tool for game design completely. Gamers want stories no matter how much they might protest to the contrary, and words are just too good at delivering that.I understand theres a lot of feeling now that gamers are some of the strongest opponents to games as art, but that sentiment comes because what we see designed most of the time puts game and story at odds with one another. Cutscenes make it literally impossible for game to have gameplay and story at the same time. The gamers who feel like this means that they arent playing a video game are right to think this; the problem is just that theyre criticizing the stories themselves, not the way theyre presented. This discussion is necessary not just for games to be more fun, but for games to be more like games.
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