Whenever Alexa Ching, Steve James, Dave Perry and any of the other identikit rent-a-pricks pop up between programmes, my toes curl, my fists clench and I feel a rising urge to murder.
It’s been three this week already.
I can’t specify exactly what it is that raises my hackles, because I find something new almost every time I see them. The male presenters sweat smarm, delivering their lines like friend-of-the-family child abusers, whilst the women seem to alternate between doing very bad impressions of Chris Morris and doing very bad impressions of Ricky Gervais. Badly.
Together, they define a collective noun of twats. I’m absolutely convinced that T4 started off as a drunken bet between TV executives, which has now got so far out of hand it cannot be stopped. Yet apparently the whole thing is incredibly popular. I just don’t get it.
I’m man enough to admit that some things are beyond my comprehension. Jamie Oliver’s another, as is Zane Lowe. Fuck it, chuck in Adam Sandler, The Sunday Night Project, Kings
of Leon and News At Ten while you’re at it.
But here’s probably the most damning admission: the one which will get me hounded from the industry, head bowed so far in shame I’ll be kicking myself in the nose as I flee.
I don’t get Braid.
Given my intense dislike for Xbox Live after byronicmanuk2-gate, it took a great deal of hype to get me to dig out my credit card and fill up my account in order to download Braid. But that’s what I did, even managing to ignore the disgusting practise of charging an impossible 1200 points for the game (what next, Microsoft: reducing the RRP of the 360 to 101 pounds, but only accepting 50 pounds notes and giving no change?) – and I’m absolutely baffled by the thing.
As a shareware game, it’s nice enough. Clever, pretty and charming, sure, but it’s hardly innovative and certainly not the Second Coming, as it’s been labelled by most of the Internet.
“Braid has the potential to change the way you think about reality,” enthused Arthouse Games. Let’s get one thing clear: Braid doesn’t do that. Drugs do. Braid can change the way you think about a 2D version of Blinx and the Sands of Time, and it will make you smile now and again, but that’s all. It’s hardly heroin.
It’s a question often posed by the industry’s naval gazers: could games be considered art? I’m sure they have the potential, but only if we stop asking the question so vocally, or applying meaningless hype-filled tags every second. We don’t, for example, see the genuine art world dub Damian Hurst’s latest vomit ‘painting of the year!’ or see the Times Literary Supplement scream JK Rowling’s written the ‘best book ever’ in large capital letters across its front cover, whilst giving away some stickers featuring characters from your favourite novels you can apply to your bookcase.
The developer, Jonathan Blow, seems like a reasonable enough chap, and Braid really is an okay videogame. But to me, all this hype and hullabaloo highlights the clever sleight of hand pulled by Microsoft in the first place.
Like gambling with casino tokens, you never know how much you’re spending. We think Braid ’s a quaint diversion, programmed competently and with care, but because we didn’t actually go into an actual shop and actually hand over actual money we’d worked long and hard for, we’ve missed the trick it pulled.
So here’s a real-life Braid experiment. Go load up some classical music. Look at a few paintings done by teenagers, and imagine an angst-ridden narrative composed by someone too young to feel genuine angst. Count 12 pounds out one coin at a time into a neat little pile. Then chuck them down the toilet. Hit X to rewind time and get those coins back. Oh, it doesn’t work. Now that’s how clever Braid is.