NEW YORK—Jonathan Blow, probably the most famous video game developer in the world, may also be the most feared.
Rarely mincing words, Blow called the state of video games today “a big mess right now.”
Coming from just about anyone else, those words might ring hallow, but Blow’s last effort “Braid,” took the business to a new level. The game was far more than just a cartoon character named Tim who tries to save a princess. It was about bringing together the abstract parts of a complicated puzzle revealing deep moral and philosophical questions.
It was a game for those who don’t like games. “I had this idea about what games should do,” Blow said. “Like they should be pushing the boundary of what games have already done, trying to expand the medium because some day - games can have a much bigger role in terms of their participation with human culture, right?”
His primary criticism is that a vast majority of games don’t respect the player. They are big, boilerplate and brain-numbing. It’s a criticism the main developers generally don’t want to hear.
Blow said “it’s not very fun,” assuming the mantle of the conscience of the video game business - but he’s not disowning it. “Look. Games are really kind of immature. They’re playing in the kiddy pool a lot of the time. We, as video game designers, are creating a significant part of the modern environment, right? And we should be thinking about what that is doing - to everybody.”
For the past four years, Blow has been working on his follow-up to Braid, “The Witness.” “I think it’s a much better game than “Braid” already,” Blow said. “It’s much deeper and more expansive and more sophisticated.”
It may be the most intelectually ambitious game ever attempted. It’s a 3D puzzle adventure set on a lonley island. Blow’s agonizing over every detail and pouring almost all the money from “Braid” into its completion.
When he’s not creating, he can still be found speaking out either at developers conferences or in the recent documentary, “Indie Game: The Movie.” While his frank talk strikes some as arrogant, it’s also made him a cult hero for independent gamers.
Four years into creating “The Witness,” Blow’s not sure when it will be complete. “I’m constantly revising the design of the puzzles and—and the designs of the locations and what—where they are relative to each other—so that it really reaches its potential,” Blow said.
Blow laughed and said the game will come out, “when it’s done or when we run out of money.”