2012 in game dev
: : Jonathan Blow : :
Food for thought

by Grungi

Amongst all the game developers I am following, some inspire me by their sheer dedication to their craft. Other by their quirky ways of exploring themes through game mechanics. And some other by being great people. But there are some that go a step above and tend to elevate the way we think about games. One of such guys is Jonathan Blow.

Jonathan Blow in 2008.

Jonathan Blow in 2008.

The maker of Braid is quite is quite a polarising individual. Some people seems to really like him, while others think of him a pretentious and vain. I am more of the former camp (and also a firm believer that we actually need a bit of pretentiousness, because it is a pejorative term applied to something that is not always negative). Even if I do not agree with him on every subject, I think he at least has the clairvoyance and thoughtfulness that let him bring up subjects that most other avoid or would not think of discussing. And he does it with very strong opinions that, yes, may come off as elitist sometimes. Yet which open wide the doors for further discussion.

Yet I think that we need ‘thinkers’ for video games to advance beyond being mostly simple entertainment, which most are. Not that it is a bad think per se, but I am convinced that there is much, much more potential still locked away in the medium. And by being a very outspoken designer, Mr Blow – and others like him – does play an important role in the industry.

From declaring free-to-play games as being ‘evil’ to contesting the value of game jams for more experienced developers, the discussions sparked from remarks from Jonathan Blow are often deeply revealing and informative. He is also a very articulate speaker, which of course is a good thing when you want to listen to him speak rather long talks.

All in all, Mr Blow is for me one of the most influential game designer so far. I could explain how Braid proved to be a game that stayed with me while I muled over it for a long while, but I would rather have this post be about the man and the great way he has of making me think outside the box. To make me consider what we can do with games in more than an aesthetic sense, and make me want to aim for greatness (even if I am not quite there yet).

Thank you for that, Mr Blow.

(You can follow Jonathan Blow on Twitter, or read about his next game, The Witness)