Braid by Jonathan Blow

This nifty little arcade game is arguably one of the most creative ones to emerge in recent years. The premise is for the user to solve extremely tricky puzzles when given various opportunities to bend the laws of physics. As I was reading why research in HCI needs to have a theoretical framework that is in the middle of the two extremes (the generalist cognitive science approach and the particularist ethnomethodology approach), this game stuck out from my memory because it ties constructivist learning through the puzzles with reflective thinking through the plot of the game.

While many players of the game are already presumed to be familiar with spatial reasoning (and basic math, an example mentioned by Kaptelinin and Nardi to illustrate how artifacts are used by a subject to aid learning), the game tries to recreate a new learning challenge by presenting an environment where the user can go back in time or where the environment moves only when the user does (see attached GIF). This also reinforces the Activity Theory concept that no property of the subject (player’s avatar Tim) or object (the game environment) exist other than during the activity as each ‘world’ has a different physical curveball, placing the subject in a new unfamiliar learning challenge.

In addition, this game is an homage to the popular game Mario Brothers and feeds into the sociocultural familiarity that users have with the intention of the game, while also providing an outlet to restructure some of those cultural norms – for example, you don’t have to start over because you don’t die in the game; how does that make the subject perceive the object?

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