In the article “The Other Side of Braid,” Liz Ryerson says that she at least partially created her game, “Problem Attic” to enter a dialogue with the game “Braid.” She states, “If Braid was from the perspective of a white man with a lot of power and resources, her game, Problem Attic, was supposed to be from the perspective of a protagonist with no power, with very little ability to escape or make sense of their situation.” Both of the games were a variation of side-scrollers and had often infuriating mechanics. What made me most feel the most disempowered in”Problem Attic” was the lack of a tutorial. I simply felt thrown in the middle of it. I had to figure out what the “goal” of the game and how each “level” operated on my own. Sometimes simple-seeming puzzles took much longer than I had anticipated because the game greatly increased my avatar’s jumping ability and speed, at the cost of my control over its movements. After a few levels I had pieced some of it together– I was supposed to find and touch these red-streaked squares so that I could return to the starting area of the game and proceed to the next “level.” At the next level, I had to jump my way over and around blocks that were hidden behind a wall of green, desperately avoiding the strange “+” figures that were following me. I finally touched the red-streaked square… there was a whirring sound… and I was still in the level. At this point I didn’t know what to do. The game’s mechanics had changed. I had no clear indication of what I was supposed to do, what “victory” meant.
It was not the difficulty of each level that created for me a sense of confusion and frustration, but the lack of instruction. In this way, I see the tutorial as a function of the computer game that lends itself to the medium seeming inherently “empowering.” Rules and goals are the very definition of a game, and once you learn both, it is only a matter of how well you can learn to employ those rules to achieve the goal. If the game continually keeps both hidden from you, then a game like Braid, with the tagline, “what if you could reverse death,” becomes a game like “Problem Attic,” which constantly withholds power from you.