Video Games and the Meaning of Life

Instead of flooding his creations with violence and loud music, the developer forces players to soul-search and pay close attention.

As a child, Jonathan Blow was surrounded by primitive video games -- the high-pitched beeps of Pong, the simple shapes of PacMan. But he sensed early on that the medium could be used for something spectacular. At the age of 24, he emptied his life savings to launch his own game-design company. His big break came in 2008 with Braid, a game that required players to not only rescue a princess but soul-search in the process.

As Taylor Clark points out in his May 2012 Atlantic profile, Blow is now one of the harshest critics of mainstream video games -- their violence, their commercialism, and their unimaginative storylines. His next release, The Witness, will challenge convention in new ways: Instead of pumping players full of adrenaline, it will aim to make them silently aware of the world around them. In this video, Clark shows why Blow's creations are so subversive and extraordinary. 

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she edits digital features.

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