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 The Atlantic's digital features editor. More

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, an Atlantic senior editor, began her association with the magazine in 2002, shortly after graduating from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She joined the staff full time in January 2006. Before coming to The Atlantic, Jennie was senior editor at Moment, a national magazine founded by Elie Wiesel.

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in Video

Just In