The Witness Vs Time Donkey

Mmm, me too.

This is rather cute. Almost immediately after Jonathan Blow announces his new game, Flashbang follow up with a parody site to announce their own. This is our way of telling you: Jonathan Blow and Flashbang have announced new games.

Blow’s launch site begins with some black text on a white background, a Lao Tse quote, as above:

Called The Witness, he describes it as, “An exploration-puzzle game on an uninhabited island.” And that’s all you get, other than a release date for some point in the distant space year 2011.

It’s a bold way to announce a game. I refuse to call it pretentious as I don’t believe it is. I think, if anything, it’s slightly self-parodying. But clearly some will see it as maybe a bit pompous. Pomposity so often receives a little pinprick. Which would be Flashbang’s response site for their September game, Time Donkey.

You bullies.

The FB site finishes with some hidden text at the end reading,

“we love you jon blow please don’t crush us with your rippling muscles -love, blurst”

While we’re talking about the big meanies, they’ve rejigged the Blurst website such that it now has room for all their games to appear at once, with space for the many more to come. Which is as good a reason as any to go play another game of Jetpack Brontosaurus.


  1. qrter says:

    Let us all shake the collective hand of Flashbang for this wonderful move.

  2. Matthew says:

    You are welcome. Always a pleasure, Internet.

  3. Radicand says:

    Mr Blow deserved mockery for that somewhat pretentious little teaser, and Flashbang did it well. Hats off to you guys. And too-small berets off to Mr Blow as well.

  4. HexagonalBolts says:

    Seeing a poem about a donkey reminded me of my favourite donkey poem

    The Donkey – G.K. Chesterton

    When fishes flew and forests walked
    And figs grew upon thorn,
    Some moment when the moon was blood
    Then surely I was born;

    With monstrous head and sickening cry
    And ears like errant wings,
    The devil’s walking parody
    On all four-footed things.

    The tattered outlaw of the earth,
    Of ancient crooked will;
    Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
    I keep my secret still.

    Fools! For I also had my hour;
    One far fierce hour and sweet:
    There was a shout about my ears,
    And palms before my feet.

  5. Pags says:

    Jetpack Brontosaurus is actually the only game that has made me cry. Well not cry, but I teared up at it’s splendour. I wish I’d remembered this earlier for the ‘games that made me cry’ post. Anyway, this is the second best internet mockery this week (Plants vs Zombies vs Evony still wins out).

  6. Markoff Chaney says:

    The jester serves not only to make light of the situation, but also to soberly show us naked truths others are too scared to utter lest their heads be lopped off by an angry potentate. As a sound can hardly be said to exist independent of the hearer, likewise are wasted all thoughts never shared; all revelations left sealed. For what good ultimately shall come of contemplating thy navel if someone else derives no joy from making light of that gazing, allowing perspective and irreverence its proper place?

    Fantastic on both counts! /shakes hands all around

  7. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Something amorphous and consummate
    existed before Heaven and Earth.
    Sandvich! Delicious!
    Standing alone, crammed with baloney…

    I think, if anything, it’s slightly self-parodying.

    I rather hope it is. Nice work Flashbang/Blurst people.

  8. Stu says:

    Heh. Hidden text at the bottom of the Time Donkey site:

    we love you jon blow please don’t crush us with your rippling muscles -love, blurst

  9. JonFitt says:

    Hee. Nicely done.

  10. John Walker says:

    I SWEAR no one reads a thing I write.

  11. Lunaran says:

    Reactions like that are why I made this:

    link to

  12. Stu says:

    Sorry John, I was BLINDED BY EXCITEMENT.

  13. Stu says:

    (but for what it’s worth, I did originally click through the links from your Twitter before coming here, so clearly my attention span is approx. 140 characters)

  14. John Walker says:

    UNFORGIVEN. (oh alright then)

  15. solipsistnation says:

    Hooray! Jonathan Blow is remaking Myst!

  16. Kieron Gillen says:

    Sometimes I love videogame developers.


  17. Dante says:

    “It’s a bold way to announce a game. I refuse to call it pretentious as I don’t believe it is.”

    Then seriously, what is?

    I mean, I’m no anti-intellectual, I like plenty of stuff people would call pretentious. But seriously, this is the very definition of the word.

  18. HexagonalBolts says:

    This is a perhaps more appropriate version of the scale of art

    link to

  19. Kieron Gillen says:

    Dante: Your username is Dante. Glass houses.


  20. Lunaran says:

    Hex: two sides of the same closed-minded coin.

  21. Markoff Chaney says:

    Ooooh. ZING! Both of those are phenomenal graphics too. I’ve laughed quite a lot with this one.

  22. Alex says:

    Damn you solipsistnation, you stole my bit!

  23. Gassalasca says:

    @Kieron – Hey, Dante Hicks from Clerks wasn’t pompous. :P

    In other news, w00t! G.K. Chesterton; w00t! pretentious puzzle games; w00t! John Walker and the teeming millions that ignore him on a daily basis! Wooooot!1!11

  24. invisiblejesus says:

    He’s not even supposed to be here todaaaayyy!

  25. Jazmeister says:

    “Dante Hicks from Clerks wasn’t pompous.”

  26. jalf says:

    I didn’t get Jetpack Brontosaurus! I really didn’t understand it. It looked pretty and all, and was fun to goof around in for a while, but I never really understood the goal. I mean, Offroad Velociraptor gave you some clear objectives and scores to beat. In Brontosaurus I just… flew around, looking at the pretty scenery. What did I miss?

    Also I am now officially super hyped about Time Donkey! It sounds like my kind of game. :D

  27. SuperNashwan says:

    I’m pretty sure it was one of the RPS crew themselves that made the excellent point that ‘pretentious’ is often abused to have a meaning more pejorative than it should bear. Something ‘pretentious’ is aspiring to be more intelligent than average, no bad thing of itself.

  28. CryingTheAnnualKingo says:

    “…I’m no anti-intellectual…”

    You are and so are Flashbang. Your type shit on anything vaguely poetic and ambiguous. Leave the stuff you don’t understand alone, please.

  29. MD says:

    SuperNashwan says:

    I’m pretty sure it was one of the RPS crew themselves that made the excellent point that ‘pretentious’ is often abused to have a meaning more pejorative than it should bear. Something ‘pretentious’ is aspiring to be more intelligent than average, no bad thing of itself.

    It’s always risky arguing about the ‘true’ meaning of a word, but in this case I think a dictionary definition is enough to prove you wrong. I’m not suggesting that the word has not shifted in meaning — it may once have been predominantly used in the sense you mention. But dictionaries are the closest thing we have to an authoritative source, and in this case the primary definition gels with what you call an ‘abuse’ of the word.

    1: characterized by pretension: as a: making usually unjustified or excessive claims (as of value or standing) b: expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature”

  30. yns88 says:

    Did anyone else just skip past all the walls of text in Braid?

    If you want to package an interesting narrative with your game that’s fine, but if you’re just going to leave the story so separated and unnecessary then I’m just not going to waste my time with it.

  31. Matthew says:

    @CryingTheAnnualKingo Hold on just a second there! I believe “Off-Road Velociraptor Safari” has given us enough cultural clout to crap all over one of Taoism’s most sacred texts. What does a 6th century BC philosopher bring versus killing raptors with a jeep? Exactly. They didn’t even have velociraptors back then.

  32. Günter says:

    1: characterized by pretension: as a: making usually unjustified or excessive claims (as of value or standing) b: expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature”

    In other words Joe Blow, while I love him and his work, has created both a website and a game that present themselves as something rather more intelligent than they actually are.

    While I don’t find pretentiousness in as many places as some, the commentary on indie games is often maddeningly so. Passage was an interesting little experiment, and I admire and enjoy Braid for doing something different, but the intellectual level these games are on is sophomoric at best. Blow’s style is way too straight faced not to be considered a bit pretentious.

  33. Testicular Torsion says:

    And Matthew updates the state of the “Games As Art” debate with a brutal, irrefutable double-twist-swedish-noogie-suplex argument! It’s a headline day for games journalism here.

    Seriously, when did people start equating “poking fun at Jonathan Blow” with “crapping all over Lao-Tzu”? Relax, people!

  34. Weylund says:

    @Matthew: Thank you. I haven’t laughed so hard all day.

  35. Rosti says:

    I <3 the internet today. Thanks Blurst. Thurst.

  36. Rinox says:

    Rinox is happy to see this little parody. He, too, loved Braid and he, too, found Blow’s teaser site and text rather pompous and pretentious. Loved it.

    Having said that, he wishes Blow all the best and hopes his new game will be as good as Braid.

  37. Dante says:

    @ Keiron


    @ Jaz and Gas

    I haven’t even seen Clerks, by the way.

  38. Hi!! says:

    This made me laugh. At work.

  39. LionsPhil says:

    @Man Raised By Puffins: +120, Delicious
    @solipsistnation: Zing, sir. Zing.

  40. Dante says:

    Explanation time I guess.

    When Ludo and I started up our site he drew me an avatar;

    link to

    It looked pretty evil, so I picked a suitably demonic sounding name. That’s it.

    In retrospect it probably wasn’t the best choice for a gaming/films website, as most people assume it’s a reference to either a) Clerks or b) Devil May Cry, EA making Dante’s Inferno probably won’t help either

    I haven’t seen Clerks or read Dante’s Inferno, I’ve played DMC 3 though.

  41. Skalpadda says:

    Less arguing, more donkey poetry!

  42. SuperNashwan says:

    Perhaps I should’ve been more explicit for people with slack reading comprehension; ‘pretentious’ is used to be more, more, MORE pejorative than is deserved. It’s the idiot’s offhand, outright dismissal of something that at least has the ambition to try, even if it fails to achieve any profundity. The definition posted upthread does nothing to convey the utter lack of critical appraisal often found from people throwing the word about.

  43. Cedge says:


    You still don’t get it. Pretentiousness does not necessarily have anything to do with “trying to be profound.”

  44. SuperNashwan says:

    Are you trying to win some kind of internet prize for missing the point?

  45. Kieron Gillen says:

    Just as an idea to throw into the melee, ever consider that Blow is totally winding up the anti-intellectual brigade?


  46. Dante says:

    It’s certainly possible, but if so he seems to have a very, very dry sense of humour.

    I’ve played no more than the demo of Braid, so I can’t claim any sort of fair veiw, but the little plot books in that seemed far too straight faced to be a gag, nor did anyone else seem to read it as such.

    It could be a Max Payne type self parody I guess (but with literary writing, rather than pulp detective writing) I heard some people didn’t get that one the first time round, but there’s an argument to be had that if your joke is that subtle that no-one gets it, it’s failed on some level.

    I certainly wouldn’t consider myself ‘anti-intellectual’ in any way, hell I’m pro intellectual, I like to think I am intellectual. There’s a difference between intellectualism and pretension. To me, pretension is to take on the style of intellectualism without any of the substance behind it, to attempt to appear deep without actually having anything original or insightful to say.

    Not that I’m accusing Braid of that, because I’m no AIM, I’m not going to rag on a game I haven’t played properly.

  47. jalf says:

    @SuperNashwan: He’s not missing the point, he’s referring to what you said earlier:

    Something ‘pretentious’ is aspiring to be more intelligent than average, no bad thing of itself.

    No, it is not. Something “pretentious”, going by the definition posted above, or found on google, is not aspiring for *anything*. It is just creating the false impression that it is “more intelligent than average”, without actually *being so*. It is trying to fake it, rather than achieve it.

    It might *also* be used like you said, as “an idiots outright dismissal of something that has the amibition to try”, but how is that relevant? He is taking you to task for what you claimed “pretentious” meant.

    It has nothing to do with “trying to be profound”, even if it is sometimes *wrongly* used against those who try to be profound.

    And no, I don’t think Blow is intentionally winding up anyone. (Nor do I think it’s fair to call people “anti-intellectual” merely because they think Blow is a bit full of it). I think Blow simply makes the games he wants to make. Which is cool, even if his games may not be quite as clever or profound as he likes to think.

  48. The Sombrero Kid says:

    if you want to spew your pseudo intellectual bullshit all over the internet for all to see you have to accept that people will call you pretentious, and you are, it’s irrelevant that it’s an ‘in joke’ because the fact it’s an in joke makes him even more pretentious.

  49. Taillefer says:

    We used to call it flavour.

  50. Kieron Gillen says:

    Let’s be fair: there’s also the possibility that Blow’s critics are neither as clever nor profound as they think either.

    And to make my line clear, that it winds up the anti-intellectual brigade doesn’t mean that the *only* people it’ll wind up are the anti-intellectual brigade.

    That said, launching a game like this is very much a fuck-you to anyone who has a low tolerance for this sort of posture. Blow would have be really dense to not realise that it’s going to get some people’s backs up – therefore, since Blow isn’t in any way dense, getting those people’s backs up *is* part of the exercise.