First things first: Braid
This is very encouraging news. Braid is an independent game that has met with very big success. It was developed by a handful of people led by designer Jonathan Blow, and not only is it selling well, it has been getting unanimously positive reviews by both players and critics.
Like Portal, another very popular and well-received game, Braid is an innovative puzzle game built on top of a more familiar action game setting. I wonder if there is something about puzzle games that makes them easier to perfect and polish into a cohesive, finely crafted experience like Braid and Portal.
Braid's author, Jonathan Blow, is a sometimes controversial figure whose writing and talks I have been following for a while. Though I don't necessarily agree with everything he says (or what anyone else says, really) it's always fun and interesting to listen. And the success of his first big project, Braid, shows that he knows what he's doing, and that it's possible to make it big as an indie developer. I find that very encouraging.
At the end of one talk he gave earlier this year called Games Need You, about "how our games are inherently conflicted", Blow read a quote describing how games convey meaning:
"...meaning which is less specific, less concrete and deliberate, harder to define, harder to pin down, a meaning that transcends the author-reader conduit model of 'message' style meaning, a meaning that absorbs intention but is not bound by it, a meaning that can't be reduced to a claim about the world, but is no less about the world because of it."
It struck me that this describes not only how games might convey meaning, but could just as well be a description of mythtelling through oral narrative poetry, as described in the book A Story as Sharp as a Knife. If you want to understand the meaning of games, you would do well to read that book.