Flower Second Opinion
A Rose by Any Other Game
– Skimming the surface of the grass and sailing up in the air as on a roller coaster.
– Having to circle back to collect missed flowers.
– How does picking flower petals restore the environment?
Philosophers as old as Aristotle believed that the primary purpose of art is mimesis, or the imitation of nature. As Chi pointed out in his review, this function has served artists well throughout history. Flower
absolutely excels in this respect. From sun-filled fields to rainy canyons, the gorgeous vistas are breathtaking. The fluidity of the motion-sensitive controls is a perfect fit for guiding the wind across the rolling landscape. Rarely has a game been so convincing of motion that at times my heart actually leaped in my chest as the wind swept me up into the sky and gently ushered me back down again. The melodic tones that play at uneven intervals—whenever a flower is picked up—evoked images of a child learning the piano.
Despite all of these strengths, I came away from Flower
a bit disappointed. On one hand, it succeeds as a piece of traditional art, where the primary function of the audience is to interpret the story, understanding the events and deciphering their meaning. Games, on the other hand, require active audience participation to configure
the story. Players decide which events occur by choosing from or creating some options and eliminating others. As a result, the story will vary from player to player and from session to session. It is this unique characteristic of games that I found lacking.
A look at Flower
's narrative illustrates the point. The game tells a thought-provoking tale with themes ranging from solitude to environmental rejuvenation. Yes, the story will differ from player to player, but this difference is due to the abstract nature of the narrative, which permits multiple interpretations. It is unfortunately not due to the gameplay, which at its core can be summarized as Pac-Man
without the ghosts.
Even though I disagree with film critic Roger Ebert on the overall issue of whether or not games are art, he is spot-on when he says that a game without rules
ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.
This begs the question: Is Flower
primarily a game or is it something else altogether? If it could only be watched and not played, I'm not convinced that it would be a significantly worse experience. When viewing the documentary Seasons
at an IMAX over a decade ago, I had similar sensations as I did during my Flower
play-through: my heart leaped in my chest as an airplane soared across rolling flower fields.
It's conceivable that Flower
would actually be better off without forcing the player to complete its mundane gameplay tasks. During play I often had to stop abruptly to avoid missing flowers, killing my momentum and much of the sense of flow that I had developed. Occasionally I even became bored, as when I was forced to loop through the same areas multiple times in order to collect a few missed flower petals in order to progress. These instances hampered the game's ability to stimulate my senses or let me contemplate the narrative.
In the games-as-art debate, Flower
is frequently brought up as a supreme example of a game being art. I have no qualms with the game being considered art, or even great art. I do question if it is much of a game.
Rating: 6 out of 10
: This game was obtained via paid download
and reviewed on the PS3
. Approximately 4 hours of play
were devoted to the single-player mode (completed 1 time).