Monday, March 2, 2009

Thoughts on Flower

I got this funny little feeling while playing Flower the first time. I’m not sure what it is. It’s like a little tickle in my chest that compels me to hang my mouth in awe. It makes me hold my controller gentle hands, careful not to pop the fragile bubble of immersion.

I know what you’re thinking. What a bunch of artsy-fartsy BS. And you’re right. Maybe the feeling comes from a sense of heightened expectations. I’m making myself extra receptive to this grand experience that was promised to me in press about the game. I had the same feeling while playing ICO so many years ago. All the reviewers having emotional reactions and talked about it in “hushed tones.” I had to own this game. Same thing happened with Shadow of the Colossus. My mouth hung open as I rode a horse through its giant planar landscapes.

I have managed to discard this awe on my subsequent play through. I am no longer audience to the grand “initial experience.” I am simply poking into its nooks and crannies to get 100%.

Hype aside, Flower is a game that manages to relax me. The combination of soothing musical score, piano key sound effects, and densely colorful images would melt me into my seat. Well, it would if I didn’t have to keep my arms up and steer the motion controls. But really, at least in one play session, I could feel my muscles loosening up as I swooshed through the mellow first levels. Then I loaded up Street Fighter 4 to face the horde of Ken players. SF4 is adrenaline pumping, heart pounding joystick pumping. So antithetical to the former experience that it gave me a cramp in my diaphragm. An experience I repeated today. I really gotta stop doing that.

Flower isn’t all swooshing around someone’s inner Happy Place. As the developer’s intention it lulls me into calmness before kicking up the mood for the climax. Without spoiling too much, Flower succeeds at eliciting a set of emotions then messes with them. It’s short. But so are poems. I guess we can see Flower as a sort of game design poem. Verses told in game play semantics. Someone stop me if I sound too artsy-fartsy.


Taylor said...

Very interesting analysis of Flower and it's relation to a "Game Design Poem." It seems like most "concept" games these days only manage to entertain for a while. I had fun with Mirror's Edge, but am not really drawn to playing it anymore. I may, just to get all of the stupid satchels. But maybe not.

Regardless, I wonder if it would almost make more sense to have an XNA Developer Network, like what Xbox 360 has. That way, you pay a monthly subscription fee, but you get access to a few "different" titles that are all concept-based, like this.

Then again, it might suck to not have access to the games when you cancel/end your subscription... But I dunno -- I have a hard time justifying a purchase for a game that I won't have any real desire to return to later. I know for a fact I'll be replaying all of my PS3 titles over and over again...

...except for Dead Space... ugh, I hate the camera angle. It's not even scary... Just... annoying.

Norman said...

You could also think about it this way: a movie ticket costs roughly $9 nowadays. That's what? 2 hours of entertainment? Small PSN/XBLA/concept games average $10. Do they give you the entertainment quantity/quality of a movie?