Sony Computer Entertainment and thatgamecompany’s Flower
is a title that is considered by many to be centered on evoking positive emotions and have a soothing effect on the player. While Flower
succeeds at this with its lush and vibrant visuals and a soundtrack that is both calming and captivating; I believe that Flower
has a story to tell that is far more interesting than a gorgeous game about the interaction between the wind and flower petals would let on.
From the outset Flower
delivers on the aesthetic that sells the game. From the first moments of gameplay the player takes away several very simple things: it is visually beautiful, calming, peaceful and liberating all at once. Flower
romanticizes nature from its outset. It delivers and reinforces a common mindset amongst the world’s population today: nature is a beautiful place to go if only you can ‘get away from it all’ and find it. Nature is place in the world where the absence of other people can let the natural systems of the planet shine and show their raw beauty. It is for this very reason that places such as National Parks and media like National Geographic exist. Humans are in awe of the natural world and they long for it, but for the most part we are disconnected from it. Our planet seems to hosts two very distinct worlds: the natural world and the world of man. As far as games go, playing Flower
for the first time it is not terribly difficult to understand how John Muir must have felt when he first happened upon the Yosemite Valley. It is truly a sight to behold: visually breathtaking, unique and unlike anything seen before in a videogame: clear blue sky, a sea of rolling hills covered in tall grass green as emeralds, the tranquil wind creating ripples and waves across this sea, and vibrant colourful flowers dotted across the landscape.
Later on in Flower
wind turbines are introduced to these pristine landscapes. Wind turbines are a source of clean and renewable energy. As such they have found themselves being used as a symbol of the modern environmental movement that has largely focused itself on pollution, green house gas emissions, and global climate disruption. Not only are they more environmentally friendly, but many consider them to be visually pleasing or are at least more visually pleasing than say – a coal-fired power plant. When you see the sun setting behind rows of wind turbines in Flower
they can be downright beautiful as their silhouettes line a sky that looks as though it were an oil painting signed by God himself. So while this addition of wind turbines may not seem like a particularly huge development for the location in terms of beauty or tranquility; it marks a distinct turning point for that place. The world of man and that of nature has begun intermix. That place is forever changed, and because the will of man differs from that of nature a conflict is born.
We are living in dark times. For the first time in man’s history our progress threatens our very existence. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution mankind has done amazing things that people had previously never thought possible. However, in the process we are harming the very planet that gives us life. We are destroying our only home. In the latter levels of Flower
the stormy darkness, paired with eerie pylons and electrical towers is a stark contrast to the calming and aesthetically pleasing landscapes leading up to that point. This shows that no matter our intention, and no matter how separate we may consider ourselves from the natural world we do have an effect on what lies beyond our picket fences.
As it stands nature and man have a confrontational relationship. Man sees the natural world as a resource to be used for his own purposes. This exploitation of natural resources would be fine if the offenders were the only ones to feel the consequences of their individual actions. Unfortunately that is not the way the planet’s environmental systems work. Nothing we ever do is done in a vacuum. Everyone and everything on earth has an equitable share of the earth’s natural systems and resources. Everything gives and in turn everything receives, and for millions of years this closed loop system has been entirely sustainable. However, in recent history we have taken more than our fair share, whilst putting enormous strain on the world around us.
The earth once was a healthy functioning ecosystem. In many ways ecosystems function like individual organisms. If the earth were a single organism, than all life on earth would be in symbiosis with that ecosystem. Most terrestrial life has either a commensalistic or mutualistic relationship with the planet. However, in recent history the human race has become a parasite. We are a parasite that is threatening to offset of the balance of the planetary ecosystem and potentially destroy it entirely. The planet will not let us do that. If and when cataclysmic climate change happens it is not going to be the end of the world. In the long run the world will be fine. It will be different, but it will be just fine. It is probably just going to be a world without us.
It is evident that in Flower’s
final level we are at a crossroads. In the conflict between man and the place we call our home, nature time and again has turned the other cheek. It has taken beatings from us, just as the electrical towers in the latter levels of Flower
harm the stream of petals when the two entities come into contact, and now nature at its breaking point.
From the outset of Flower
nature was romanticized to be something entirely separate from civilization. In the common view urban development encroaches on these natural spaces, taming them for our uses, but destroying their natural beauty of the area none the less. The final level of Flower
tells us otherwise. Regardless of the path we take, nature is going to bring down civilization as we know it. Tired of the abuse that nature has received from man, the steam of petals brings down the pylons. However, in the wake of the destruction of our society we have an opportunity. A question is posed to us. Why must be think ourselves separate from nature? Largely what is good for us as a species is good for our environment as a whole. Why would we bite the hand that feeds us when we can coexist and have a mutually beneficial relationship? The final level of Flower
sees the destruction of modern society and the birth of a new one.
When the stream of petals destroys the old society, a new one arises from its ashes. Unlike the structures from before these ones embrace the nature around them. Society and nature are no longer two separate entities but coexisting entities as once was the case. The new buildings are vibrant and colourful. This once again reminds us that nature is the source of the colour in our lives. No matter how grand the expansive metropolises are, there is something inherent in our framework as people that longs for that paradisiacal field seen in the first moments of Flower
. Perhaps that is why pull the flower from the ground, pot it, and sit it in our windowsill. Even if we must live in these massive, busy and drab cities – those flowers can be our window to nature and the colour that enriches our lives.
LOOK WHO CAME: