FWR Episode 016: Flower

In Episode 016 we focus on Flower, downloadable for the PlayStation 3. The game has been described as a poem, and we use that classification to analyze the emotions it communicates through visual, audio, and interactive cues. We talk about the game’s unique structure, player character, and control scheme, and aesthetic parallels to pieces in other artistic mediums.

Don’t forget to check out and send us your thoughts on Gamer Theory for our upcoming Book Club episode, and thanks for listening.

No Responses to “FWR Episode 016: Flower”

  • sh Says:

    I’d like to say that comments about flower being a game that can be appreciated more as art strike me as very odd. For example, tonight was oscar night, where people celebrate the art and talent of mostly main stream movies; likewise for the grammy’s.

    I find it also funny that these mediums have their own genre’s which make people question the artistic value of said art (such as abstract/experimental/avant-garde/etc).

    Needless to say, this argument over what is art is both tired and uninteresting. A more interesting question might be: Does the success of flower mean we will start seeing more games in the genre of experimental or avant-garde coming to consoles?

    Personally, I thought flower has too much of a narrative and tries to be far too manipulative with emotions rather than presenting something that can truly be a unique experience. I am excited that this might mean that we might be able to see more games like this or Linger in Shadows.

  • shane Says:

    I’m not totally sure that I understand your position, SH, but I’ll try to respond anyhow. I don’t think we spent too much time this episode discussing whether or not we consider Flower art — we always begin with the assumption that games ARE art. Part of what we’re trying to do here is bridge gaps between gamers and communities that center around other mediums. To that end, I stand by my belief that Flower is a good ambassador.

    It’s unfortunate, but there is still a lot of resistance from other communities to recognize that games have artistic potential. A game like Flower, however, I think is easily approachable and therefore more accessible to those without game literacy skills. This is important because it allows a much wider audience the ability to appreciate what it is trying to achieve.

    I don’t think that Flower has “too much of a narrative” — in fact, I think it has the least identifiable narrative of any game in recent memory. I’m not even sure what the actors are supposed to be in Flower: transcendentalism and industrialism, possibly? This openness to interpretation stands out as Flower’s greatest artistic feat, to me.

    To your point about the success of Flower, I think that it will open up some doors. Games like Linger in Shadows are already out there, but I don’t find most of them to be nearly as engaging. Perhaps they suffer from the same problem as any experimental art, namely that once an understandable framework (genre construction) is removed, the artist must work twice as hard to capture the audience’s attention and empathy. This is what Flower is able to do that Linger in Shadows, sadly, didn’t for me. By the end of Flower I was completely invested, even though I still don’t fully understand in what.

  • trevor Says:

    If I’m understanding your main point, sh, it’s simply a question as to whether we’ll see more experimental games in the mainstream. Your allusion to the Oscars and Grammys is a point well-taken, since the small little circle of films and albums they focus on every year tend to remind us of what we’ve already seen or heard in the medium rather than what is pulling the artform forward or—shudder to think—fundamentally challenging it or even breaking it. The worst part of this, I think, is the mainstream seems to know how these artforms are already stagnant, yet in the end finds itself drawn into the pageantry of a popularity contest; the nods to experimentation are few and far between, so when a film like Persepolis or a Radiohead album come up in the conversation, the respective academies and audiences seem to have no real idea what to do with them.

    I agree in principle with what you’re saying about Flower’s narrative, but I think we have to be sure to say that narrative is being handled in a very different way than, say, the average AAA offering with space marines and subtitles. And as I type this, I of course have to realize and admit how absurd it even is to compare Flower to those kinds of games. I was in a game store just yesterday and nowhere on the wall did I see a single clamshell for Flower. Until that happens, I’m afraid we’re going to still keep having this kind of conversation about the games ghetto.

  • shawnr Says:

    I also want to point out that the “artgame”is clearly a rising genre, especially on the PS3. I use this term as I believe it is used primarily by mainstream gaming press; which is to say, it indicates a game that does not fit into the typical conventions we’re used to seeing or that even works directly against them. Games on PS3 like flOw, echochrome, and even The Last Guy are good examples of the “artgame” genre. Keita Takahashi (creator of Katamari Damacy) has just released an incredibly enigmatic example of the “genre” with Noby Noby Boy, which brings yet another angle to this discussion.

    At this point in time, the notion of an “artgame”genre is about as sensible and pragmatic as the notion of “alternative” music. It may seem wrong to have a codified genre called “alternative” but that has, nonetheless, become a norm in the music industry because it provides a convenient way for the system to deal with unorthodox material. It is not at all sensible, but it is, from a business perspective, pragmatic. I think the same thing is happening in games with the notion of an “artgame”. It is a pragmatic division that, at best, can provide a bucket in which publishers can put more avant garde material. But it is clearly destined to be a mixed bag.

    While I agree with all here that I assume games are art from the outset, I also think we need to recognize that there is a market genre called “art” and there is an ideal we upload called “art”. Both are valuable in their own ways.

  • SH Says:

    Sorry for the slight incoherence of my first post. I was a bit tired. I must confess that my reaction to calling the game an “art game” should have been directed more towards other press than this podcast. Next time I’ll listen to the entire episode before posting… yeah, won’t do that again.

    Shawnr, I like the analogy of “artgame” and “alternative music”. While genre’s can ultimately become a confusing and muddy mess, they do serve a purpose. Such as my earlier statements wishing to see more experimental games. I’m just afraid that calling something an artgame will mean I’ll suddenly have to filter through a lot more discussions about whether games are art.

    I hope for flower’s success, and based on how much media attention it has gotten it will succeed. Maybe this will bring more fresh ideas to the consoles. Sure there are computer and flash games that are bringing new ideas to the table, but I really want to see more on the consoles. Unfortunately, we all know that access to those systems is limited by other forces.

  • Trevor Says:

    Excellent points, SH. Genres are frequently thought of as over-restrictive and arbitrary, but nonetheless they still give us a framework to work with. You’re right to remind us of that.

    The problem I see in a lot of the coverage I’ve read and heard about Flower in the past week is that it frequently wants to quantify the game in terms of Those Things That Reviewers Always Tend To Talk About, i.e. controls, graphics and the marketplace. For me, Flower very efficiently takes care of all three of those concerns right off the top so we can really talk about what it *means*. At that point, genre seems to be only mildly useful, mostly as a basis of comparison (“Flower reminds me of X, Y and Z”).

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