Flower is a title that is considered by many to be largely centered on evoking positive emotions from players. With simplistic gameplay, vibrant visuals and a calming soundtrack, developer thatgamecompany succeeds in providing a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Flower also has a subtle story to tell, one that is far more interesting and profound than a gorgeous game about the interaction between wind and flower petals might first let on.
From the very beginning Flower delivers on the aesthetic which first makes the title so attractive. Within the first moments of gameplay thatgamecompany provides an experience that is beautiful, calming, and liberating all at once. Flower romanticizes nature and revolves around a common modern mindset towards nature: the absence of human development allows the natural systems of the planet to shine and offer their raw beauty.
Humans are in awe of the natural world, yet are entirely disconnected from it. Our planet seems to host two very distinct worlds: the natural world and the world of man. We have developed much of the world and have isolated ourselves from the lands that have not felt the presence of man, locking them away to shield their native magnificence from our trail of destruction.
Experiencing Flower for the first time, it is easy to understand how John Muir must have felt when he first happened upon the Yosemite Valley in 1871. Flower‘s lush environments are truly sights to behold. They are visually breathtaking, unique and unlike anything seen before in a videogame – clear blue skies, a sea of rolling hills covered in tall grass green as emeralds, the tranquil wind creating rippling waves across this sea, and vibrant colourful flowers dotted across the picturesque landscape. In its opening level, Flower gives us all the opportunity to happen upon a beautiful, undisturbed landscape – something that many of us will never have the opportunity to experience in the flesh.
Wind turbines are introduced to these pristine landscapes in the second level. These sources of clean and renewable energy 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 an environmentally friendly source of energy, but many consider them to be aesthetically pleasing or at least more so than a coal-fired power plant.
When the sun sets during the second level of Flower, it provides an absolutely breathtaking landscape where the silhouettes of turbines line a crimson-gold skyline slowly fading into darkness. This addition of wind turbines may not seem like a particularly huge development for the location in terms of beauty or tranquility, especially considering the environmental connotations associated with the structures, but this marks a distinct turning point for the title’s setting. The world of man and that of nature has begun to intermix. That environment 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 as a society threatens our very existence and continued survival as a species. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution mankind has made remarkable achievements previously never thought to be possible. However, in the process of these advancements, 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 pylon electrical towers provides a stark contrast to the calming and aesthetically pleasing landscapes leading up to that point. This setting shows that no matter our intentions, 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 exploited 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, exploiting millions of years of stored energy whilst putting enormous strain on the planet 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. Unfortunately for us, 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 vastly 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 that 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 of Flower harm the stream of petals when the two entities come into contact. There is only so much room for forgiveness and nature has finally reached its breaking point.
From the outset of Flower nature was romanticized to be something entirely separate from civilization. The expression “in the middle of nowhere” comes to mind, as we often associate non-urbanized areas with a sense of worthlessness. As urban development tames these natural spaces for our needs, it also destroys the natural beauty of our landscapes. Modern society and nature seemingly cannot coexist. 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, Flower‘s steam of petals brings down the electrical towers. However, in the wake of the destruction of modern 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 also 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 not only sees the destruction of modern society but also 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 seen as two separate worlds but coexisting entities.
The new structures 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 we pull the flower from the ground, and sit it in our windowsill. Even if we must live in these massive, drab and busy cities – those flowers can be our window to nature and represent the colour missing in our lives.