Through the Round Window

Playing Flower means looking through a window into another world. Something like Play School and its variously-shaped windows, maybe.

Play School uses windows as excursions into everyday life, and as a kid I found this hopelessly dull next to the other crafts, games and stories. The ritual of choosing the window and going through it got my hopes up that it would be something worthwhile, but it was always just people doing ordinary things. Why would I be interested in that? The parts I didn't appreciate at the time were, I imagine, meant to give Aussie kids a view of other kids in situations they could relate to.

Flower's windows don't lead to people, or to any direct reality which makes them more of a fantasy. They could be seen as trip away from the city and closer to nature, but it's a highly artificial form of nature. Even the first level, seemingly the most undeveloped, is a grassy monoculture, with flowers in neat rows and patterns. This area is open and cleared, perfect for the wind turbines that toss the petals about. It's the kind of nature we construct for ourselves instead of accepting the messy reality of vegetation.

As our flower petals travel towards the city, transforming the landscape, we make flowers bloom. Not necessarily to "bring nature to the city", but to construct our own preferred reality and connection with plants. To grow them on our windowsill and imagine the petals floating away on their own adventures. To break up the grey.

Of course, it's not actually that simple. Over time our modified landscapes become nature. Nature tends to have more to do with human perception than anything else, and even the most wild areas are shaped by our influence anyway. A Flower level is a dream landscape, adding more abstraction to this idea, but even a dream is a version of reality.

So yes, Flower is that connection between people and nature, and gets to promote its own view of what that means. And we do respond: just having some visible greenery has measurable effects on things like how fast we heal or how likely we are to get depressed. I don't know whether computer generated plants can do the same but Flower seems to tap into things in people and I suspect it's for some of the same reasons. Mind you, if you really wanted to tease it out it would be difficult to separate the importance of the landscape from the way motion is handled, the emotional soundtrack and so on.

Flower's pot plants aren't so different to Play School's windows in that both produce constructions of the world and try to grasp at something we might want to connect with, rather than providing an unfiltered view of what actually exists.

Flower does take a darker turn though, suggesting something about the destructive elements of energy production in particular. It's one of the things that impresses me is that a game like this can put so much effort into making an uplifting beginning but still be willing to challenge people with something more ominous. This is where the window concept breaks down a bit though, feeling more like a progression through the levels than an escape from urban reality. The nightmare among the dreams and the trial we go through to earn the brighter conclusion.