Critical Examination: Flower

FlowerYou all are about to think that I am such a hipster, because I am about to critically examine a game where you play as the wind and collect flower petals to help you with objectives.  That sounds so simple, and when you say it out loud, kind of dumb.  But there is a lot of subtext in this game, which only my unbelievably-strange and overly-analytical examination might help you all to see.  But don’t think that this is something where you can’t contribute.  For real, if you have your own take, let me know.  I love some good gaming conversation.  Though, if you just want to call me a pretentious hipster faggot, I won’t stop you.  I get that there is something to be said for that argument.  Stick with me, though, and you might see where I’m coming from.

Part One: The Lonely Apartment

Let’s all be willing to admit that there has been a point in our lives where we are somewhere that we don’t want to be.  How many of you reading this have a flat or an apartment in a part of town that we don’t want to be, and the place isn’t that great either.  My first apartment was in the worst part of town, with mold growing somewhere in my bathroom.  It was constantly giving me stomach aches. I could smell it, and I knew it was there, but had no idea where.  I have a feeling that it was behind the shower.  It would explain why my ex and I got so sick the first week we lived there.  That wasn’t fun.  However, all of us have been in a place in our lives that we didn’t want to be, and had to accept it because we either don’t have the money or don’t have the opportunity to go further.

When you first enter Flower, you are in the main character’s apartment. The main character isn’t the wind, as so many think.  It is a nameless person, man or woman, who is in an apartment that they don’t want to be.  It’s grungy, and you can hear a loud computer monitor in the background.  This is not a nice place.  And that, in turn, opens up the world of the wind.  See, those worlds are connected to the protagonist’s mind.  They are daydreams or fantasies.  As you go through each level, and return to that apartment, you begin to notice things.  At the end of the first level, the place has been cleaned up a fair bit, but is still very drab.  That ties in to the next level.  At the end of that, the apartment now has color and looks pretty nice.  However, there is that closed window, like the outside world doesn’t really exist.  Which ties in to the next level.  When you arrive at the apartment again, night has fallen.

The end of the night has you coming back to a rain storm.  Given that each level is showing off the character’s frame of mine, this is when they are at their lowest.  The worlds of their fantasy reflect that, but I’ll get to that when I do.  The end of the storm level is symbolic for more reasons than one.  At the end of it, you have the sun shining through.  The protagonist is finally ready, to accept their life, and move forward.  You get through the last level, and you see the apartment and the rest of the world.  There is sunshine, color, a nice breeze, and everything appears right.  After going through the whole game, this person in this lonely apartment has come to terms with life, and is ready to move forward.  The credits level is a reflection of this.  It’s telling that, instead of it being accessed through a flower, it is through a picture.  All of it is a reflection on life and how far this person has come.  But it also goes back to memory.  That picture is a memory of where they started.  Now, they have come full circle.

Whenever we go to a place where we don’t want to be, not all of us realize that it can be as good or as bad as we make it.  That’s something that I had to figure out.  I got here, and I saw this place.  It’s white and colorless.  But I have found ways of making it my own.  I have a painting that my grandmother left me.  It was the only thing she owned that was to go to a specific person.  Part of me feels weird about that.  Like it is somehow disrespectful.  But I digress.  I also got this really pretty glitter lamp.  With these things, I have helped to make this place my own.  The main character in Flower was in much the same place.  They were somewhere that they didn’t want to be, but through each adventure through their mind, we see that they have been working as well.  Not just to improve their own life, but the life of their community.  By the end of the game, you hear life in the street, and music..  It’s a community that was helped to come alive, with hints that this is something that you have been a part of.  Both you and this protagonist have helped their world in some small way.  But that small way makes a world of difference.  It’s the thing that makes communities grow.

Something that people in the 21st century are seeming to forget is the community bonds.  I’ll give the San Fransisco hipsters one thing – they do have a lot of community.  These people go out and do things to improve the lives of the communities they live in.  That’s not to say that other places don’t have that.  I have heard and read stories about poor communities coming together to improve things.  Goes to show that while there isn’t a lot of hope for humanity, it’s there all the same.  But what about the fantasy?  What about the realms of the protagonist’s mind?  Well, let’s talk about those.

Part Two: The Wind

As I said, each level is a journey into the protagonist’s mind.  And each level has some symbolism to where their mind is.  The first level is, in my opinion, in the most beautiful.  Maybe that’s just because I love nature so much.  However, there is also the amount of detail in this level.  Anyway, that first level is very specific.  The way it’s presented, this place is a memory.  Perhaps of somewhere that the protagonist grew up.  They don’t like the world that they are in, so in their mind they go to a better one.  A world of light and fresh air and freedom.  Despite the limited nature of the game’s design, the way you see that world of grass go on forever, it feels free.  That’s where the main character wants to be.  They want to be free.  They imagine roaming those hills, and the level ends at the base of a giant tree.  That’s important.  Was this tree significant?  A symbol of something being planted?  That could go anywhere.  So let’s end with saying that it is important, even is we may never know why.

The next level is still very much filled with nature.  However, this is something else.  It is a colorless world.  Given that in the real world, things are very colorless as well, the fantasy realm no longer reflects just what the character is imagining.  Now it is affected by the world.  You go through the level, and with each objective you accomplish, you notice that color starts to come into the world.  From the grass and flowers, to the rocks and even the sky.  The color seeps into every part of this person’s world.  When you see what becomes of the world after the level, it is a very clear indication that the color of their fantasy is tied in to them trying to make their world world more colorful.  The thing that I think is most indicative of that theory is when, at the last section of the level, you are able to use the wind to spread color to the areas around these color hubs.  In essence, you can paint your world.  You even get a trophy for it.  That painting definitely says that you are helping to paint your own life.

While I will say that the next level is a little trickier to analyze, let’s talk about it.  You start off on a windy day.  But that isn’t the thing that catches my attention.  The thing that is important to notice is that you have windmills in this level.  It’s the first time that we see technology in this fantasy world.  The world that we know has finally entered the mind of our protagonist, and through this level, you are bringing these windmills to life.  That’s important.  For so long, this character has been fighting against becoming part of the world around them, but now they have a chance to truly embrace it.  They use the wind to bring it all to life.  It is a sign of things to come.  The level ends with the sun going down, and you can see a world beyond where there are street lights.

It may not be the biggest or grandest or most beautiful level, but the night level is no less important.  Here, in this place, the world of technology and nature collide.  Not always in obvious ways, either.  The biggest example of technology entering the world is how you are lighting up street lamps and hanging lights.  You use the wind to also bring nature to life, but it is in a very strange glow, that feels surreal.  Like it doesn’t belong.  That’s important.  However, there are some interesting other parts to the level.  Like how there are these ponds that you can also light up.  You can have fireflies come up, and hear the toads croaking.  A sign of those memories of free days and nature, and how they are becoming lesser because of the technological world that is encroaching.  Each of the ponds is in a secluded place.  You have to look for them.  That isn’t a coincidence.  The memories of childhood are becoming put to the side as well.  The main character is growing up, and they are starting to realize it.  When you get to the end of the level, you begin to have things breaking down.  The lights go out, and it gets very ominous.  Dark shadows are all around.  This is your mind fighting against this world.  It is no longer inviting.  Now it’s cold, and frightening.  You don’t want to be a part of it anymore.  Which leads into the next place.

When we face down adulthood, there is a period when we feel hurt.  When we don’t want to accept it.  Fight against it, but you can’t beat it.  Eventually, we all have to grow up.  The stormy level is the protagonist fighting against it.  It is them not wanting to accept.  The fantasy is falling apart, with technology now a dark and terrifying storm.  It shocks and hurt and destroys.  It is unkind and won’t give you what you want.  Hitting the electrified metal will damage you.  This is that border between depression and acceptance.  They are starting to come to like where they are in the world.  They’ve been working to make it better.  How can they surpass it now?  What will happen?  That’s not an easy thing to ask.  The last part of the level is that darkness collapsing around the character, and depending on how well you do, you may or may not make it out unscathed.

At the apartment, when this level ends, you are looking at the light of dawn coming in through the window.  The night is over.  The worst of the pain is over.  Now, our protagonist has come to accept their life, and is able to move forward.  This level is all about acceptance.  Let’s look at how it begins.  You are literally taking in the light of dawn and using that to destroy the ruins of darkness that have been haunting you.  Smashing through the wreckage, and as you do this, a beautiful and colorful city rises up around you.  The light is not just metaphorical.  It’s spreading to everywhere.  Every place that you touch with the light, as you take out the wreckage, it spread to the city and makes it glow.  If you’re anything like me, you wanted to make every part come alive.  The wreckage gets more densely packed, the further you get in, but using the power of the light, you are able to bust through it.  Eventually, you take that light and then use it to smash through the last of the darkness, in a massive tower in the center.  The further in you get, the faster you go.  You rise and rise through the tower, destroying the darkness and wreckage, until you reach the top and a massive tree sprouts in the center.  It all leads up and up, until you go through a window and see a picture on a table, back at your apartment.  Finally, the main character is able to leave behind the world of fantasy and move forward with their life.  A picture of their time is what’s left.

The credits level is the main character remembering how far they have come.  It is a way to look back and see just how much they have done.  But it is all framed inside a picture, so this is no longer a fantasy.  Now it’s just memory.

Part Three: Adulthood

While this game is partly about a person who is living in a new place and has a new life, there is a very clear parallel to growing up.  We all have to do it.  It isn’t easy.  In this economy, growing up is harder than ever, but we don’t have a choice.  None of us can escape time.  It’s our eternal companion that we walk with.  But it is hard.  The journey from fantasizing about days gone by, to finally accepting that we have to move forward is arguably the most difficult that we will ever have to make.  Though, there is also the fact that we are going to grow old and die that we have to contend with.  That isn’t easy.  The milestones in our lives on the journey from birth to death are the things that make this world nice to live in.  The first kiss.  The first apartment.  The first time waking up with wind blowing in your window and the sun shining.  All of these landmarks make their place in our lives.  We mark them all in our own way.

Flower is a game about growing up, accepting a new lot in life, and making the most of whatever we are given.  Sometimes it isn’t easy.  In fact, it never is.  But that’s the cost of living.  For some, that cost is more than they can bear.  It’s a shame when those people choose to cash in.  There have been times where I’ve thought about it.  However, we all have to make our choices, and live with the consequences.  This person decided to choose to improve not only their apartment, but also their world.  So next time you are looking at your drab wall and feel depressed, hang something on it.  You never know what you might find.  That little splash of color could be what brings you out of the fantasy, into a better reality than has ever been.

What are your thoughts about this game?  Think I’m being WAY too analytical?  Let me know in the comments down below.

Until next time, a quote,

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” -Lao Tzu

Peace out,

Maverick

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