How genres shape the impact of a game: Meditative Spaces

Genres and what a game means to a player

The use of genres to identify and categorize the content of different forms of art is nothing new, however the change in genre in games can have a massive impact on the gameplay experience.  The differences and defining points of genres within gaming have grown and expanded in recent decades to include all manner of mechanical systems, progression models, and player rewards. Today I will be analyzing Flower a game released by developer thatgamecompany which exemplifies the use of games as a meditative space.

flower-petal

Exploration of meditative spaces 

In the artistic game Flower,  the player is in control of a gust of wind which carries an ever growing collection of flower petals through the air.  The goal of the game is to seek out, unlock, and collect enough petals to revitalize the natural area of each level.

  • Mechanical systems:
    • Motion control: The directional input for the game is handled via the motion controls from tilting the six-axis controller and using its gyroscope to feed the gust of wind information as to where to go next.  It is an intentionally expressive control scheme, it uses the player’s motions in the real world to impact the game world, and in doing so, makes the player feel connected to the gameplay in the physical world.
    • Speed: The only button input the player uses determines how fast they move within the game space.  This highlights the fact that the natural state of the game is to float peacefully in space and it is the player’s input which serves as the catalyst for change.
  • Progression model:
    • Level unlock / completion: As the player completes a level and brings the lush vegetation back, the game unlocks further levels to explore and spend time in, each as beautiful as the last.
    • Purpose: The progression is also delivered via a sense of purpose, the player is tasked with revitalizing the natural world in the face of the industrial world’s aggressive takeover. Coming to a head in the later levels within which hazards and disruptive forces impact the player’s previously peaceful play-space.
  • Player rewards:
    • Meditative space: The game features a play space which invites the player to play expressively, especially with the motion controls.  The manipulation of the flower flow creates in the player a sense of magic and wonder, relaxation and peace.
    • Depressurized play: For a majority of the game, save for the later levels which are disruptive to prove the point of the narrative, the player is placed into a state of depressurized play.  Playing the game is more akin to playing with a toy since the player can disregard the objective and enjoy the process of play itself.  The objective is also placed within the structure of a puzzle where the player must collect petals in order to advance, but even this focused gameplay is framed as an opportunity to explore and play with the space.

flower-3

This is the third installment in my series titled How genres shape the impact of a game, if you enjoyed it please feel free to read through the other articles within the series: CompetitionRoleplaying Narratives, and Forums for Creativity. I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please do so in the comments below, or write in to playprofessor@gmail.com.

Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on FacebookTwitterInstagramand Youtube.


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