Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Flower: Gaming Urban Flight

A link from the ASLA blog The Dirt offered word of a landscape-oriented game from Playstation 3 entitled 'Flower'. The gist: "Sony will soon release a new game “Flower,” which explores the path of an urban flower that seeks to escape to the countryside. Sony’s designer says the game is an interactive poem, which uses abstract landscapes, and the ”flower is the gamer’s dream.” According to Wired, “flower lets the player explore the dreams of city blooms trapped in urban decay, longing to caress the soft grasses of the countryside.”

:: Flower screenshots - images via IGN

More from The Dirt: "Sony designed the game to be “attractive and meaningful” for adults, and wanted to make it simple and accessible. Players can control the path of the flower, and its pollination of the landscapes."

That all sounds laudable, and perhaps it does acheive the aim to provide some ecological ideaology to the gaming masses - an antidote to mindless gratuitous violence, maybe? To me, there's an underlying message that I couldn't seem to shake from the minute I read the first line of the description. The idea of escape from 'urban decay' to the 'soft grasses of the countryside' sounds a lot like the same reasoning given for white flight or urban flight to the suburbs, exurbs, or and whatever-burbs that seem to be indicative of our destructive, sprawling legacy. Our desire for the simple life in the country and space to spread our wings is a major tenet of development in the past century or longer.

To draw some parallels with the idea of urbanism is maybe a bit of a stretch, but the root of the idea that I keep coming back to is the idea that urban is bad, decaying, unhealthy, and the countryside is good, nourishing, and desirable. Agree or disagree - the metaphor is pretty overt, and undermines much of the work to blur the line between city and nature (see EcoMetropolitanism, et.al.) - giving rise to a new crop of people who see the polarity or urban/rural as bad/good.

As mentioned, "...The game explores the relationship between cities and nature, the complexities of ecology." I'd say yes, and 'explores' being the operative word, but perhaps not in the way that was envisioned by the creators. Will this reflect in a new generation of urban flight and backsliding regarding our interpretation and interaction with urban nature? Probably not - but it's an interesting interpretation and simplification of both social and ecological principles - not unexpected from the media.

For some more info, here's a video clip from the original Wired post. As one how doesn't spend much time gaming, I will have to allow others to see if the game is an interactive poem, or an analog for sprawl. Decide for yourself, and let me know if you get a chance to check it out.

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