Despite the corny romanticism that is its basis (wilting urban flower has a dream of sunlit wind-kissed wavy fields), there's an overwhelming consensus out there that Flower is, as co-creator Jenova Chen puts it, "video game poetry." Not just "poetic" in the sense meant by the phrase often repeated in gamers' reviews--"this poetic, romantic ideal," one of them writes--but poetic in its super-explicit aestheticism and anti-ambitious alterity. It's surely not the first video game that approaches abstraction and open, non-directed themes, but it's surely the first that will receive a wide response. If its promoters can get past the obvious transcendental language ("Flower makes your heart soar as you whip the controller up, sending your petal stream high above the landscape in a tornado of beautiful colours and roaring wind...watch[ing] the blades of grass part..."), many competition-oriented gamers will discover for themselves something of the surprise of poetic experiment: What exactly was that I just experienced? I don't know what to call it. It's not that it's especially beautiful (certainly not to me); the visualities are not its innovation. What's different is that it's different--its unobvious motives, its impractical reason for being, its unintentionally deadened affect.***
To be sure, making body-oriented or body-connected poetry in digital environments such as Brown's "cave"** is not new. And Flower is retro compared to some of the work done by artists in the world of digital poetics. The difference with Flower, of course, is that it's coming through a mainstream pipe (PlayStation3) and is the work of young people not otherwise connected to the poetics community.
Your responses invited. Write me at afilreis [at] gmail [dot] com.
** For an example of visual/physical word flow in Brown's cave, click here.
*** I suppose it could be argued that this makes it a candidate for designation as kitsch.