The PS4’s Top-Rated Game is Not What You Would Expect
Back in 2009, the independent video game development studio Thatgamecompany (also known for flOw and Journey) released the latest installment in their series of emotional and thought-provoking games: the hit title Flower for the PlayStation 3. The game was a critical success, with review scores stabilizing around the 9/10 mark. Those who played the game praised its uniqueness and its powerful story while proclaiming it as bold and brave. Yet, in the vast and majestic realm known as the internet, an age-old debate had been rekindled: what makes a game a game?
Flower’s gameplay might leave the uninformed gamer confused. Upon selecting one of the game’s six levels to partake in, the game brings you to a large, open area (typically in a field) and presents you with a single flower petal. You are then left to guide it via the wind on a journey of land beautification. The most initially striking feature of the game is that it is controlled strictly by tilting and rolling the DualShock controller, which allows you to change elevation and direction. As you complete the goals that the game gives you for the level (there is no immersion-breaking tutorial or guide arrow to be seen), you continue to add more flower petals to your arrangement, which grows into an even more beautiful and powerful force of nature.
Another feature of the game is that it does not offer the player any form of dialogue or written story. Instead, it is up to the player to piece together the narrative and story arc on their own. In a world where we typically expect our hand to be held to some degree, Flower makes no attempt to intrude on your own interpretation of the game’s overall meaning.
As is common with critically acclaimed video games, Flower has its own group of people questioning its popularity. Perhaps not so common is that their argument usually includes accusation that Flower is not even a video game. Among the field of negativity, the disapproving crowd is quick to label it as a mere tech demo meant to show off the capabilities of the DualShock’s motion detection, while others take a more stereotypical route in claiming that it doesn’t possess enough action to maintain their interest.
Luckily for fans of the game, the supporters outnumber the haters. Those who enjoy the game retaliate by referring to it as a work of art, stating that the best video games do not have to spell everything out for the modern gamer. Some even say that Flower as a game has provided them with one of, if not the most beautiful, heart-warming experiences of their lives. That’s a fairly bold claim, isn’t it?
Regardless of how heated the debate may be, Thatgamecompany isn’t slowing down. They re-released Flower for the next-generation console PlayStation 4, updating the game with high definition graphics and improved motion controls. As of now, Flower is at the top of the PlayStation 4 rating list on Metacritic, where it stands tall over industry giants such as Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. It shines as a beacon of hope for the gaming industry, helping to prove once and for all that originality and bravery on the part of the developer can lead to greatness.
What do you think are the defining characteristics of a video game? Should the industry and gamers as a whole be more accepting toward games such as Flower? Sound off in the comments.