I've been trying to get more information about what the core leaders of the studio named thatgamecompany had in mind when it came to video games. There's a variety of material to browse, and one source I found interesting to check out, since rather easy to go through and simple to understand, was a short video.
Here is something interesting. Pay attention from 1:26.
Some anon from SuperHyperTurboWhatever asks Kellee Santiago, co-founder and president of TGC, the following question about Flower:
Why is it a game? Why is it not a meditation tool?
Santiago's "answer" is most revealing:
Well, because we approach our projects, erm, from a creative standpoint. [cut] From that starting point, erm, will lead to something totally unique and different and why we don't start necessarily with mechanics, we start with this idea like with Flower [cut] the feeling of being in a huge field of flower (something) what that's like, and it feeds the art direction, it feeds the music which through mediums like film, we know how to do that, and there's that added component of interactivity, so we really view it as a complete experience with all those elements working together to... to communicate concepts through the medium of video games.
If there's something that hasn't struck you yet, then let me help you get it. The point is how painfully obvious it is that she cannot explain why their product, Flower, is a game to begin with. The same actually applies to Flow and, soon enough, Journey.
There's just a basic admission that interactivity, and only interactivity, was an added component.
However, interactivity alone doesn't make a game.
The reason behind her failure to explain why Flower is a game is because it's a poor one from any gaming perspective. It's an interactive experience with a pinch of what may pass off as rules.
There's basically nothing about complexity, mechanics depth and any form of real challenge.
That they wanted to make a relaxing experience is a good thing, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that they made a game just because they call themselves thatgamecompany.
They are going backwards, with visuals taking way too much importance over what makes a game memorable and enjoyable on the long term, which is quite ironical considering how the highbrow plebe loves to spit at the GPU monkeys for their sole love of amazing graphics that make their latest overpriced hardware melt down.
The playing experience is so poor that it turns out to be a superfluous addition; "an added component" as Santiago would say.
Well guess what? You don't "add" such an element, as an after thought, in order to obtain a real game. Mechanics are not the pinch of salt you add at the last minute in your recipe. It's a core part of what you're brewing. It's an essential and primary asset of what defines a functional game.
The very fact that they were more concerned about the musical and visual experiences rather than the playing is all the proof we need.
She was asked a very simple question. Why is Flower a game, and not a meditation tool? Yet, of all that she said, she fatefully and precisely ended describing a so-called meditation tool, if you can call it that. Even the mention of interactivity didn't cut it. It would seem that she just doesn't understand what makes a game at all.
What baffles me most is that she's already been given enough spotlight and some soap box to stand on so as to lecture people now! Essentially, a non-remarkable exercise wherein she parrots what she's read on Internet and the few bits borrowed from Rules of Play. Why the hell is she even given a microphone to waste people's time with such useless matters?
Flower could have been a great game if there had been real play mechanics in it, all those pieces that do engender subjugating gaming experiences. But flying across some random landscape left and right, then doing a 180° turn and going the other way while colliding with petals and flowers... what the hell is that? Their quest against violence is ludicrous! The envelope is all about pretense: you could have made a game where you're flying above a green landscape and collecting energy cores that would let you grow powerful nodes that expand your empire, with the same triggered elements of growing structures and others being destroyed, and the "message", if there had to be one, would have been completely different without changing anything from the scant mechanics. The varnish cracks so easily, it's quite pathetic.
In a sense, she and her friends didn't think the game. They merely followed a social trend and wanted to bring this pollution to the gaming industry.
My opinion about these people will change the moment they'll stop pretending making real games, and from the moment the press will stop praising them for what they are not. Then, and only then, I may show them some respect for the artistically creative minds they seem to be.
Until then, let's continue hurling feces at 'em.