Smart Casual

There's a really decent interview over on Kotaku

(shocking, I know) with Jenova Chen and a bunch of the other kids who made flOw and Flower. It pretty interesting stuff, mostly because it demonstrates a train of thought which is both refreshing and, most importantly, currently in effect. It's one thing to say that games need to be more imaginative and expressive, it's another to go out and actually do something about it.

With games like Flower and flOW, that's exactly what Chen tries to give players: Something new. And he's giving them that via a new method for console gamers, digital distribution. Each year, video game after video game hits retailers. Few of them we remember; few of them stick with us. The rest sit on our shelves with nothing more lasting than the plastic boxes they came in.
ThatGameCompany doesn't do sex or violence. "I've played a lot of first person shooters as a child," says Chen. "I don't see the need to improve my headshot." More importantly, he doesn't see the need to make games to have other players improve their headshots — not because he's some prude, but because it's been done. A gajillion times.

Its a fair point.

Sometimes I find myself drowning in shooters. Variety is hard to come by when the core user base seems content to play Halo X, Gears Of War Y and Call Of Duty Z for the rest of eternity. I don't blame them. Violence is entertaining.

While titles like Flower clock in at a couple of hours, that does not mean they are casual. "Casual games," says Chen, "are too shallow." What they are is easy to get into. ThatGameCompany wanted to make a new, yet totally accessible experience. In Flower, for example, Chen's small team removed everything that made test-players utter the word "fuck" in frustration.

Which, in retrospect, seems fucking genius.

Granted, it wouldn't apply to every game because some games leech their entertainment value from repetitive combinations and split-second reactions. Which, when given the right aesthetic, can be fantastically enthralling. Flower is a success because it removes any sense of agitation. When done right it doesn't give you adrenaline, it gives you a shot of harmonic endorphins.
But what's important here is the differentiation between Casual and Something Else. Does Casual Gaming apply to the accessibility of the game, like Wii Sports, or the length and simplicity of a game, something like Age Of Booty or Braid. The concepts behind the latter are certainly not Casual, and arguably neither is Flower. This presents an opportunity to provide some depth to the analysis of Flower, but once you start discussing metaphors and so on, one gets the feeling that the point has been severely missed. The beauty lies in the simplicity.

Flower is a game, although arguably a game with a function beyond entertainment. Relaxation is a definitive symptom. Because of this, the market is decidedly niche. A game like flower could never hope to compete with a game like Halo 3, not only because the concept would be stretched beyond breaking point, but because the majority of people would be unable to appreciate exactly what the game is trying to achieve.

Flower is not a casual game. It's a game for casual people.

The difference is both startling and important.

A combination of the Nintendo E3 conference and the GiantBombcast heralded one of the greatest E3 podcasts ever made.
  

And this is sort of what is in effect here. Some people are NEVER going to play Flower. So, fuck them. ThatGamerCompany seems to be doing pretty well designing games for people who don't even know what the word "Frag" means, but who have a relaxed attitude towards computer games. This is a good thing.

It's nice, and comforting, to see a developer creating a game which doesn't involve anger in any form.

Thanks For Reading
Love Sweep
10 Comments
10 Comments
Posted by Sweep

There's a really decent interview over on Kotaku

(shocking, I know) with Jenova Chen and a bunch of the other kids who made flOw and Flower. It pretty interesting stuff, mostly because it demonstrates a train of thought which is both refreshing and, most importantly, currently in effect. It's one thing to say that games need to be more imaginative and expressive, it's another to go out and actually do something about it.

With games like Flower and flOW, that's exactly what Chen tries to give players: Something new. And he's giving them that via a new method for console gamers, digital distribution. Each year, video game after video game hits retailers. Few of them we remember; few of them stick with us. The rest sit on our shelves with nothing more lasting than the plastic boxes they came in.
ThatGameCompany doesn't do sex or violence. "I've played a lot of first person shooters as a child," says Chen. "I don't see the need to improve my headshot." More importantly, he doesn't see the need to make games to have other players improve their headshots — not because he's some prude, but because it's been done. A gajillion times.

Its a fair point.

Sometimes I find myself drowning in shooters. Variety is hard to come by when the core user base seems content to play Halo X, Gears Of War Y and Call Of Duty Z for the rest of eternity. I don't blame them. Violence is entertaining.

While titles like Flower clock in at a couple of hours, that does not mean they are casual. "Casual games," says Chen, "are too shallow." What they are is easy to get into. ThatGameCompany wanted to make a new, yet totally accessible experience. In Flower, for example, Chen's small team removed everything that made test-players utter the word "fuck" in frustration.

Which, in retrospect, seems fucking genius.

Granted, it wouldn't apply to every game because some games leech their entertainment value from repetitive combinations and split-second reactions. Which, when given the right aesthetic, can be fantastically enthralling. Flower is a success because it removes any sense of agitation. When done right it doesn't give you adrenaline, it gives you a shot of harmonic endorphins.
But what's important here is the differentiation between Casual and Something Else. Does Casual Gaming apply to the accessibility of the game, like Wii Sports, or the length and simplicity of a game, something like Age Of Booty or Braid. The concepts behind the latter are certainly not Casual, and arguably neither is Flower. This presents an opportunity to provide some depth to the analysis of Flower, but once you start discussing metaphors and so on, one gets the feeling that the point has been severely missed. The beauty lies in the simplicity.

Flower is a game, although arguably a game with a function beyond entertainment. Relaxation is a definitive symptom. Because of this, the market is decidedly niche. A game like flower could never hope to compete with a game like Halo 3, not only because the concept would be stretched beyond breaking point, but because the majority of people would be unable to appreciate exactly what the game is trying to achieve.

Flower is not a casual game. It's a game for casual people.

The difference is both startling and important.

A combination of the Nintendo E3 conference and the GiantBombcast heralded one of the greatest E3 podcasts ever made.
  

And this is sort of what is in effect here. Some people are NEVER going to play Flower. So, fuck them. ThatGamerCompany seems to be doing pretty well designing games for people who don't even know what the word "Frag" means, but who have a relaxed attitude towards computer games. This is a good thing.

It's nice, and comforting, to see a developer creating a game which doesn't involve anger in any form.

Thanks For Reading
Love Sweep
Moderator
Posted by Snail

As much as I despise casual gaming, I can't help but to love flower, and therefore, loving ThatGameCompany.

Posted by Sweep
@Snail:
Sweep:
Flower is not a casual game. It's a game for casual people.
Moderator
Posted by Snail
@Sweep: I read that, but flOw is a casual game.
Posted by Sweep

I don't know about that. Maybe, as the flash game - but I wouldn't class the concept as casual.

Chen:

While titles like Flower clock in at a couple of hours, that does not mean they are casual. "Casual games," says Chen, "are too shallow." What they are is easy to get into.

Moderator
Posted by Bigandtasty
"Chen's small team removed everything that made test-players utter the word "fuck" in frustration."

ahahahahah

i want to try flower but oh well
Posted by Oni

Yay a great Sweep blog! It's been too long :) Flower is pretty great. It's pretty relaxing and just plain pretty. I mean, the game just wants you to chill out and look at the pretty pictures, and underneath there is some kind of metaphor or whatever, but just taken in its own context, it's a great game that actually has a pretty cool ending. Mostly, I just like that it exists.

Also, NEVER.

Posted by Claude

I would love to play Flower, but I don't have a PS3. I'm not a big shooter fan or online frag master fan. Maybe I'm a casual person. Okay back to my golf game, I'm going online to take some fuckers down.

Posted by Bruce

Sounds...orgasmic.

Posted by Diamond

I don't think flower is a game for 'casual' people.  It's a game will broad appeal.

Think of all the variety there is in gaming.

There's stuff like Wii Sports which is very casual, but simple to the point of being dumb (I think Resort will be better in this way)
There's stuff like Peggle and Bejeweled (and Puzzle Quest) which are casual yet good playing.
There's stuff like Tetris which anyone could play but few could master
There's a lot of retro games which anyone can enjoy but few can play well at all

There's lots of different angles to making gameplay.