Jenova Chen is breaking open the head of video game design. Instead of stealing cars and waging war, he wants players to commune with nature. "Studio 360's" Kurt Andersen talks with Chen about his new game "Flower" -- the #1 downloaded game in February for Playstation 3.
"Flower" starts with one flower in a pot in a grey, urban apartment. And what you do in the game is set about fulfilling that flower's dream. One flower is lonely, so its dream is to have more flowers around it; another flower on a hot day dreams of a breeze to cool it down.
To play "Flower," you push a button, any button on the controller to generate some wind. The gusts propel a flower petal, which you then direct by tilting the controller. It's so simple, it's almost counter-intuitive, if you've gotten accustomed to all those complicated button combinations on most video games.
Chen: "You are the wind -- you blow over the field, and everything you touch, you give life to ... so if you touch a flower, the flower blooms and as you satisfy each dream of the flower, the room starts to become better; the room starts to become bright ... so it's more about reaching harmony between ... urban life and nature."
Chen explains his love for the medium: "A lot of my passion for games comes from knowing that a medium could be left behind. I felt the responsibility to make sure that this medium -- of video game, or interactive art -- could grow and become a true art and be embraced by everyone ... I have to do it in order to see this day when video game is the mature medium that is enjoyed by everybody.
"The interactive medium has interactions which other mediums don't, so theoretically, you can accomplish a lot more, or something a lot deeper than [other] existing mediums. So just knowing that the possibility is so big, that you can find something great in this space ... makes me feel safe."
"PRI's Peabody Award-winning "Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen" from WNYC is public radio's smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy — so let "Studio 360" steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will change your life.