Updated: May 9
What's going on everyone?
With the school year coming to a close, many of us are already thinking about and planning for September. One teacher I spoke with in particular is thinking about different and unique ways they can go about teaching "theme" to their students. Theme is the central idea of a talk, or a piece of writing. It is an idea that recurs in or pervades a work of art or literature that can often be summed up in one word. That may seem simple to many of us, but simple topics are often complicated to teach. So I decided to make a lesson on theme using the video game Flower by thatgamecompany. You can find the lesson plan here.
thatgamecompany is known for their beautiful, short, and simplistic games. Flower is no exception. The developers intended for the game to be a meditative experience that allows the players to "be in complete zen." The player utilizes motion controllers with their controllers, or smartphone depending on how they are playing, to guide a petal of a flower in the wind.
You enter the dreams of six different flowers in a windowsill of a bustling city. In the beginning of the game, the city seems over-industrialized. It is bleak and full of steel sweeping across the skyline. Playing through a flower's dream gradually brings color and life back to this depressed environment. Even the flower's home gradually becomes more full of life.
The theme of Flower is very clear as you play the game; Balance. It is about finding a balance between urbanization and nature. We are all readily aware of how the natural environments around us are being destroyed for the sake of industrial development, but many of us are apathetic to its consequences. There will come a time when we will need to fundamentally change how we treat nature and our environmental surroundings. That does not mean that cities are bad. This game is all about showing us that balance can be attainable if we put in the effort.
In Flower, you control a petal and the speed of the wind in which it travels. You move to other clusters of flowers in order to create a larger trail of petals. As you travel through the first level, you bring color back to a grassland void of any human life. Eventually you start activating windmills, street lamps, and you bring color back to a colorless cityscape.
Cities can be beautiful, but the game wants us to remember that there must always be a balance between cities and nature in order for them to thrive. For every New York City, there must be a Central Park. This is a theme that we have seen across countless pieces of media; be it video games, movies, or television. Balance is a trope that we are all very aware of, but do not necessarily take seriously. This familiarity with the idea of balance makes Flower a wonderful resource for teaching theme.
The controls are simple and intuitive, the game is gorgeous, and it clocks in at just under an hour of gameplay. This is a great place to start if you have never used a video game in class - and an even better place if you are an ELA teacher looking for a lesson on theme.
Thanks for reading,