Gardenarium is a pastel love song to perhaps the internet’s most beloved art form: the animated gif.
Though it’s true Gardenarium is a game, one played from the first person perspective and consequently fully explorable in real time, it is in many ways something closer resembling an organic museum, shifting and looping pieces hanging in the sky and growing from the ground around you as you journey toward the peak of Cloud 9. Walking is a necessary burden in Gardenarium, but it is the moments of stillness and quiet appreciation that make it so wondrously enthralling. Why you have found yourself in this floating garden and what you are meant to do there becomes secondary to the act of absorbing the environment around you. Geometric flowers sway and shift colors, abstract patterns hang in the sky, and the adorably unsettling populace recite epigrams and rhymes as if life could be so simple. But perhaps here, in this surreal and hypnotic greenhouse atop a cloud, it can.
There is an immediate urge among many I know to label products of the internet age as ephemeral and thematically shallow. But while many of the art forms particular to the modern era are surfacely uncomplicated, their emotional earnestness in many ways seems not a rejection of intelligent thought, but a dismissal of the notion that art must be in some way inaccessible to be deep. In this way Gardenarium’s penchant for blunt, matter of fact wit and uninhibited social commentary feels refreshingly honest. These thoughts may stem from the odd and inscrutable inhabitants of Gardenarium’s organic pastel world, but they carry enough weight in them to pull you out of the clouds and back to earth. Gardenarium is not an exercise in linguistic fortitude, but of accessibility and honesty, spoken in a style too quickly cast aside as the degeneration of literature by the next generation.
Gardenarium arrives at a time when the concept of what constitutes a game/art/literature is being redefined by the day. At this point it seems pedantic to continually qualify what have always been loose labels bestowed largely for the sake of exclusion. Whether or not Gardenarium’s 30-minute walk through a sky garden is a game is irrelevant to the experience itself, one that is both beautiful and poignant, and more emotionally honest than most games could ever hope for. Like its recursive floral installations, Gardenarium is a game I want to get lost in, watching the flowers bloom and dance as I daze into the hazy distance and enjoy the peace of constancy.
"Quick Thoughts" is a place for micro criticism, abstract musings, and shameless showcasing for games which either don't fit into a full review or I am not yet ready to talk about to that extent, essentially acting as a concise running commentary on whatever I'm currently playing and my thoughts thereof.