Springtime in the Flower Chamber - a bed of gray flowers sit in a flower box in a concrete room

Springtime in the Flower Chamber – Learning to Hate What We Love

Springtime in the Flower Chamber tells you that it’s just a little gardening simulator. A moment to plant some flowers while under the guidance of another experienced gardener. Sounds like a pleasant way to spend a few minutes. At least I won’t be killing these plants. However, this eerie garden is an exercise in teaching you self-loathing and contempt. It’s a look at how easy it can be to tear us down, turning something we love into something we despise.

You appear in this strange, claustrophobic place, staring at a doughy, pale man. He’s excited to see you here. You’re going to be planting a garden of lush, beautiful flowers, after all. It will be so lovely to see. Given the drab, faded, and smeared flower wallpaper behind him, you can’t blame the guy for being happy to have something brighten up the place. Even moreso when you see the gray, concrete walls and void that stretch out behind you and your planter box.

Staring into the darkness, Springtime in the Flower Chamber puts you to work planting flowers. The itch.io page for the game shows some vibrant displays, which made for a nice inspiration. These also made me curious about what I could make with this game. When I tried to plant a flower, though, all that came out was this weird gray daisy. It was the only flower I could plant. I was immediately hit with a sense of inferiority. Although I didn’t blame myself. Maybe the game would unlock further flowers later.

Springtime in the Flower Chamber - a pale, shirtless man stands in front of faded flower wallpaper

The man with me seemed disappointed in my efforts. He said that others who came here had naturally created something beautiful. Often, they effortlessly did so. He put me back to work, but with nothing to use besides more dull, gray flowers, I couldn’t do much. I settled on creating a lush display of dozens of flowers. Even if there wasn’t much color, the array was nice. My companion (who I was starting to feel was standing far too close in this tight light gardening space) still wasn’t impressed. Nor would he ever be.

Springtime in the Flower Chamber is an embodiment of that little voice many of us carry that tells us that we’re not good enough. That nothing we ever make will be good enough. The one that looks at what other creators and workers and friends do and asks us why we aren’t doing so well. Even when we don’t have the same options as those other people, it still chastises us. Asks us why we aren’t trying harder. What’s wrong with us that we can’t do what the other people are doing.

You steadily unlock more abilities over the course of the game, being able to shift colors (although this never really worked for me, which I feel might be part of the point) or add new species of flowers. These new flowers were wilted and dead. The gardener had the gall to say that these flowers gave me an unfair advantage. Others made nicer gardens without them. Not that they resulted in anything more than seas of gray weeds that brought about more taunting from my gardener roommate. He’d suggest I look at pictures of other, better flowers to gain some inspiration or ideas. These images just made me feel more inadequate. Angry. Frustrated.

I started Springtime in the Flower Chamber wanting to make a cute little flowerbed. Within a few minutes, the whole task just filled me with rage. I didn’t want to shove more flowers into the dirt just to be taunted about it. To be told that others could do it far better. I didn’t feel like using options that just spat out ugly, dead flowers into my garden. I didn’t want to try at all. Most of all, I didn’t want to turn around and hear one more negative comment out of the gardener’s mouth.

Yet this is what many of us endure while trying to do something we enjoy. Sometimes it’s the voice of a loved one asking why we can’t seem to do things right. Maybe with a hint of playfulness that doesn’t make it sting any less. Sometimes it’s with malice and cruelty. At least there, they’re being clear about their contempt for your ‘talent’. Maybe it’s a voice in our own heads that won’t shut up about how we’re not good enough. How others are better than us, so what’s wrong with us that we can’t do it?

That constant drone wears you down. It’s not long before you hear it before its even being said. You dread it so much, and have heard it so much, that it’s always there the moment you look at the flowerbed. Or your drawing pad. Or the computer you want to write on. Springtime in the Flower Chamber shows how that despair just sits there alongside you, unforgettable in its proximity.

Springtime in the Flower Chamber - a lone gray flower in a flowerbed

And then you quit. After multiple times trying to make a garden that pleased the gardener, I just got too angry and quit. I couldn’t even look at the flowers any more. Feelings of inferiority swelled in me. The weight of the gardener’s presence and negativity crushed me. The self-loathing for my failure to do the task, even when I KNEW I didn’t have the tools to make something beautiful in the game, just destroyed any interest I had in planting flowers.

Springtime in the Flower Chamber did this in under ten minutes. In doing so, it reminded me of what a lifetime of negativity has done to me in some aspects of my life that I used to love. That I struggle to love, now, but can only do because I got myself as far away from that negativity as I could. But it’s still possible. Not in a place like the cold, dead chamber of this game, where the voice is inescapable.

Springtime in the Flower Chamber seemed like it would be a pleasant, if odd time spent among the flowers. Instead, I got a disturbing reminder of the ease in which others, and the grim voices in our own heads, can grind down something we love. It takes so little to snuff out someone’s joy in something, and this game was a powerful, but chilling reminder of that.