FLomm is a design history video game developed from a class Steve Mehallo has been teaching since 2003. He had noticed the visual similarity between De Stijl and bitmap-based video games of the 1970s. And that was the starting point. Then, he found the Futurists—and that’s where speed, bullets and explosions came in. The Fauves provided inspiration for color, the Russian Avant Garde and the Bauhaus: visuals, typography and theory. He wondered: What would it be like to fly through a Hannah Höch collage? Then a Picasso quote emerged: Art is a battlefield. Of course, I’m intrigued, so the questions came pouring out. (You might want to check it out first.)
Graphic design history as a video game. How come? All this conflict: Avant Garde vs. Establishment, Innovation vs. Bourgeoisie, The Future vs. The Past—led to not only jumping into history, but the idea to create a fictional one, Movimento FLommus, as the basis for this game. I had also previously developed several history-based font packages available at MyFonts! So switching media and bringing typography along for the ride makes a lot of sense.
What does FLomm mean? Absolutely nothing! Like Seinfeld. Or DADA. FLomm was a random word I had been tweeting around the time Twitter showed up. It seemed to bug a few people, so it made sense to name this game after it.
What do you want the user to take away or leave behind? Just about everything in FLomm relates to something from history. Things worth looking up and exploring—which is why there’s a bibliography, with book reviews, at the website, as well as biographical info, museum links and other related materials. FLomm could supplement a typical modern art history class. Or distract from the lecture. I’m not sure.
How do you play? Gameplay is extremely simple. The interface is based on classic video games of the early 1980s. FLomm is designed for fidgety fingers, something one can play while standing in line or sitting on a bus. And there’s enough random elements to keep the visuals constantly changing. Advanced difficulty options and an abstract “mirror” setting allows for a more challenging experience. One thumb controls your vehicle, [and the] other thumb fires font-based bullets. You blow up anything that isn’t you, and collect colorful power-ups to help with your battle. At the end of each level, you go up against a boss—with the option to convert him into a modernist. So it’s actually possible to beat tradition and win the game.
How’s it doing in the marketplace? There’s some good buzz to start and sales have been steady. And I’m glad to hear artists who don’t normally play video games seem to like it. But I’m just now starting to get word out to a wider audience. It’s not the typical game one would expect to find in the App Store. And that’s intentional, of course.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →