Games and being in the ‘Flow’

Some games become ‘boring’ and ‘uninteresting’ after a few hours of game play, others (like Diablo), are imminently replay-able and enjoyable. This is because good games enable players to get into the ‘Flow’. The concept of flow becomes even more important as gamification trends catch on. This article presents an introduction to flow and provides recommendations for game developers (and others who wish to incorporate gaming concepts into their products and services). It provides a scientific explanation of why text-based games and adventure games are increasingly relics of the past (a simpler view by xkcd is below).


Image by xkcd

Image via Gamasutra

In the 1970s a psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi experimentally evaluated Flow. He found that a person’s skill and the difficulty of a task interact to result in different cognitive and emotional states. When skill is too low and the task too hard, people become anxious. Alternatively, if the task is too easy and skill too high, people become bored. However, when skill and difficulty are roughly proportional, people enter Flow states.

Image via

While in the flow, people experience high focus and a loss of self-awareness and time.

Read more at Gamasutra – Features – Cognitive Flow: The Psychology of Great Game Design.

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