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The Origins of Flow

The Origins of Flow
As a reader of MP, there's a decent chance that you're already familiar with the concept of "flow" championed by positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced like this, not this). If you aren't up to speed on it, fear not; I'll go into the details in just a moment. The notion is immensely popular among game designers and theorists, whether they want to leverage games' power to put us into a flow state to pursue social good, are using psychophysiological tools to quantify flow and keep players in it, or simply using it as the blueprint for good game design. But as much as the games community wants to take flow as its own, there's more to the story. I finally sat down and read Csikszentmihalyi's principal book on the topic, and the truth of the matter is that "flow" is much more than a gaming concept. The key realization, and the one Csikszentmihalyi is famous for, is that there's a sweet spot where challenge and skill are well-matched that he dubbed the "flow channel". Related:  Game Design Theory: Game-play ExperienceGames

Refining the flow diagram | Motivate. Play. Last month, I posted on the origins of Csikszentmihalyi's concept of flow, but the diagram I focused on there (and that tends to pervade discussion of flow among game designers) is actually a bit dated. Preparing for a reading group on engagement here at IU, I came across this very readable chapter from the Handbook of Positive Psychology, in it was introduced to a much more nuanced version of the Flow Diagram. If you're familiar with the classic flow diagram, you might notice it has some deficiencies. Most notably, the experience of being in a high-skill, high-challenge state is markedly different that a low-skill, low-challenge state, even though both fall within the so-called "flow channel". As research on flow has progressed, it has become clear that the traditional model needs expansions, and the result is the diagram you see above. I won't go through all the regions in detail here, as the diagram should be clear to interpret by now.

Welcome to Flow in Games Abstract | Introduction | Foundation | Design Flow in Games | Implement Flow in Games | Conclusion | Bibliography “TWENTY-THREE HUNDRED YEARS AGO Aristotle concluded that, more than anything else, men and women seek happiness...” - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990) Motivation In the last 30 years, as a form of entertainment, video games have evolved from confined arcade activities into a mature media. Video games have deeply infiltrated our daily life and our society. As if toys expanded every child’s imagination, modern videogames take advantage of a player's active involvement to open more possibilities than any other existing mediums. However, video games are still recognized by the majority, who do not play video games, as shallow and aggression-provoking materials. Due to the nature of marketing and business, making video games purely for non-gamers is too risky and impractical. The quality and the budget of typical commercial video games today can easily reach over 20 million dollars.

Dissertation « The Dreaming Game Designer This large post has the final version of my dissertation, be advised that the word count came in at 6585 words, it’s a long read but you should be able to just skip to the Further Issues & The Nature of Puzzles sections right at the end without losing out on too much content. The Challenge of Puzzle Solving in Games – Robert Farr Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of BA in Creative Computer Games Design at Swansea Metropolitan University (Formerly Swansea Institute of Higher Education) Table of Contents Word Count 6585 Chapter 1: Introduction What is a game? In order to do the above it is first necessary to examine the definition of a game as this informs further discussion of the reasons for why adventure games have suffered recently. For simplicity we shall instead focus on a definition authored by game designer Greg Costikyan. What is a First Person Shooter? What is a Graphic Adventure Game? Chapter Summary Chapter 2: First Person Shooter Half-Life Far Cry 2

Real-Life Skills We Learn From Gaming | Masonic Gamer “Video games are a waste of time”. If you’re a gamer, you’ve probably heard this sentence many times throughout your life, often from a partner who’s upset they’re not getting enough attention. Of course, this isn’t the only instance where one might hear the phrase. Parents, teachers, and just non-gamers in general are fond of belittling our favorite pastime. Although most people play games for fun only, there are valuable lessons to be learned that can be carried over into real life. Hand-eye Co-ordination This is the most obvious of the bunch, so I listed it first. Problem Solving Many games feature logic puzzles, from Professor Layton right up to Tomb Raider and Resident Evil, but solving problems is a key component of many other titles too, when figuring out how to get to the next area or take down a difficult boss. Multitasking Teamwork Not so much a factor in single-player games, this skill comes more into play in multi-player, team-based titles. Perseverance Improved Memory

Neurology of Gaming, Infographic « All Kinds of Minds As with most things, “gaming” (or being engaged in video games) has both positives and negatives when it comes to developing minds. Too much gaming, and the positive effects are overshadowed by the negative. Yet, the right balance can add another avenue for pursuing educational goals and achievement. As a result, more and more programs are using gaming to reach and teach students in ways they never could before. Therapy programs, schools, and even research scientists have all benefitted from the strategic use of games to increase successes. Below is an infographic from Online Universities looking at the brain on games. Image: Online University Like this: Like Loading...

The Philosophy of Game Design (part 1) The Escapist Magazine. If you've ever said that a videogame was "bad" for any reason - is evil, is nothing new, is too hard, is pretentious, is inaccessible, is sexist - in the performance of your royal duties as Grand Arbiter of Good Taste, then you also have to define and articulate what is a "good" game for us simple-minded folk. So, what makes a "good" game? Well, it all depends on whether you believe in absolute truth. For purposes of simplification, I will ignore all traditions of ancient philosophy that took place outside of Greece. Aristotle argued for a type of pluralism, where the purpose of a society was to ensure its individual citizens flourished (and by citizens, he meant only the small portion of Greek society that was the educated male land-owning military and gentry - sorry, women and slaves, no flourishing for you!) So, an Aristotelian philosophy of game design would presume the existence of a "citizen" - the hardcore gamer.

Flow, Player Journey and Employee Satisfaction - Andrzej's Blog What follows is an exploration of what happens when you start to map player journeys in games onto Flow theory and then try to bring that into the workplace. Just for fun! It was inspired by Mr Scott Golas after seeing last weeks post on relatedness. What is Flow and what is the Player Journey? Mihayi Csikszentmihalyi suggested the concept after seeing that under certain conditions people’s experiences became optimal. He identified some key factors that could lead to such a phenomenon. Clear goals and progressConstant and Immediate feedbackBalance between the perceived challenge and the perceived level of skill needed In 1997 he provided the world with the following visual representation of his theory. When talking about games, the tendency is to simplify this idea, concentrating instead on the concept of flow as a channel between boredom and anxiety or frustration. As we can see here, if a challenge exceeds the abilities of the current skill level, it can lead to frustration. I Hope so!!

Making Computer Games Is Easy « Meditations on First Gaming Phil Well, not really. Obviously the process of actually making a real game is laboriously difficult and beset with more problems than you could ever presuppose (which is sort of the point), so difficult that any project of any size will find it hard to ever estimate how long their game will take to make. If we are talking man hours to actual end content making games is ludicrously difficult. So maybe we can say finishing a game is hard, but actually making one? As in, getting out a tech demo/general proof of concept and letting it evolve? Now that, well that isn’t that hard. Mario is a paradigm we all understand, controls and rules we are familiar with, so where ever the game wants to pull off its quirk (Time Travel! But that’s the thing. My premier theory for Why All Games Are Shit ™ (Alternatively: Why Gaming Isn’t An Art-form ™ or Why All Mainstream Games Are The Same ™) is that to ever get to the position in any studio that gets its works published you’d already have to A. Like this:

Game Player Motivations - Aurora I included a simple way to break down the major categories of motivation for any game in my recent book, Game On. This can help you think about the different things that motivate players in almost any game: My goal with the four quadrants of player motivation draw upon prior work by Richard Bartle . My goal is to provide everyone with a new model of player motivations that have the simplicity of Bartle’s original formulation, yet which can apply to nearly any game that exists–not simply MUDs or MMORPGs. In my formulation, there are two axes that define the environment the player is in: the horizontal axis is the number of players involved in an element of gameplay. According to these axes, the four quadrants are: Immersion: stories, roleplaying, exploration, imagination, and a sense of connectedness to the world of the game. Achievement: sense of progress, mastery of skills and knowledge, etc.

Features - Fun is Boring In the two weeks before writing this piece, I've seen easily a dozen scattered, derivative definitions of fun. Five page "manifestos" and weird Rubik's Cube personal philosophies. No respite at DigiPen the other day. Covering for another prof, I thought I'd poison the youth with design theory. "Oh, sweet," says one edgy-looking student. "Me and a buddy have been talking about making a unified theory of fun. "Neat," I say. I click to the first slide, a cropped image of the cover. "Uhh, Raph?" "Ian Bogost's Persuasive Games?" "I stared at the first page for awhile." "Good enough." Fun is a lazy word. Let's pick on fun, specifically. Fun is a process. Testing early and often doesn't just work out bugs. That fun process sometimes gets a few tries. Hayashida said, "What you have to do is make an investigation at every new stage and say, 'Okay, which of these elements is working well for us, and which of them do we need to think about minimizing, or removing entirely?'"

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