Abstract | Introduction | Foundation | Design Flow in Games | Implement Flow in Games | Conclusion | Bibliography


How to Realize Flow in Games

Based on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s positive psychology research, when a person totally focus into an activity and forget about time and pressure, he reaches the optimal experience, Flow. There are many conditions in order to reach Flow.

In the field of game design, there are three fundamental conditions:

  1. As a premise, the game is intrinsically rewarding, and the player is up to play the game.
  2. The game offers right amount of challenges to match with the player’s ability, which allows him/her to delve deeply into the game.
  3. The player needs to feel a sense of personal control over the game activity.

In order to enhance Flow experience, here are the methodologies game designers can pick up and apply to their own designs and make them enjoyable by a much broader audience.

  1. Expand your game’s Flow coverage by including a wide spectrum of gameplay with different difficulties and flavors
  2. Create an Player-oriented Active DDA system to allow different players to play in their own paces
  3. Embed DDA choices into the core gameplay mechanics and let player make their choices through play

With the proof of Traffic Light and flOw, as well as the other successful commercial games whose designs match the above methodologies, designing games enjoyable by both gamers and non-gamers is totally feasible and should be applied to help expanding video game market and essentially make video games a more mature media.

Application in Other Media

The concept of player-oriented DDA also known as active DDA is a powerful design tool applicable not only in video games.

It can be applied to nearly any fields where there are human interactions. For example, if active DDA is applied to GRE (Graduate Record Examination) test rather than its original passive DDA, here will be the changes.

  1. There is no cap for the total score. Students can gain as much score as possible during the test period. Therefore, even top students can still challenge themselves every time they take test.
  2. Students should be able to see scores gained through each questions and feel the joy of answering them correctly, which encourages them to do more.
  3. The difficulty and the score of each question should be related. More challenge equals more reward.
  4. Student should be able to sense the difficulty of each question and have the control to skip hard questions.

And you can imagine how the overall experience will change from a passive question after question based test into an active free roaming score collecting contest.

How do you use active DDA in advertising, negotiation or even in dating? Designers in any field should be able to apply these methodologies.

What’s Next for Flow in Games

The Flow researches have been mainly focused on the relationship between challenge and ability, which naturally assume the interaction. However, Flow-like experiences also exist in passive media like movie, literature and music.

Games like Sims and Cloud has already proven that there are more interesting aspects in the field of Flow that are beyond challenge and ability. Thus, the soul of video games should also be able to leap far beyond challenges and conflicts.

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