[I’ve written about this before, but here’s another stab in the dark]
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” describes flow as
“being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Reading this got me thinking about ‘the zone’, which is just my mental sticker for what this chap calls ‘flow.’ Great games are one that smooth the passage into the zone, and keep you there. Duff games are ones that trip you up on the way.
Tekken puts me in the zone, sometimes. Pro Evo gets me there longer and more often, which is why I play it every day. I have moments of being in the zone with Guitar Hero, but just small patches in songs usually, rather than whole songs, or whole sessions. Elite & Civilisation were early masters at helping players into the zone, and then locking the door behind them. Ted Friedman said in a research paper that:
“When a game of [CivII] really gets rolling, the decisions are effortless, instantaneous, chosen without self-conscious thought. The result is an almost-meditative state, in which you aren`t just interacting with the computer, but melding with it.”
When come friends and I installed CivII on the Utica College computer systems, we played throughout an entire Sunday without noticing the passage of time, which isn’t all that unusual. I guess World of Warcraft might be the modern pinnacle of flowtacular gameplay, but having yet to try it I can’t say for sure. But my main point being, games get you into the flowzone faster and make you stay there longer than most other cultural artifacts, and that’s largely why I love them.
All about flow – (37signals)“Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,”