Thursday, June 16, 2005


I've got a lot of things I want to talk about today. Even without an audience, just prattling seems to clear my mind. An hour after every post, I think, "Man, I was DUMB in that post! I meant X and Y! I should have written Z!"

However, for some reason, writing it and keeping it to myself doesn't cause this same reaction. I guess it's something about committing your words to 'peer review', even if there's no review, which makes your mind dwell on them. So I'll keep posting here, and I won't delete my iffy stuff for a long time.

Right now, I'd like to mention "flow". A lot of game designers are looking to make players 'lose track of time' or 'forget reality' or 'be totally immersed'. An equal number seem to say, "You keep using those words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean."

"Flow" is, in case you're unaware, a concept we inhereted from more serious entertainment industries, most notably sports. It is a recognized fact that when people are doing something they are good at in the right situation, they really get very focused, their skill dramatically improves, and they stop caring about things outside their current activity. They call this "flow".

Here's the key game designers seem to miss:

"Flow" needs skill!

Flow ONLY happens when you are excersizing a SKILL. There may be another, related concept involving getting lost in a narrative, but for most purposes, flow needs skill. Which means STOP MAKING EASY GAMES.

Your game needs to have a graceful learning curve and needs to let the player play at his highest skill level. If you do this, you'll probably have players who go 'into the zone'... and NOTHING is a more powerful game-driven sensation.

1 comment:

Craig Perko said...

Case in point, I just realized I screwed up on flow. While what I said was accurate, I think I understand how narratives can be made similar. It's complex, though, so it will require its own post.