Flow

Looking at Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow provided me with an opportunity to analyse and digest some of my favorite games again in a new way. When reflecting on past experiences playing games and thinking about how easy/frustrating certain parts were it’s interesting to see whether that game had a good sense if flow.

The game that comes to mind the most for me is Terraria, although it is primarily a sandbox style game it does a fantastic job easing the player into harder and harder challenges when they are ready.

Terraria’s two methods of maintaining flow are depth and crafting. The game focuses around navigating a two dimensional world where you dig and mine for valuable resources while also fighting numerous enemies and bosses. The player is free to move around explore wherever they want to but it becomes extremely difficult to dig past a certain depth without a pickaxe of high enough tier. The harder enemies are located lower and lower into the ground but so are the more valuable resources so you must maintain your balance and flow in order to push yourself and advance.

The other main method of keeping flow is the crafting system. Many crafting recipes for better armor and equipment can only be crafted using loot squirted from beating an easier boss monster. This ensures that players are not able to skill ahead too far and make the game easy and also so they must face the difficult challenges with limited armor and equipment. This keeps the players in a contained yet free state when they control their experience but are kept in a state of balance and flow.

I had sat down and played hours and hours if this game straight and I believe it is because the game keeps you in a very constant state of flow where the next goal always seems like a challenge but attainable with effort.

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