Getting Into the Flow

Athletes often say that when everything seems to be working their way, they feel as if they’re in the flow where every action comes effortlessly. Not surprisingly, this state of flow also extends to video games.

One of the latest video game sensations was a game called Flappy Bird. Although the game was relatively simple, it succeeded by being just challenging enough to be interesting without being too overly complicated to be intimidating. When people played Flappy Bird, they often experienced this state of mind known as “flow.”

All games and even all programs need to find this flow where people can effortlessly manipulate the program to accomplish their goals without either getting bored or feeling too anxious from overwhelming complexity.┬áHungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of a number of books including “Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play,” spent years researching flow as a means to a more effective education, achieving happiness, and unlocking the secrets of motivation and creativity.

Csikszentmihalyi broke down the conditions for achieving flow: There must be a clear and simple task; that task must provide instant feedback; there must be no distractions that either disrupt your concentration or make you ultra-aware of your own actions; and, key to the act of game playing especially, it must be a challenge with appropriate balance with regards to your own skill and the task’s difficulty.

When designing games or user interfaces for programs, you want to duplicate this sense of flow for your users. When you can create a sense of flow, you’ll have a hit on your hands like the developer of Flappy Bird.

To read more about the element of flow in Flappy Bird, click here.


March 1st, 2014 by
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