Stop Using Flow as an Objective in Gamification

In gamification, we (I) talk about flow all the time. But, as I have explained in previous posts, it isn’t really flow that we are speaking about in its truest for – rather balance. The fine line between challenge and ability, where a player might find themselves stretched but not in a position where the challenge is impossible (or boringly easy).

As a very quick reminder, Flow is a state that Mihály Csíkszentmihályi wrote about in his book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience [1]”. It is a state in which everything is perfectly balanced, skill, challenge, concentration and more. Time seems to stand still, the world around you evaporates – it is just you and the task.

He identified six factors, that in combination produce flow.

  • Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
  • Merging of action and awareness
  • A loss of reflective self-consciousness
  • A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  • A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
  • Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding also referred to as autotelic experience

Anyway, the reason this has sprung to mind is that recently I was late to work, because of a knotted piece of string!

The String

My daughter had made a kite and the thread she had used as the string was knotted and tangled. Before work, I decided I would quickly untangle it. I set to the task and after what felt like maybe 10 minutes, I was finished. Only it wasn’t 10 minutes, it was 40 minutes and I was late for work!

I had experienced Flow, proper Flow, not just a well balanced or even immersive experience, Flow. Time and space ceased to exist as I battled the string.

This was an epiphanal moment for me, as it solidified a thought that had been building for years. We need to stop talking about Flow as a goal for a standard gamified system! It just isn’t a sensible or even a likely objective for standard gamification (a bit like fun..). By that, I mean pure gamification, where it is game elements in non-game contexts, the addition of game elements to improve a process, not to create a “real” game.

Gamification does not promote Flow, it just can’t on its own.

We can and should use the concept of balancing skill with the challenge as a design objective, but that isn’t enough to create Flow on its own. You can create a feeling of disconnection from reality and a certain level of immersion, certainly, but I have never used a gamified solution that made time and space cease to matter. Be honest, have you? Flow is not a KPI, like fun, it can be the outcome of a well-designed system, I just feel that for true flow you need to look towards full games, not just gamification.

That doesn’t mean that I have not experienced great gamified solutions – of course, I have, many in fact!

[1]        M. Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The psychology of optimal performance. 1990.

The post Stop Using Flow as an Objective in Gamification appeared first on Gamified UK – #Gamification Expert.

Author: Andrzej Marczewski
Source: https://www.gamified.uk/2019/06/27/stop-using-flow-as-an-objective-in-gamification/

Written By juliooliveira

I’m from Sao Paulo / Brazil, married with a incredible woman called Francine and I have two lovely children: Sarah (8 years old) and Nicolas (2 years old). Currently enrolled at the master degree program (MSc) in Information Systems Management at the University of Liverpool (UK). Holder of the credentials PMP and PMI-ACP of the Project Management Institute (PMI).

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