The Raccoopod: The Flow State Episode 3

The Raccoopod Podcast

Today’s Episode we look at the concept of Flow.  Where did it come from, what is it and how do we use it in Gamification?

Transcript

So you may have heard of flow before as it has been around since 1988 and promoted with a book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990). It’s a theory that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed in his work into the scientific study of happiness. If it is new to you or not, flow is defined as “A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” So it’s a state of super engagement where everything else fades away. 

 

Where did Mihaly come up with the idea of flow? 

The first inkling he had about this work was during world war 2 while in an italian prison he discovered chess was a miraculous way of entering into a different world where all those things didn’t matter. For hours he’d focus within a reality that had clear rules and goals. After starting his education into psychology he ran a study where he had teenagers write down their thoughts when prompted by a random beeper. From this random sampling through the day he found that when they were focused on a challenging task they tended to be happier in their reports. 

 

What constitutes flow? There were 9 identifiable elements that are involved in flow. But only 4 of these can be used by gamification. These elements are 

  1. Clear defined goals for each step of the process

  2. Immediate feedback on your actions

  3. There is a balance between challenge and users skill level

  4. Failure doesn’t have major consequence



If you listened to our first Why games matter episode, or have been checking out our blog at Raccoopack dot media. You’ll have noticed that some of those elements we have touched on before. Anyway let’s break down these elements and how they can be used in gamification.

 

So, how can we use gamification to help people to have clear defined goals for each step of the process they want. One thing we can do with adding a gamified system is provide users with a high level of signposting. This helps with users who may be trying something new for the first time.  Adding a simple progression system, wherein each step is outlined in how to accomplish it and stands as a mark for where they are at in their journey will help them in achieving flow. It also is helpful if this process is done by someone who can be looked up to as having experience in the field. This is why here at Raccoopack we focus on implementing the gamification and have our clients provide the expertise. 

 

2. Immediate feedback on your actions

Next let’s move onto how gamification can improve feedback and help users get into flow. When you are working on a skill it can be really hard to determine if you are improving. The feedback provided from gamification can be implemented either in helping users know when they have reached a goal or providing feedback on their current efforts. Getting constructive feedback that will help you progress is hugely important when you are trying to improve or learn something new. By spending the important time needed gamification can ensure that users get the feedback required to help them get into flow.

 

3. There is a balance between challenge and users skill level

Next up is a balance between challenge and skill. This is the most common interpretation in game design as it can be really tricky to get right and having an unbalanced game is likely to have players leave to go do something else. Perfect flow occurs when you are presented with a challenge that requires your abilities at their maximum. If the challenges are too easy then it becomes boring for the user, if the challenge is insurmountable then the user becomes frustrated. The other issue with making a well balanced game is every user has a different starting skill level and improves at a different rate. 

 

But how do we determine a difficulty curve for a gamified action? This depends on what project you are applying gamification to. If it is a project that is closer to game-based learning, we tend to work to make a more traditional difficulty curve. In past projects we have added some optional challenges so that if a user was finding it too easy they could modify their goals for a greater challenge. For a situation-based learning or an application that only uses a few game mechanics the difficulty curve would likely depend on the difficulty that arises from the knowledge testing. Some gamified applications don’t have an internal difficulty curve as their focus relies on scaffolding and providing direction on something external from the application. The challenge comes from users following the steps as they get more difficult. As you can see from these examples, making a great gamified application with a good challenge curve relies on knowledge in the field. 

 

4.Failure doesn’t have major consequence

Finally we get to the last component of flow we can directly impact with gamification. Having failure be acceptable, is something virtual spaces excel at. In a virtual environment there aren’t the same stakes as the real world, if you commit a faux pa in the real world it has consequences that can impact those around you. In a virtual space it can show what the consequences are without the lasting effects. Having a place where failure is minor gives users the opportunity to experiment and make an attempt at trying something new. 

 

So I hope you found the breakdown of flow informative and useful. In brief Flow is where you are completely engaged with something, there are several components of flow which are 

 

 

  1. Clear defined goals for each step of the process

  2. Immediate feedback on your actions

  3. There is a balance between challenge and users skill level

  4. Failure doesn’t have major consequence



And of those we can manipulate 4 with gamification, and to do so it takes consideration and care to use effectively. I hope that you enjoyed this podcast, so it’s the usual calls to action. Subscribe, follow us on social media and check out our website at raccoopack.media. Have a great day everyone.

 

guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Have an idea you want to see come to life?

rpmlogo