From this week’s reading I am responding to Principle 6.14: “Induce and Harness Flow”, whereby the key aesthetic aim of games is to somehow make the player get in the zone. I found this an interesting principle to explore because although I don’t play a lot of games, I am always interested in getting in the flow and trying to understand what about a thing gets me in the flow. 


This chapter and lecture dived into Guitar Hero and Rock Band, which are games I respect in how it makes the player feel like they’ve been rewarded on many levels. It doesn’t require actual guitar/instrument skills, but depending on the difficulty level, it does take some time to get used to. The aesthetic in the player interaction is quite nice–the “notes” have a satisfying glow when the player achieves the correct notes at the right time and the real-time feedback does actually help induce flow. What’s really interesting to me is that if you were granted the same real-time feedback by a human, it wouldn’t have the same effect. For example, when I was learning to snowboard and I told my partner that my instructor wasn’t a great teacher, he took it upon himself to teach me. To be fair, he is a great instructor to his friends because he prioritized skill development and safety (where most friends who teach their friends to snowboard just give instructions and hope for the best). However, he also offered me real-time feedback for every single turn I made. This was absolutely not helpful to me and I thought in depth about why this was the case when it sounds like a great situation that I am lucky to find myself in. The conclusion I’ve made is that there is a lot more at stake in real life for real-time feedback than in a snowboard game. I get very distracted when people are yelling at me especially for an activity where I can easily break my neck if I catch an edge. The environments are stressful to get used to, with new terrain for beginners. With a game however, not much is at stake–it’s up to the player to put value into a win. You are not disappointing anyone, you have full accountability on what you accomplish. 


So I can see how the reward component of games can give a lot of value to the player. Furthermore it is up to the designer to make the player feel good about their accomplishments, and it all comes down to the design of play to induce flow in order to keep them wanting to grow more in these endeavors and to give them the sweet dopamine release. Minor visual details can give a lot of impact for this. It is no one’s job to give a guitar performer feedback during a concert, and depending on their mental health might perpetuate some unbalanced self-criticism. But for a game where there are low/no stakes and where you can’t get defensive with a computer, there is something to be said about the kind of experience a player has in being able to constantly feel a sense of accomplishment and growth.