Reading Response #6

to Artful Design • Chapter 6: “Game Design”

Nicholas Shaheed

November 6, 2022

Music 256A / CS476a, Stanford University

For this week’s reading, I will be responding to Principle 6.14 from the sixth chapter of Artful Design, which states:

Principal 6.14: Induce & Harness Flow

Flow is an interesting concept for me, as it’s something I’ve never been able to consistently achieve. Maybe it’s my internet-addled brain being too easily distracted but I have trouble getting into a state of concentration that enables that. I think that last condition for flow on page 334: “Setting forth of goals that are reachable within a clear, defined boundary of time and space” offers some interesting insight into both doing that and how to achieve that in a design sense. In terms of games design themselves, I wonder if games tend to appeal more to people who are more prone to reaching flow states. In particular, i’m thinking of games that require higher skill or focus to be enjoyed: things like soulslikes or esport games like Counter-Strike and StarCraft as opposed to something like the standard mobile game format where you play for a few minutes, run out of points, and then are forced to either pay or wait a few hours to play again.  Though one point against that is these games tend to have a fairly high skill floor, making them difficult to get into and even more difficult to reach a skill level where flow can be induced. However, if those two hurdles can be overcome I imagine the people who stick for longer periods of time with these games would be more susceptible to flow.

I think the last condition also might be the key to reaching flow with more open-ended activities (like making music!). Then the design becomes a question of how you frame something as ambiguous/loose as a creative process into small, clearly-defined goals. Additionally, how do you do that in a way that’s not a mentally-intensive way and is also adaptable to whatever you’re currently working on? It seems pretty achievable to be at the onset of working and specifically breaking things down into a goal, but once you are in a flow state, how do you avoid breaking flow by having to switch tasks, which is what you'll have to do once you’ve finished your achievable goal. I don’t have any good solutions at the moment, but it’s definitely something to think about.