Go with the flow

There is some discussion of work and how we need a way of talking about fun. In thinking of this I have long said that we need think of playing videogames as a performative act. We need to stop looking at the games and start looking at the players. (I’ve been saying that for almost 3 years now! That is a lifetime in videogame studies!) The fun is in the players, not the game. While his work has been criticized and it has ventured close to new age self help territory, I think that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on “flow” can be of help in focusing on what goes on with the gamers and what is fun and how to talk about pleasure. I really recommend taking a look at Beyond Boredom and Anxiety for a way of thinking about pleasure and what happens when we are in the zone and why work sometimes is pleasurable.

2 Comments Showing 50 most recent
  1. B. Rickman

    I think it would be a poor move to associate game studies with Csikszentmihalyi’s lackluster work. “Flow” is feel-good pop psychology based more on ego than any kind of science. (The URL below links to a discussion on my blog.)

  2. bryan young

    I agree that some of the bagage that comes along with flow is problematic. In fact it may be that the bagage is so big that it might be best to leave it all behind entirely.

    However, I think that when we are looking for pleasure and we are looking at what happens when we play games, it is a usefull concept. I see people talking about it all the time, only without using the terms.

    I agree that the mental visualization stuff is new age-y and I would like to ignore it.

    I haven’t read the Flow book you discuss. I draw my citations from Beyond Boredom and Anxiety. I’m not sure of the relationship to Skinner but in the book he talks about how we can become either bored or anxious if the activity is either too easy or too difficult and when we are in a flow state we are beyond those two extremes. That is what I always asumed the title refered to.

    Some of the later things you refer to do not seem to be in Beyond Boredom and Anxiety and do indeed sound problematic. I really just concentrate on his 7 aspects of flow (which I think he later expanded into 9) and how they relate to playing videogames. And even at that it certainly isn’t the centerpiece of my work.

    I think that portion of it is usefull. And while I was aware that it was new age-y, your comments will serve as a warning to make me be more specific about what I find usefull in Csikszentmihalyi’s work in the future.

    Thanks for the post and the link!