Rethinking ∆Flow

in Relation to Narrative Within The Last of Us

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Flow is an immediate, task-based construction. Csikszentmihalyi argues that flow exists in a ‘flow channel’ residing between anxiety and boredom, both of which measure challenges as they relate to skill level (ch.4). He believes people experience anxiety if challenges are too great for their skill level, and boredom if their skills are too great for the challenges provided (ch.4). Within the flow channel, however, “the difficulty is just right for [their] [. . .] skills” (Csikszentmihalyi ch.4), and people can become “completely absorbed by the activity” (Csikszentmihalyi ch.3). The exact activity matters very little; all that is required to enter the flow channel is an actionable task that possesses clear goals, adequately matches a person’s skill level, demands a certain level of concentration, and gives immediate feedback (Csikszentmihalyi ch.3). Indeed, flow is simply a task loop – goal, action, feedback – immediately registered by the player, traversing upwards through the flow channel as both skills and challenges increase in tandem. Continue Reading

Videogames and Empathy

Towards a Post-Normative Ludic Century

Essay - Empathy and Videogames

Videogames and empathy—you could hardly be blamed for thinking that these two things have very little in common. Just last week Polygon published an opinion essay titled “No skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry.” In the essay the author, Brianna Wu, details the abuse directed at women involved with videogames. It’s a demoralizing read, one that had me reflecting on the notion that we are entering a ‘ludic century’ (Zimmerman), in which our culture will be defined by systems, games, and play. If that’s true, then we need to seriously consider what Heather Chaplin calls the ‘dark side of the ludic century’—an age in which we become better at analyzing systems and detecting patterns, and less capable of sympathy and empathy. From this perspective, the trouble with games and empathy may have only just begun as the ludic century could be a period of prolonged detachment and disengagement from one another. Continue Reading