Contextualizing flow in games

Salisbury, John Hamon and Tomlinson, Penda (2014) Contextualizing flow in games. Proceedings of the 2014 DiGRA International Conference, 8 . ISSN 2342-9666 [Article]

PDF (Proceedings Paper) - Published version (with publisher's formatting)
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0.

Download (499kB) | Preview


Flow, the concept developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi over the last forty years or so (see Csikszentmihalyi 1975) has been invoked quite often with respect to the way players engage with digital games (e.g. Baron 2012; Cowley et al. 2008; Sweetser and Wyeth 2005; Brathwaite & Schreiber, 2009; Fullerton, Swain, & Hoffman, 2008; Schell, 2008). However Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi (2002) argue that ‘video games’ are in fact likely to promote undesirable experiences of a kind Csikszentmihalyi refers to as ‘entropy’ or unstructured and unsatisfying life experiences. This presentation explores Csikszentmihalyi’s greater thesis and examines how a broader reading of Flow theory can potentially help us understand Flow like engagements beyond the simple mechanistic view of challenge and reward sometimes encountered in the literature. The main thrust of the argument made here is to explicitly introduce personally expressed cultural values into the conditions of Flow. By doing so we can then provide a value centric analysis and design approach, similar to that of Cockton’s (2004; 2012) proposal to include values into general software design. That is the very nature of challenges and rewards needs to be considered in order to investigate how overcoming or receiving such would be positively or negatively perceived by individuals from particular cultures holding particular values. Thus we hope that we have dealt with the apparent contradiction in using Csikszentmihalyi’s concept in the study of games despite his criticism of such, and have provided some indication of how we can deal with unspecified rewards and the differential perception and engagement with potentially equivalent challenges while still supporting the accepted thesis of Flow.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: DiGRA International Conference: <Active Noun> the <Verb> of game <Plural Noun>, DiGRA 2014, Salt Lake City, UT, USA, August 3-6, 2014
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Media
Item ID: 24930
Notes on copyright: © 2014 Authors & Digital Games Research Association DiGRA. Personal and educational classroom use of this paper is allowed, commercial use requires specific permission from the author.
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Penda Tomlinson
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2018 10:51
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 23:27

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Activity Overview
6 month trend
6 month trend

Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.