Flow

Wikipedia says this:
Csíkszentmihályi identifies the following nine factors as accompanying an experience of flow:[3][4]

1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals are attainable and align appropriately with one's skill set and abilities). Moreover, the challenge level and skill level should both be high.[2]

2. Concentrating and focusing, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).

3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.

4. Distorted sense of time, one's subjective experience of time is altered.

5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).

6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).

7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.

8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.

9. People become absorbed in their activity, and focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity itself, action awareness merging.

Not all are needed for flow to be experienced.
and then this:
Csíkszentmihályi suggests several ways in which a group could work together so that each individual member could achieve flow. The characteristics of such a group include:

Creative spatial arrangements: Chairs, pin walls, charts, but no tables; thus work primarily standing and moving.
Playground design: Charts for information inputs, flow graphs, project summary, craziness (here also craziness has a place), safe place (here all may say what is otherwise only thought), result wall, open topics
Parallel, organized working
Target group focus
Advancement of existing one (prototyping)
Increase in efficiency through visualization
Existence of differences among participants represents an opportunity, rather than an obstacle.
How does this apply to roleplaying? How can we achieve flow when gaming? Gimme some thoughts!

EDIT: Also, tell me about a time when you achieved it at the table.
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Comments

  • There was some discussion on flow in the thread Ritual-minded people?. I achieve it at the table regularly, I think; although, since it's a very subjective phenomenon, it's not always easy to pin down exactly what is meant.

    A while ago I sent a questionnaire to my group, asking them to rate on a scale from 0 to 4 whether they agreed that these components were usually present when we played. Ratings were quite high for most questions, except for component 3 (average score 1.5). The self-awareness didn't seem to go away while playing. Perhaps this is because of who we are in the group, or perhaps it's because role-playing is such an intensely social phenomenon that self-awareness must be present to play? It's easier to forget yourself when hitting a ball against a wall, than when talking face-to-face with someone who listens intently to the things you're saying.

    Experience of time distortion was very varied in the group, ranging from 1 to 4. Don't know why.

    Not surprisingly, those group members who had to look after kids while we played had a lower average score for the components.
  • Playing Call of Cthulhu at Origins about five years ago. It started as a tabletop but finished as a LARP. We were all in an asylum and subjected to a new treatment that had opened us up to Mythos influence. The only way to stop it was a ceremony. I read the ceremony and realised it required a sacrifice. I told one of the participants that it required some blood to be spilled and got a shard of glass (actually a piece of plastic cup). We were all in a circle chanting away when I got the woman next of me to help draw some blood, and at the last minute pulled her hand so she stabbed me in the heart.

    As I collapsed to the table, there was a moment of stunned silence as everyone looked aghast and then they started shouting and running around and trying to help me, although it was too late of course.

    I was totally in the zone. I wasn't nervous, I knew what I had to do (as a player and character) and there was never any doubt that my trickery would succeed. And when I got to the point of stabbing myself, time really slowed down so that I was able to be completely aware of everyone else's reactions and movement.

    And then I got a bit bruised from some overenthusiastic CPR and the game ended.
  • edited June 2009
    Awesome story. That's exactly the type of stuff I'm looking for. So why did it happen then? And why doesn't it happen every time?

    Also, it's interesting that you're mentioning a game that turned into a LARP, since Csíkszentmihályi specifically mentions "no tables" as a method of getting group flow. Maybe that's one of the secrets behind the intense experiences you can get through Jeepform? I played a Jeepform scenario (Utflykt) a couple of months ago, and that was definately flow.
  • edited June 2009
    Does he actually mention no tables or is that a Wikipedia addition? I can't find it in his book right now, but I might be missing it. If he does, I think it comes with a context. In Flow, he talks about how people find work boring, so I imagine the idea of removing tables comes with that. It's removing the trappings of boredom.

    In the roleplaying game context, however, I imagine the table could actually act as a shared focus, enhancing flow.

    I can think of two occasions when, looking back, it seems like I was in flow. One was at a convention, Concrete Cow, and I was GMing Fear Itself. Everything seems easy and there was that feeling of time dilation. It was a good, focussed group. Another was playing Trail of Cthulhu at Simon's house. Again, there was that feeling of group focus, of everyone listening to each other and responding effortlessly.

    I think it's strongly connected to ideas about ritual and immersion, although it's interesting you can be in flow as a GM, which is different from the idea of becoming your character.

    Graham
  • I'd agree that it's linked to immersion. Ritual tends to just make me laugh so I don't think that would help.

    I used to have flow when playing football. It was a strange experience with a certain amount of detachment. I'd be dribbling the ball, and realise, suddenly, that I wasn't even thinking about it, in fact, thinking would have made things worse. So I just thought about something else instead. And while this happened, everything else slowed down. I think perhaps if I'd lost the ball then the flow state would have ended.

    In gaming it's similar, when you're all pulling together in the same direction there's flow. And a bit like immersion, mechanics can break the flow.
  • edited June 2009
    Oh man, this is so totally my thing! Search says I never posted a thread here about this, but I've written elsewhere why I think immersion is flow, the same way "rapture" is artistic flow or "the zone" is competitive flow. It's just a term for flow in a particular activity. That article and this one go into some ways we might start designing for flow, a.k.a., design for immersion. In a recent podcast, I talked to Willem about his "pedagogy of play" concept, and he explained that in terms of flow, too. We went on to also discuss fluency in those terms.
    Posted By: GrahamIn Flow, he talks about how people find work boring, so I imagine the idea of removing tables comes with that. It's removing the trappings of boredom.
    The physical activity is an important component, too. You feel with your whole body, so flow is harder to achieve sitting still. Not impossible, certainly, but more difficult.

    A time when I experienced it. Actually, last week; and I even happened to record it.
  • That's right, I didn't post it here, I posted it at Cultures of Play.
  • Jason: I'll check out your writings and recordings. Thanks!

    While I think flow is the same thing as immersion as a general term, I don't think it's what's going on when we talk about "becoming one's character" (deep immersionism). But when you're immersing in the story or the situation, that's flow.

    I do think standing up helps achieving it, or maybe it's just that when you do achieve it, you're more likely to get up and act it out. I know I tend to when I get to those magical moments. I also think investing in the fiction is necessary. You have to care about what happens.

    Anyone have a comment on the stuff about it requiring a skill and a challenge that matches it? Does that take care of itself (i.e. do you always roleplay at a challenging level) or are there things we can do to make sure that the challenge is there? I think I might get more "into" the game when my character is forced to make a speech. That usually makes me get up and it is certainly challenging to hold it extemporaneously.
  • edited June 2009
    New thought: Actually, maybe "becoming one's character" really is flow, now that I think about it. Flow involves a loss of the sense of self, so maybe deep immersion is just flow when it happens in a game with strong character ownership and little player power. Which would mean that character immersion and story immersion is really the same thing, but in different games.

    EDIT: Okay, so that's exactly what Jason says in his article. But it's a new thought for me.
  • People finding Csíkszentmihályi (Chick sent me high)'s writing interesting may also want to have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_psychology .
  • I don't necessarily agree that immersion is flow, but certainly immersive play seems to happen only when there is flow in gaming. It's a lot easier in freeforms, but I've also experienced in in trad tabletop gaming, namely CoC and UA. Games in which identification with the PC is simpler, the environment is easily grasped, and the mechanics are unobtrusive.

    My first ever experience of immersion in CoC (creeping around a country house at night while something laughed outside) did involve some mechanics (Listen rolls and the like), but they were very unobtrusive - roll the dice for a second and then right back into character.
  • That's an odd coincidence - I just finished up reading Instinct to Heal which has a whole chapter about Csíkszentmihályi & flow. I hadn't really thought of it in terms of RPing experiences but it makes sense.
  • edited June 2009
    I think there's an upper limit on how many people can be involved in a "high flow" gaming experience, at least in my case: the times when everything has really clicked for me have usually involved 1-3 other people (2-4 total), with 2 others (3 total) as the ideal. More than that, and it doesn't really happen; either someone has to sit out of the scene to get the number of active participants below the threshold, or I just get the ordinary roleplaying fun and not the high-flow totally-in-synch variety.

    I'm not entirely sure why this is so, but I suspect it has something to do with a combination of social factors and just plain old spotlight time. With, say, 4+ other players all in the same scene with me (or contributing ideas to it or otherwise taking an active role in what's going on), I have to pay more attention to things beyond just what my character is doing and saying; I need to process all their contributions and react appropriately to them, I want to find ways to make my own contributions appeal to each of them, I worry about whether I'm being too selfish or not selfish enough, etc....and all of those added concerns require effort and take focus away from the actual play. Does this match anyone else's experience, or am I just a freak?
  • Posted By: Simon_PetterssonAnyone have a comment on the stuff about it requiring a skill and a challenge that matches it?
    Portraying your character definitely poses a challenge. You referred to "feeling invested in the story." So, key to feeling immersed in a character is feeling invested in the story, feeling that the story has value and importance, that the goal of advancing this story and portraying your character means something. Exactly like Csíkszentmihályi talking about meaningful goals. So, you feel immersed in your character when you have a meaningful goal of portraying your character, and the situation provides the right level of challenge for that.
    Posted By: Simon_PetterssonDoes that take care of itself (i.e. do you always roleplay at a challenging level) or are there things we can do to make sure that the challenge is there?
    I say yes. I think from this perspective, we can see where many RPG's have actually designed against immersion, but we achieve it anyway, I would say despite the game. So it does happen on its own. But I think we can also design for flow, to make it a more regular occurrence.
    Posted By: simjamesI don't necessarily agree that immersionisflow, but certainly immersive play seems to happen only when there is flow in gaming. It's a lot easier in freeforms, but I've also experienced in in trad tabletop gaming, namely CoC and UA. Games in which identification with the PC is simpler, the environment is easily grasped, and the mechanics are unobtrusive.
    Are you sure we mean the same thing by "flow"? I mean the term as Csíkszentmihályi used it. People experience flow writing music, for instance. I would hardly call the medium there "unobtrusive." It takes years of learning and practice to achieve mastery, and once you have achieved that mastery, you can have those flow moments. The same should hold true for RPG's. The complexity of the medium only tells you what level of mastery you need to achieve flow with it, but you can achieve flow with any system, no matter how complex.
  • Posted By: jasonAre you sure we mean the same thing by "flow"? I mean the term as Csíkszentmihályi used it.
    That paragraph was talking about immersion specifically, which is my main experience of flow in RPGs. "It [immersion] is a lot easier in freeforms" might have been clearer.

    Immersive play hardly the only time that I've experienced flow - hours and hours of converting AD&D Dragonlance stuff into 3e back in 2000 went by in a blur, and that was all mechanics. Anything that would disrupt that creative process would break my flow in that activity, just as anything that is disruptive to immersion (such as obtrusive, time-consuming mechanics) would break flow that came out of immersion.
  • My point (and maybe Jason's) was that "immersion" is simply the name we give flow when it occurs in an RPG with strong character identification, just like we call it "artistic rapture" when it occurs in making a painting. If it is so, then saying that "immersion is a lot easier in freeforms" is the wrong way around. So immersion is flow, or rather a specific type of flow.

    I'm not saying it is so, I'm just clarifying what I meant. But I think that might be true, since a component of flow is loss of the awareness of self. If you lose the awareness of self and don't have any visible mechanics to engage in, all of your focus is the character and the shared imagined space. If you do have visible mechanics, you get a different kind of experience, but the process is the same. And if you are engaging in the story creation process, it's yet another experience. And if you're engaging in writing a piece of music, it's yet another. But the process is the same.
  • edited June 2009
    It's definitely arguable that immersion is a form of flow (bearing in mind that definitions of immersion differ, but let's go with "character identification" for now).

    I can imagine other versions of flow, too: like my feeling of "flow" while GMing; or a party experiencing flow while plotting tactics in D&D 4E.

    My favourite example of flow, in Csíkszentmihályi's book, is the Japanese youths who experienced flow while riding motorcycles as a group. They experienced a feeling of group mind; loss of time; loss of individuality. When I think of flow in gaming, I think of that example.

    Most importantly, that example, for me, helps me with Jason's question of expertise. At first, I struggle to explain how there can be "expertise" in playing roleplaying games. But the motorcycle example characterises expertise as "being well-practiced" rather than "scholarly knowledge", which I think is the sort of expertise you get in gaming.

    Graham
  • edited June 2009
    Graham: YES! Just like that.

    But my question remains: how do we adjust the challenge rating to successfully achieve flow? If we assume that for a story gamer (feel free to read that term as you want. No definitions discussions, please) has as a goal to produce an engaging series of fictional events, and that the skills employed consist of "being well-practiced", then what do the challenges consist of? I'm guessing they are present in the activity itself (like holding an extemporaneous speech or reading the group's subtle telegraphs), but also in the game system. So should we strive to adjust the challenge in the activity (by techniques) or in the mechanics design? Or both? And how do we do it?

    Does anyone have an idea on a technique that can be used to make the activity of roleplaying more difficult and/or easier? A mechanic? I'm thinking of "creative challenges", like "Describe how you beat the guy down, and include the use of your binoculars". This sort of stuff is common in many games (pool domination in DRYH and the back-and-forth in Münchausen, for example). Using this sort of stuff as techniques might be a way to easier adapt it to the skill level of the individual participants.

    Any other ways to adjust challenge level?
  • Posted By: GrahamI can imagine other versions of flow, too: like my feeling of "flow" while GMing; or a party experiencing flow while plotting tactics in D&D 4E.
    Yes. I think that's one of the strengths of the argument. As you said, "definitions of immersion differ," but then, flow is a very widespread phenomenon, too, and it occurs not just in different parts of gaming, but in much farther-flung activities, as well, from work to art to athletics. Yes, you can absolutely achieve a flow state while GM'ing or plotting tactics; and people have also identified those as kinds of immersion. I think flow fits the definition of immersion as character identification, but I also think it fits the other kinds of immersion I've heard people talk about—GM immersion, immersion in a story, tactical immersion, etc. No matter what kind of immersion I've heard people talk about, the aspects they identify as immersive seem to keep coming back to a flow experience. That is what leads me to what seems like such a bold statement on the face of it, that immersion is flow in gaming.

    The different kinds of immersion describe flow experiences in different parts of a game: in portraying a character, in telling a story, in describing a scene, in facilitating play, in tactics, etc. So, what would help a flow experience in tactics, for example, might hinder a flow experience in describing a scene, for example. By the same token, the techniques that promote flow in writing music will do you no good whatsoever in achieving flow in athletic performance. We walk on egg shells around the topic of immersion, and talk about the multiplicity of kinds of immersion, because we've had this argument so many times now that it seems completely unsolvable. I think that's one of the strengths for identifying immersion as a kind of flow: It allows us to identify the common experience that ties all these kinds of immersion together. Rather than focusing on the techniques that separate them, we can see the qualities that bring them together under this single name. And it does so in a way that both acknowledges the divergent techniques that you need for one type of immersion over another, and perhaps more importantly, gives us a framework to talk about how we can design systems to foster immersion.

    Sure, games have talked about how they foster "immersive play' forever, but have those claims ever borne out? Maybe the group that originally conceived the game could achieve immersive play with it consistently, but that had as much to do with the group and its social contract as the system. With no clear idea of what immersion is, fostering immersive play has been to the RPG world what "cleans up this spilled soda from this fine rug in seconds, with no stain!" means to late-night infomercials. Calling immersion a kind of flow, I realize, has a certain semantic, "so what?" quality to it, but I think the value lies in this. It clarifies what we mean by "immersion" in a way that provides space for many different techniques and kinds of immersion, engages a larger understanding that goes well beyond games so we can learn from them, and gives us a start to build games that really do foster immersion. In fact, we'll be able to say what types of immersion they foster, and point specifically to the techniques they use.
    Posted By: GrahamMost importantly, that example, for me, helps me with Jason's question of expertise. At first, I struggle to explain how there can be "expertise" in playing roleplaying games. But the motorcycle example characterises expertise as "being well-practiced" rather than "scholarly knowledge", which I think is the sort of expertise you get in gaming.
    Yes!
  • Posted By: Simon_PetterssonBut my question remains: how do we adjust the challenge rating to successfully achieve flow? If we assume that for a story gamer (feel free to read that term as you want. No definitions discussions, please) has as a goal to produce an engaging series of fictional events, and that the skills employed consist of "being well-practiced", then what do the challenges consist of?
    The challenge doesn't need to be so explicitly stated, though clear goals are an important part of achieving flow. "Telling this story well" is a clear goal. So is, "follow this story to its end." One reason that we achieve flow as often as we do is because we can adapt the challenge to these quickly and readily: we throw in a twist in the story when it starts to get boring, or we have a down-beat scene to collect our thoughts when things start going too fast.

    I think we can also design games specifically towards this end. I think that would do wonders to move immersion from an elusive goal only sometimes achieved by experienced players, to something that we could reliably experience with a game. My friend Willem's been working with a fellow named Evan Gardner, who developed a game called, "Where Are Your Keys?" It's a language fluency game, designed to help you learn a language very quickly. Evan based it on ACTFL proficiency testing, which has different levels of conversational fluency.
    WillemThe first, Novice, will sound a lot like an episode of Barney the Dinosaur: ‘We are singing, we are playing, we are laughing…”-type conversations, all in the present moment, about what occurs around us that we can observe. We see a lot of “what”/”who”/”where” questions.

    The second, Intermediate, will sound a lot like an episode of Sesame Street: “Where are you going? -I’m going to the store. What are you going to buy? -I’m going to buy candy!”. We begin to see past and future tense involved, along with “when”/”how”/”why” questions added in.

    The third level, Advanced, sounds a lot like an episode of Larry King Live: “When you look back on your life, what are your proudest moments?” “How did you feel when that happened? Why do you think that? Would you do it again?”. Lots of personal storytelling.

    The fourth level, Superior, sounds a lot like an episode of Charlie Rose: “If you had advice for a new president, what would you give? How do you think presidents should behave? If we didn’t have a president, how would it change the world? Do we need them?”. We have moved beyond the personal, and into the world of society. We no longer tell our own stories, but the stories of society and how we think about economic, social, and political issues.
    At every level, you have fluency. You might be fluent at the "Barney" level, so the challenge lies at the "Sesame Street" level. Or you might be fluent at the "Larry King" level, so the challenge lies at the "Charlie Rose" level.

    WAYK—at least, as Willem and Evan describe it (I've never played it)—is both diagnostic and prescriptive. It tells you what level of fluency you're at, and then it sets the challenge level right above that. By now, you may have already figured out why I went down this tangent. Flow happens when skill and challenge align in the right proportion. Systems that can tell us where our skills are, and automatically scale the challenges to match, are the systems that will produce flow. That's a goal Willem and I have been experimenting with under the heading of "Pedagogy of Play" (this podcast episode has Willem & I discussing flow, fluency, WAYK, and the Pedagogy of Play process I cooked up for Mouse Guard, and includes links in the notes to most everything else that's been done with it so far, at least that I know of).

    I would not say that we've gotten this to the point where it reliably produces immersion, but this is the latest, greatest technique we've managed to cook up, and it all ends with an open invitation to continue trying it. I consider this an open source effort.
  • My god, I totally get it now! When I first read about the pedagogy of play thingie with Polaris, I thought it was all about teaching the rules. And I thought the rules aren't that complicated, so it seemed a bit unnecessary to me. But if it's for achieving flow, I totally get it! And it's brilliant! You introduce a bit of system and get people into the flow state, and when they master it and are about to get out of flow, you add more bits, which increases the challenge, thus keeping the flow!

    However, I don't think "Telling this story well" is a clear enough goal, at least not for the first stages. When you're learning to play a game to its fullest potential, I think changing the goal is more effective than changing the rules. I'm not gonna use Polaris as an example, as I have read it but not played it (it's difficult to convince my friends to want to try it). So let's just use any general game and try to achieve fulfilling Story Now play (again, please no definitions debates. Exactly what it means is not important). Just straight up "addressing premise" is pretty difficult a goal to begin with, so let's simplify:

    In the first stage, maybe our only goal is to engage all the parts of the system mechanics and get a feel for how they work. That's a clear goal to work towards and the challenge is to steer the fiction so that all of the different subsystems are used. In a complex game system, this might take a while, and we might need to engage certain subsystems several times to get them to feel natural. You might also give different goals to different players; "You make sure we get into a firefight and you make sure we have a debate". Here we have "game fluency". So rather than dividing up the mechanics into all the stages, I think getting the full system working as quickly as possible is better, since it allows us to focus on the important stuff.

    In the second stage, maybe we could focus on getting some bangs going. Each player says a couple of things that are important to her character and then we all cooperate to get everyone into situations where two of these things collide. That's dilemma bangs, and getting everyone to work specifically towards that goal until they achieve "bang fluency" is the point here. Maybe we could add in other types of bangs along the way, like trilemma bangs, escalation bangs, group bangs and so on, making sure we achieve fluency in all of them. Already we're getting pretty interesting play and I think working towards a set goal like this would make flow more likely than if we're just trying to tell a good story.

    In the third stage, we could start to introduce a premise. A single premise for all to work towards is probably best. We all decide on one together and all work towards addressing it. We do this, using our fluency in bangs and the system to make it happen. Now we've got "premise fluency".

    After this, there are many more things we could add. Unspoken premises, interesting conflicts, say yes, working each others' flags, integrating other agendas, scene framing techniques (flashbacks, flashforwards, etc.), Jeepform techniques, changing game systems ... There are many techniques out there to be fluent in. But I think they should be introduced as goals in the different stages, and I don't think that playing with half a system is going to work. And of course, a lot of talking about the techniques and the goals, especially when not actively playing (since that might hinder the flow) will be advantageous, to make sure we're all on the same page on what we're trying to accomplish.

    But that's just my take. The whole WAYK and pedagogy of play thing is super brilliant, either way.
  • Posted By: Simon_PetterssonSo rather than dividing up the mechanics into all the stages, I think getting the full system working as quickly as possible is better, since it allows us to focus on the important stuff.
    Well, learning a big, complex block of mechanics poses a real challenge. You didn't have it entirely wrong before: Pedagogy of Play does aim to teach a game, too. A good model for creating flow also gives you a good pedagogical model. For instance, when you play WAYK, you always start at the Barney level, even if you have Charlie Rose-level fluency. If you do, then we'll quickly escalate to that level, before you feel bored, but to properly assess your fluency level, we always have to start at the simplest level, and then progressively add one more thing.

    I think you have the general idea, though. I have some skepticism about that particular progression, but give it a try! See what happens with it. You won't really know until you do.
    Posted By: Simon_PetterssonThe whole WAYK and pedagogy of play thing is super brilliant, either way.
    Thanks! We've put it out there as an invitiation for collaboration more than anything else. We consider this an open source process. So try it out and let us know how it goes, and we'll feed that back into the next thing. I think it has a lot of potential, though I certainly have my biases. For now, I wouldn't say I've developed a formula for consistent, reproducible immersion, but it gives me an idea. And frankly, just the thought that you might have a reasonable goal in that, and a direction to start working in, seems pretty exciting to me all on its own!
  • edited June 2009
    Posted By: jasonWell, learning a big, complex block of mechanics poses a real challenge. You didn't have it entirely wrong before: Pedagogy of Play does aim to teach a game, too.
    I do see what you mean; especially after listening to (half of) the podcast episode. My idea was this: instead of making the goal "telling a good story" and slowly introducing the mechanics, you could make learning the mechanics a goal in itself, with your mechanics learning-fu the skills used. Because I think that knowing the mechanics is just the first step in getting a great play. If you know the mechanics and use them as intended, you're probably gonna get good play, but to truly suck the marrow out of the game, you need to do a lot of other things. It's about how you need to use the mechanics. Great play doesn't come from knowing the rules, it comes from knowing how to use them.

    So that's my take, but I'm not entirely sure I'n right. And for difficult games, you might want to make learning the mechanics several steps, so you're basically first doing your thing, and then mine.
    Thanks! We've put it out there as an invitiation for collaboration more than anything else. We consider this an open source process. So try it out and let us know how it goes, and we'll feed that back into the next thing.
    I'm gaming tomorrow and I'm definately going to throw this on the rest of the guys. I really want to try this out, but I'm unsure of when we can try it, as we've just started a campaign. Anyway, I'm totally interested in this and I'll be following the podcast for developments. And if you ever get a Skype game going to try some more of this out and you're a dude short, well ...
  • I've argued a few years back (in a research paper published in issue 1.2 of Journal of Interactive Drama) that the state reached by role-playing is not Flow, but rather another autotelic state similar to it. There are some key differences in how the attention of the participants is focused when it narrows into immersive (be that character- or story-immersive) play. I still very much think that way.
  • I didn't see where in that paper you mentioned what differentiates immersion from flow, just where you cited a forthcoming paper called, "Core Hermeneutics in Role-Playing." I'd love to know what you think separates flow from immersion, but you don't have that in this paper, and the "forthcoming" citation doesn't point me towards that paper, either. Maybe you can tell us?
  • The typology is there, in an appendix on p. 57. Here's a copy. (I do disagree with my older view these days, on the question of liminoidity vs. liminality as far as role-playing is concerned, but that's a topic for other threads.)

    "APPENDIX 2. KEY TRAITS OF AUTOTELICITY IN PRETENCE PLAY (SPECULATIVE).

    FLOW:
    •A challenging activity that requires skills
    •The merging of action and awareness
    •Clear goals and feedback
    •Concentration on the task at hand
    •The paradox of control
    •The loss of self-consciousness
    •The transformation of time
    •Relates to doing

    LIMINOID PRETENCE PLAY (INCLUDING LARPS):
    •A challenging activity that requires a temporary change of world-view
    •The merging of action (pretence) and awareness
    •Sense of being a part of the narrative currents
    •Maintenance of diegetic integrity
    •The paradox of control
    •Heightened sense of (potentially artificial) self
    •The transformation of time
    •Relates to being
    •Not as intense as flow

    Because the pretence play takes place in a liminoid state, it takes on the characteristics of participatory ritual. Thus the autotelic state is not a flow experience created by an activity (pretence), but rather a new state based on the
    sense of temporary belonging in the fantasy’s reality and its narrative currents."
  • edited June 2009
    Thanks, Tuomas. That's good stuff. However, I can only see the conclusions. What drove you to those conclusions? To me, there seems to be too many similarities to rule out that it's not, in fact, the same thing. The fact that the interviewees said that immersion is most easily achieved in action, and hard to get when just "sitting around", speaks volumes to me.

    I see a couple of differences in your conclusions of the two states:

    Both are "a challenging activity", but whilst the one requires skills, the other requires "a temporary change of world-view". However, I'm not convinced that this change is inherent in the immersion. I'd say that the change of world-view is inherent in the activity, the actual roleplaying, and that experiencing flow merely intensifies it, most notably by causing you to lose your sense of self. Instead of having both your sense of self and your imagined worldview, in flow you only have the worldview left, if you get what I'm about.

    The "Sense of being a part of the narrative currents", I'm not sure what it means, so I'm going to leave that for now. Care to elaborate?

    As to "Maintenance of diegetic integrity", is that a prerequisite or an effect? In any way, I don't see that as something that couldn't be part of the flow experience. Flow is characterized by the focus of the activity you engage in fills your entire mind (uses all your cognitive resources), and since the activity of roleplaying (in an immersionist) is all about the diegesis, it's no wonder that this is what's experienced.

    "Loss of self-consciousness" and "Heightened sense of (potentially artificial) self" is, to me, the same thing. Again, in immersionist roleplaying, when you're not experiencing flow, you've got two parallel selves. You have your own and you have your character's. In flow, your sense of self is forgotten, since it's not necessary for the activity at hand (which needs all your cognitive resources), so all you're left with is the sense of your character's self (which is necessary).

    "Relates to doing" and "Relates to being" is too vague for me to reply to. Relates how? It seems mostly a linguistic thing to me. You cannot do without being and you cannot be without doing and, again, the interviewees said that they experience immersion easiest when actively doing something, whilst experiencing it when just sitting around was much harder. That, to me, sounds like it "relates to doing".

    And finally "Not as intense as flow". In my experience, flow is not a binary thing. You can be more or less in flow. I haven't read the book, so someone is welcome to correct me on this.

    EDIT: Also, do you think it's possible to experience flow in immersionistic larping? If so, do you think someone who has not experienced "true" immersion would believe the experience to be immersion? If that is the case, and flow and immersion are really two different things, you would expect a certain percentage of people responding to your questionnaire to really be responding to questions about immersion from the perspecive of their flow experiences, making the study very hard to get data from. Also, you'd expect there to be people talking about two different kinds of immersive experiences. I've only heard about a single kind.
  • By the way, I tried the pedagogy of play for Polaris today. One guy didn't show up, and the rest of us decided to play Polaris. I had never played it before and it was something like a year ago I read through the rules, but the PoP made the experience flow relatively, if not completely, smoothly. Had I tried to introduce all of the rules at once, I'm convinced it would have gone much, much worse. And had I read the rules myself closely before starting, I'm sure we would have had a really smooth ride. I came close to flow at times, but didn't quite get there, nor did any of the others. Still: Awesome.
  • edited June 2009
    Ah, I hadn't realized the appendix there was outlining the difference; I thought it just served as a definition.

    I definitely agree that "immersion" seems to have something in common with liminal experience, but I don't think that liminal experience, as in ritual, really tells us that much about immersion. I don't think I agree on the points of divergence. Obviously, the two lists have many elements in common, but:

    1. A challenging activity that requires skills vs. A challenging activity that requires a temporary change of world-view

    Doesn't a temporary change of world-view count as a skill? I think it does.

    2. Clear goals and feedback vs. Sense of being a part of the narrative currents

    That sense of taking part in the narrative seems like a pretty clear goal, even if not expressly stated. You get feedback on your progress towards that goal in very much the same way an athlete or a composer gets feedback.

    3. Concentration on the task at hand vs. Maintenance of diegetic integrity

    Wouldn't you call the maintenance of diegetic integrity the task at hand?

    4. The loss of self-consciousness vs. Heightened sense of (potentially artificial) self

    The heightened sense of the fictional self requires the loss of self-consciousness first. You need to lose your awareness of yourself as the player, in order to become immersed in your awareness of yourself as the character.

    5. Relates to doing vs. Relates to being

    Perhaps most crucially for me, I classify "being" as a subset of "doing." For much the same reason, I try (though often fail) to write in e-prime (I haven't gotten intuitive enough with it to speak it yet).

    6. Not as intense as flow.

    I don't know if I'd agree. You can have a fairly low-intensity flow moment; while flow can coincide with a "peak moment," it doesn't have to. By the same token, immersion often gets quite intense. In fact, I've had some "peak moments" that came from immersive roleplay.

    Simon: Very encouraging to hear about your experience with Polaris. I don't think it can guarantee immersive flow every time, but I think it helps. Sounds like it did in your case, too. Great to hear!
  • Simon, the results are drawn from comments offered by my interviewees, some of which are listed in the main text. More data will be made available in a couple of years, when I get my PhD (for which those were gathered) finally done. That's why the autotelicity stuff is in a "speculative" appendix and not in the main text.

    As for the comments, I'll try my best to answer them. Indeed, many similarities between the two categories exist, and autotelic rpg (including larp) play can easily be perceived as just a facet of flow. A couple of things stand quite apart IMO, though (using letters here, not numbers, in order to avoid confusion - these are not in the same order as the questions above):

    A. The classic ontological difference of "being" vs. "doing" is crucial here. In my view, that sets the approaches quite apart. One relates to activity, the other to a stae or nature.
    B. Autotelic role-playing is very different from typical flow-activities, because it's a very broad-spectrum thing. The structure of the activity is not conductive to the tunnel vision nature of normal flow experiences. There are way more elements included in the mix.
    C. There is a difference between increased concentratiion on an artificial self and the "loss of the sense of self" of reported flow experiences.
    D. The clear goals and diegetic maintenance points are a bit more tricky, but I'll try and explain: A strong characteristic of flow is that things condense into a bare minimum: the activity becomes all that there is (Csíkszentmihályi uses the example of a rock climber). Autotelic role-playing, in turn, is more like the ability to implicitly do a bunch of ancillary things in order to experience the activity that is supported by them. Furthermore, in role-playing, one merges into the shared story ("narrative currents"), as opposed to the sense of utter personal control associated with flow.

    Furthermore, I personally think that you can experience autotelic rpg play also in non-(character)immersionist ways. You can just as well get caught up in the story/stories as you can in your character, as well as both.
  • Thanks for your reply. This is interesting stuff!

    A. What do you mean by "relates to"? Surely, flow is a state, albeit a state experienced while engaged in an activity. I once again point to the interviewees saying that immersion is easier to reach when actively doing something. That, to me, sounds like a state experienced while engaged in an activity. I'm still unclear on what you mean by this difference. Could you expand on your use of the phrase "relates to"?
    B. Flow is characterized by the exclusion of everything not necessary for the activity. Roleplaying has a lot of information that needs to be processed. That's why the "tunnel" is so wide. That is possibly also why the flow experience is not always so powerful, as you yourself noticed. The difference is that in Chess, for examåple, it's not that much information but a helluva lot of processing. In roleplaying, it's a lot of information but not that much processing. Still, everything that's not relevant to the activity, like your sense of self and time, or what you'll have for dinner tonight, or wether that sword is bought or home-made, is not being processed.
    C. What difference? I can't see it, I'm afraid. What's wrong with the explanation of non-flow using two identities and flow using only one, which is then heightened (the character identity).
    D. What about group flow? Doesn't Csíkszentmihályi (we're all just copy-pasting that name, aren't we?) talk about how you can achieve flow as a group? I haven't read the book, but the Wikipedia article clearly suggests it.

    And I totally agree that you can experience flow in non-(character)immersionist ways. I do it from time to time when playing story games. That's a skilled activity with clear goals and direct feedback and I have no doubt that it's flow. I ask again: do you think that flow, wether or not it's the same thing as immersion, is possible in RPGs? If not, why, since it's experienced in so many other human acivities, ranging from composing to brainstorming to Chess?

    Also, can you please explain what you mean by "autotelic"? I don't know that word.
  • A. I, for instance, find it easier to character-immerse when I am actively just "being", not doing anything in particular. A lot of my interviewees would disagree with me, though. As I see it, flow is a concentration on the activity itself, whereas autotelic (i.e. self-rewarding in the way flow experiences are) rpg play is an experience supported by the secondary processes. I consider role-playing a process, a set of activities and feedback loops, and that may be why I make sucha clear difference.

    B. Here, IMO, we see very clearly the different nature of chess compared to rpgs. The selection on what to ignore and when is way more complex in role-playing than in flow-conductive activities, be they chess, house-cleaning or rock climbing.

    C. In flow, as Csíkszentmihályi (it's more convenient to copy-paste, yes, but I can write it out of memory if needs be...) describes it, the sense of self practically vanishes, as thought and activity merge. One could indeed argue that the loss of self is the very pre-requisite for charcater immersion, but I disagree. In my view, the fact that the loss of primary identity is followed by a new one, a very cognizant one, is at direct odds with what flow is about.

    D. Not exactly group, more like a set of parallel flows. And that's again where I see a difference - the role-playing experience is shared quite differently, even when it's autotelic.
  • Posted By: Jiituomas
    Furthermore, I personally think that you can experience autotelic rpg play also in non-(character)immersionist ways. You can just as well get caught up in the story/stories as you can in your character, as well as both.
    Thanks for saying this. This is something I experience frequently at the table but was wondering how to describe it. I and the other players have frequently descibed segments of extremely tactical play as "a kind of immersion" but the concept of flow is less specific and more correct: time compresses, sense of self is reduced, but there isn't necessarily an increase in identification with a specific character.
  • Ok, I've read up to comment #19, I'd read the rest of the entries later, but I have to make some comments before I blow up and splatter the walls.

    * Could “Deep immersion” be flow? Or perhaps it’s anti-flow? What if you actually become aware of the character. You may lose your own sense of self, but you seemingly have another sense of self, quite strongly, so isn’t it perhaps a form of anti-flow? A strange edge-case.

    * Also, why does designing for flow mean designing for immersion, unless you play a linguistic game and define flow = = immersion? In Iain M. Banks’s The Player of Games you see how you can achieve flow through the mechanics. The two players are so intense in their game-play that when they are broken out of their revery, hours have passed and they can barely speak, as their throats are parched.

    * So for Magic (the Gathering), etc. Actually a way to get numerous flows simultaneous is to REMOVE the collective element. Because as was said above, in a social interaction, where another is intent on you, and part of the way the information is passed is because YOU are aware that the other is reading not only what you’re saying, but looking at your intent (Grice), can obstruct flow, so what you need is that each player would achieve their own individual flow.

    So in Magic for example, if it’s a free for all, you can achieve flow, especially if there’s no room for open diplomacy/bluffs which present you as a person, and each person is fully strategizing so there’s no room left for them as personalities, as opposed to team-work where you can’t converse in private, so you’re extra aware of yourself and how you try to pass messages in the open so only your team-mate would pick them up.

    * Investment in Character requiring Investment in Story? Just this week had a discussion elsewhere, where someone says that telling a story is of no importance to him at all, all he wants is to play his character… yes, it sounds odd, but still, consider that.
    The “Portraying your character” is a bit problematic, as the goal is directed at the other players while mindful that the character is a character. Portraying your character can also be done from a complete “Author Stance”, in third person narration. I portray my characters fully from a third person narration, while a large portion of the Israelis would tell you their goal is to “be” their character, and they are just “being them”, fuck the story and the other players as judges.

    * “Meaningful goal” is almost a red-herring, as each player decides what is a meaningful goal for themselves.

    * “I say yes. I think from this perspective, we can see where many RPG's have actually designed against immersion, but we achieve it anyway, I would say despite the game. So it does happen on its own. But I think we can also design for flow, to make it a more regular occurrence.”
    Jason, why is it the act of roleplaying that must be flow-like? I can be roleplaying (playing an RPG) and have it challenging, like a D&D encounter. See, “roleplaying” has two meanings: Playing an RPG, or “Playing the role of X”.

    **Jason in regards to “Mastery”: Here is an idea: “The Jedi Mind Trick”, can you achieve flow in a competitive game where you don’t master the system, but instead focus so strongly on the other side that you forget yourself? So long as the tricking does not rely on the signals sent by yourself, unless you master /that/, so you don’t think of that consciously and modulate by rote.

    * Also, UA/CoC, etc. Are there truly freeform games? I think you’re talking mostly of low-footprint games, but I may be knee-jerking against freeform here. Also, a small point.

    * Simon (#19), if Story-Game is about having a story, then again, see my post on how Story is created after the fact regardless of how things stand ((Which I seem to be linking to constantly)). I think the re-telling of a story is also a form of Flow: When you tell someone the story and you are so engrossed in how it went that you don’t notice that they don’t care? Or a group telling you about their awesome game and how each person’s comment just makes the other even more excited about that thing or another? Telling a story of something you’ve done before could also be a form of Flow, if you care enough about it.
    And no one said in Story-Game the story has to exist as a goal of each action, only that the game produces a story (I’m giving an inclusive definition, rather than an exclusive one).

    * And though it doesn’t answer the “Making easier/harder” question, I will tackle the question behind it: How do you help flow, and the answer to me is related to mastery in a way: Have each player find something that they want to invest their efforts in and master, something that they will care about, which while doing they will achieve flow. Think of Mo’s “Socket Theory”, though not only the “Big Sockets” mentioned, but each small section of a game can be something to “plug into”.
  • Tuomas--you make some excellent points, and they deserve a full, well-written, well-reasoned response, so I plan to wait until I have the time & energy to provide that. Or, if this had all unfolded at Cultures of Play: "I'm thinking."
  • Posted By: Thunder_God* Also, UA/CoC, etc. Are there truly freeform games? I think you’re talking mostly of low-footprint games, but I may be knee-jerking against freeform here. Also, a small point.
    "Freeform" has different meanings in different parts of the world. You seem to be using it as an adjective, for example, whereas in my common use "freeform" is a noun; a freeform is a kinf of live-action roleplaying game.

    Every time I see people misunderstand what I mean when I say "freeform" I kick myself, but I can't bring myself to use LARP; as I've experienced it, I don't particularly enjoy American-style LARPs.
  • edited June 2009
    I use it as both a verb and a noun: It's a type of gameplay, but people do it when engaging in this form of activity.

    Same as "Roleplaying".

    Also, freeform here is just as often tabletop (diceless, "Mechanic-less"). Or sometimes mechanic-less but with dice, odd.

    Anyway, another edit: Is it an adjective? I think of "Freeform roleplaying" as a conjunctive noun.
  • Posted By: JiituomasThe classic ontological difference of "being" vs. "doing" is crucial here. In my view, that sets the approaches quite apart. One relates to activity, the other to a stae or nature.
    That probably goes a good way to explaining our differences. I actually get to give a talk on Saturday that deals with this in no small amount, and I hope to tape it and put it online, so I'll hold off until I can share that.
    Posted By: JiituomasAutotelic role-playing is very different from typical flow-activities, because it's a very broad-spectrum thing. The structure of the activity is not conductive to the tunnel vision nature of normal flow experiences. There are way more elements included in the mix.
    I don't know if I agree with this at all. Yes, roleplaying brings with it many concerns, but I think properly balancing all those concerns at once goes a long way towards understanding precisely that "tunnel vision" you experience in a flow activity. Would you say that an athletic performance, or composing a symphony, has fewer elements to consider than roleplaying? I certainly would not. But even so, you get a "tunnel vision" focus on the elements germane to the task at hand. An interruption in the game can break an athlete out of his "groove," and a distraction can break a composer's flow. But by the same token, don't such distractions as table chatter, looking things up in books, Monty Python jokes and other distractions regularly break immersion in roleplaying? That sounds more like a similarity than a difference to me: in both cases, you get a "tunnel vision" focus on the elements germane to the activity (which you might have quite a few to consider), but the interference of elements beyond that scope will break your flow.
    Posted By: JiituomasThere is a difference between increased concentratiion on an artificial self and the "loss of the sense of self" of reported flow experiences.
    How would you describe that difference? Personally, I don't see it. The loss of the sense of self of reported flow experiences results from increased concentration on something else. You concentrate on the composition until you lose your sense of self; or you concentrate on your athletic performance until you lose your sense of self; or you concentrate on your character until you lose your sense of self. I don't see how the example of roleplaying differs any more widely than musical composition or athletic performance already differ from one another.
    Posted By: JiituomasThe clear goals and diegetic maintenance points are a bit more tricky, but I'll try and explain: A strong characteristic of flow is that things condense into a bare minimum: the activity becomes all that there is (Csíkszentmihályi uses the example of a rock climber). Autotelic role-playing, in turn, is more like the ability to implicitly do a bunch of ancillary things in order to experience the activity that is supported by them. Furthermore, in role-playing, one merges into the shared story ("narrative currents"), as opposed to the sense of utter personal control associated with flow.
    I think you've misunderstood flow here, at least to some degree. Csíkszentmihályi has discussed group flow; nothing about flow requires a purely personal activity, or a sense of utter personal control. I keep using the examples of musical composition and athletic performance; the latter generally occurs in team sports, in the context of a group, with no sense of personal control whatsoever. Awareness and interaction with all the other players on the field, in fact, forms one of the most important elements you need to keep your focus on, just as a roleplayer must focus on the shared story and the other players. Every activity that people experience flow in consists of a number of activities performed at once. It seems like you want to make the point that roleplaying requires a number of different activities, whereas flow activities have only the single activity. But even in your example of rock climbing, we can describe it simply as "rock climbing," just as we can simply describe roleplaying as "roleplaying," or we can break down its constituent activities. Rock climbing involves observation, exercise, tying ropes, balance, driving spikes, and so on. Basketball involves dribbling, running, shooting, and more. Composing music involves imagining the music, playing notes, trying melodies, oftentimes mathematics, and the skill of actually writing the notes down. So yes, I will agree that we can look at roleplaying as a number of activities, but we can do the same for other flow activities. It seems wrong to break those out for roleplaying but nothing else. This seems to me, again, like something these activities have in common, rather than something that separates them.
    Posted By: JiituomasFurthermore, I personally think that you can experience autotelic rpg play also in non-(character)immersionist ways. You can just as well get caught up in the story/stories as you can in your character, as well as both.
    Absolutely! As I said above, I consider the case for immersion as flow particularly strong precisely because it takes into account all the various types of immersion people refer to. It accounts for immersion-in-a-character, immersion-in-tactics, immersion-in-story, and so on. Flow already accounts for a much, much wider range of similar experiences, well beyond the realm of roleplaying. It gives us a basis from which to understand what these experiences have in common that leads us to use the same word for them, while at the same time recognizing the differences between them, and the different techniques used to create those experiences. After all, an athlete doesn't "get in the groove" at a basketball game the same way a composer experiences flow while writing a symphony. At the same time, it also gives us some hints as to what all those techniques might have in common, so we can develop better, more reliable techniques to achieve that goal.
  • Posted By: JiituomasThe selection on what to ignore and when is way more complex in role-playing than in flow-conductive activities, be they chess, house-cleaning or rock climbing.
    I very heartily disagree. The elements you need to either pay attention to, or ignore, in chess, simply staggers the mind. Composing a symphony, too, involves an enormous amount of complexity. Yes, even physical activities like playing basketball or rock climbing, require you to take into consideration an enormous range of considerations. Personally, I think it says a great deal for the complexity of high-end roleplay that it could fit neatly into the same category as composing a symphony, playing basketball, or chess, in terms of its complexity and how many things it puts before you for consideration, but to say it demands more, especially a good deal more, frankly, strikes me as a bit preposterous.
    Posted By: Jiituomas(it's more convenient to copy-paste, yes, but I can write it out of memory if needs be...)
    Heh, I do, too--those damned diacritics!
    Posted By: JiituomasIn my view, the fact that the loss of primary identity is followed by a new one, a very cognizant one, is at direct odds with what flow is about.
    I can see your point, but if we mean an activity that has, as its goal, the experience of another identity, then haven't you just made the claim that it differs from flow tautological? We could experience the exact same thing, but because this activity has the goal of experiencing a different identity, we can never call it flow. I agree, losing the sense of self does seem critical to the flow experience, but I think losing the sense of your normal, waking self sets the critical bar. If you engage in an activity with the goal of experiencing another identity, and you lose your sense of your normal, waking self in that activity, I'd say that definitely counts as flow.
    Posted By: Thunder_GodAlso, why does designing for flow mean designing for immersion, unless you play a linguistic game and define flow = = immersion?
    I made the claim that immersion simply means flow in the realm of roleplaying, just as rapture means religious flow, "in the zone" means athletic flow, and so on. Many different fields have experienced flow, and come up with their own terms for it; I think roleplayers came up with "immersion." So, I've used the phrases "designing for flow" and "designing for immersion" interchangeable, because I contend that they have the same aim. If you think immersion differs from flow, then obviously, those two phrases would mean different things, but I would disagree.
    Posted By: Thunder_God“Meaningful goal” is almost a red-herring, as each player decides what is a meaningful goal for themselves.
    Certainly in some situations, yes. In fact, what makes a goal meaningful merits a discussion of its own, probably beyond the scope of this thread. For this discussion, we just need a goal that the player considers meaningful. How we convince the player that she should consider this particular goal meaningful poses a different challenge.
    Posted By: Thunder_GodJason, why is it the act of roleplaying that must be flow-like? I can be roleplaying (playing an RPG) and have it challenging, like a D&D encounter. See, “roleplaying” has two meanings: Playing an RPG, or “Playing the role of X”.
    Yes, but in both instances, you really want to reach flow. We've talked a lot here about flow as immersion in your character, the "playing the role of X" sense of roleplaying. But you can also engage mechanics and tactics at a level where it flows. We've mentioned these different types of flow already. I identify immersion as flow not because it describes immersion as immersing yourself in a character, but precisely because it addresses so many different kinds of immersion, including immersion in tactics, or immersion in mechanics.

    Loathe as I feel to bring up GNS here, you could describe each of the three creative agendas people discuss in terms of the kind of immersion pursued: immersion in story (Narrativist or Story Now), immersion in setting (Simulationist or Right to Dream), or immersion in mechanics (Gamist or Step On Up). Considering, again, that we've already seen flow in such widely varied activities as musical composition and athletic performance, the narrow slice from immersion in mechanics to immersion in setting to immersion in character to immersion in story hardly seems remarkable at all.
    Posted By: Thunder_GodJason in regards to “Mastery”: Here is an idea: “The Jedi Mind Trick”, can you achieve flow in a competitive game where you don’t master the system, but instead focus so strongly on the other side that you forget yourself? So long as the tricking does not rely on the signals sent by yourself, unless you master /that/, so you don’t think of that consciously and modulate by rote.
    *shrug* I dunno. Give it a shot! Maybe!
    Posted By: Thunder_GodI think the re-telling of a story is also a form of Flow: When you tell someone the story and you are so engrossed in how it went that you don’t notice that they don’t care? Or a group telling you about their awesome game and how each person’s comment just makes the other even more excited about that thing or another? Telling a story of something you’ve done before could also be a form of Flow, if you care enough about it.
    Sure; we already know that storytellers often experience flow in their performances, and that listening to stories often involves a very lightly altered state of consciousness.
  • Jason, as I see it our whole argument boils down on view-points, as we both seem to agree that autotelic roleplay does indeed take place - be it flow or not.

    I personally think that the _spectrum_ of what you have to negotiate, especially the social aspects, in autotelic roleplay sets that apart from what flow in things like climbing, chess or even musicians jamming together is about. And, furthermore, that since flow works as >, a pure narrowing-down of focus and self into a merge, and autotelic role-playing as a ><, a narrowing-down of focus and self, which is then widened to a new self, there is a very fundamental difference. As a compound of many such factors (those mentioned above), I see autotelic role-playing as standing so far apart from flow that it merits a definition of its own. It's IMO a close sibling, not a part, to flow.

    In my opinion, the question should therefore really be "how inclusive do we consider the concept of 'flow'", rather than "is phenomenon X phenomenon Y".
  • Posted By: JiituomasI personally think that the _spectrum_ of what you have to negotiate, especially the social aspects, in autotelic roleplay sets that apart from what flow in things like climbing, chess or even musicians jamming together is about.
    I don't see it. All I see is a phenomenon in roleplaying games that fulfills all nine criteria of flow. And anyway, it's well known, as Jason points out, that table chatter decreases immersion.

    Anyway, thanks everyone who have posted in this thread. It's totally one of my favorite SG threads ever, and it has given me new avenues to explore in my designs.
  • Posted By: Thunder_GodAlso, freeform here is just as often tabletop (diceless, "Mechanic-less"). Or sometimes mechanic-less but with dice, odd.
    Yeah, we're talking about different kinds of games. A "tabletop freeform" sounds about as oxymoronic to me as a "PBeM LARP". :p

    That's what I get for using terminology that was invented before the world wide web, and is thus far from universal.
  • To make matters worse, in Sweden, just about anything that's not a published book can be called called "freeform". Jeepform is, for example, a kind of freeform. I suspect a lot of people would call playstorming freeform, not to mention stuff like role playing poems. Though I've never heard it being used of LARPs before.

    Best is not to use the word at all, I find.
  • I guess I need a new word for the games I like, then. :O It's a shame that we speak English here, or I could just use the same words in a different language and claim that it's an entirely distinct term.

    ;)

    Jeepform has some similarities to Aust. freeforms, but there are some pretty noticeable differences too. There are some techniques that I'd love to lift, but others that seem quite incompatible.
  • No James, stick to your guns on this one.

    "Freeform" as a term, and as a live play style, has along and complex history in Australia.

    Why should we have to change a term that we've been happily using for decades? It's like them yankies stealing a term that we've been using such as'Ugg Boot', and then trying to trademark it.

    But as for "Flow", my experiences are that it has to evolve organically. There are a few comments throughout this thread that indicate a desire to maximise it's potential, or even mechanically produce something that will tend toward flow. My personal experiences are that the more you try to achieve this state, the harder it will be to grasp. It's pretty Zen.
  • edited July 2009
    I think Jituomas is right - or, definitely pursuing a potentially fruitful trail. There might be an RPG-specific form of flow that's similar to, but not the same as, the flow experienced in running or climbing.

    And I think Michael (vulpinoid) is right in that consciously trying to achieve flow might be hard. Apparently, many sports people report not feeling particularly concentrated or focused on the days they break their personal records - they just seem to go with the flow.

    So that's what I think. Hooray.
  • Flow was discussed at length at the recent Immersive Worlds conference, where Dr. Csíkszentmihályi had presented the idea in a keynote speech two years prior. The discussion took a rather frightening (to me, at least) direction, likely due to the focus on electronic games and the marketability of said games. The idea of providing an "optimal experience" in a single-player video game is problematic - we've all experienced the time distortion effects when immersed (yes, I said it) with a particularly enchanting game, and it's rarely a fulfilling experience when you realize a whole day (or night, as the case may be) has been lost in a perfect cycle of Pavlovian stimulus and response. The notion that some game developer may one day achieve a formulaic method of inducing Flow through dynamic refactoring within the game's engine, which was a stated goal of conference sponsors Silicon Knights, seems to me to not be dissimilar to the human energy farms in the Matrix movies...

    However, achieving Flow in game designs - electronic or otherwise - where the participants are creating a shared experience is something different altogether. My thoughts immediately went to tabletop RPGs, of course, but electronic immersive worlds with meaningful human interaction may also qualify. Essentially, all I want to say to the participants in this thread (as I slowly ingest and digest it) is: good on you, keep up the good work!

    One interesting note: in this year's keynote, Espen Aarseth defined Immersion as the state when your brain is on full cognitive load. I find this an extremely useful definition as it covers so many of our fumbling, often seemingly contradictory definitions - "deep" immersion in character, immersion in story building, immersion in mechanics, immersion in emotions, whatever; these can all be summed up as states where the brain is fully engaged. How this maps onto Creative Agendas is left as an easy exercise for the reader, but it definitely does seem to validate the Big Model notion of incompatible CAs being a very "real thing", if Immersion or Flow is the goal.
  • I have to very strongly disagree with that last statement. In my experience (interview data included), especially in larp - but also other sorts of role-playing - people seem to require a personally optimal mixture of the right elements for immersive and/or autotelic play. There seems to be a very strong emphasis usually on one of the aspects, in a CA-like manner, but it is not at all as clearly cut into divisible, pure CAs as Edwards et al would like to think.
  • Posted By: lachekThe notion that some game developer may one day achieve a formulaic method of inducing Flow through dynamic refactoring within the game's engine, which was a stated goal of conference sponsors Silicon Knights, seems to me to not be dissimilar to the human energy farms in the Matrix movies...
    "Thermodynamically implausible"? :p
  • Posted By: simjames
    "Thermodynamically implausible"? :p
    Hey, it wasn't my idea. It just seems to me that the stated pursuit of such a goal is, well, against all human decency. With all due respect to the otherwise quite wonderful guys at SK.
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