I have decided to concentrate on the state of flow for this post. To do this I would like to use the example of casinos, however as we must relate this to digital gaming I will relate it to the use of computerised roulette in casinos (from my experience observing gamblers in casinos, and having a dabble myself!). Firstly, what is flow? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi first came up with the idea, however, a more simplified and shorter explanation has been put forward as this:
'[flow is] a state of deep focus that occurs when people engage in challenging tasks that demand intense concentration and commitment. Flow occurs when a person’s skill level is perfectly balanced to the challenge level of a task that has clear goals and provides immediate feedback.'
There are 8 components of 'flow', 4 pre-requisites and 4 effects. The first pre-requisite is the challenge. This can be related to casinos by the way in which gamblers have the challenge of guessing the right number or colour in which the ball will land on the roulette table, or indeed in card games to outwit the dealer. The next requirement is a clear goal, obviously for all gamblers the goal is to win more money than they came in with, so to put money on a number that comes up will complete that goal. Next we have feedback, in this example the feedback can be the amount of money in the gamblers pocket, the number of chips left in their corner of the table or the balance on the roulette screen which shows them whether they have had success or failure over the night. The final pre-requisite is control in uncertain situations, this can easily be related to casinos because the gambler always has uncertainty in whether they will win or lose but still have the chance to quit.
The next 4 components show the effects of 'flow'. Firstly there is a merging of action and awareness, this produces spontaneous actions from the gambler, for example, continuously betting the same numbers automatically at the end of each spin. Next, there is extreme concentration from the gambler as they try to work out the game and plan their next move. Thirdly, there is loss of self-consciousness, everything to the gambler seems to be almost an outer-body experience - movements and positioning become automatic. Lastly there is the transformation of time, the gambler doesn't realise that what feels like a minute is actually an hour or more, they are so involved in the gambling and betting.
So is this state of flow actually known more commonly as addictiveness? Possibly. This is why I think so:
In casinos gamblers are totally at one with the game they are playing, the same as gamers.
In casinos there is no sense of time (next time you go to one look for a clock on the wall, most casinos never keep one so the gamblers lose all sense of time), the same can happen whilst playing an involving game on the PC or Playstation.
In casinos you are still the master of fate, i.e. you can cash in at any time, the same as playing games, e.g. you can shoot who you want or control what you want.
In casinos there is extreme focus when you are concentrating on how much to spend on a spin of the wheel, while games draw the gamer in and command the gamer's concentration.
In casinos gamblers have exhilaration and excitement at winning, while gamers have the same emotions from completing a level or defeating a 'boss'.
And finally, both gamblers and gamers get 'in the zone' of their respective games very easily by becoming involved emotionally and physically.
I hope this has all made us much sense reading it as it does in my head!
Chamberlin, J..(1998) Reaching ‘flow’ to optimize work and play. [online] Retrieved on 07/03/07 from http://www.apa.org/monitor/jul98/joy.html