A few weeks ago I wrote a piece entitled, “Slow Time, Fast Time and Children.” In that article I wrote about how the experience of time can be relative to what an individual is doing. If they are doing something immersive like playing a game time moves fast. If they are doing something tedious like waiting for baggage at the airport, times seems to stand still. As I wrote at the time: “That means that great toys and games have to give such an immersive experience that players will not sense time passing.”
Thanks to one of our readers, Richard Cocca, I have now learned a bit more about why we lose track of time when we are doing something we enjoy. Richard sent me an article entitled “Which people are most likely to experience ‘flow’?” The article defines “flow” as “… the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.” The concept was developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist who now teaches and lives in the United States.
It appears that individuals have varying abilities to experience flow. It also seems however, that products can be designed to help bring the user to flow. According to Wikipedia, there are 10 components in experiencing “flow” but not all 10 are required. They are:
The player is given clear goals
He or she experiences a sense of concentration and deep focus
There is a loss of self-consciousness
Player experiences a sense of time distortion
Player receives Immediate feedback as to success and failure
There is a balance between the players abilities and the challenge
Player has a sense of control
He or she finds what she is doing to be Intrinsically rewarding
Player experiences a loss of physical needs like hunger or exhaustion
Participant feels a sense of full absorption
All of us, I believe, are able experience “flow” (It’s also called being in the zone, wired in or on fire) whether we are playing a computer game or standing in the batter’s box.
What toys are out there now that you think most engender the experience of flow in their users?