The Flow channel in games: Most of the work of a game designer is to be creative and come up with great game ideas. But sometimes, knowing about some interest studies can be very helpful in designing your games. One of the concepts that you should know for sure is the flow channel:
So what is the Flow channel? My personal definition of the Flow channel is: “The player comfort zone”. It’s when the player is feeling both powerful and successful. You as a game designer, must keep the player inside this flow as long as you can.
The Flow channel in deep:
The flow channel is what keeps the player focused on one activity, and as a game designer, you must be sure that your games are well balanced in order to keep the player inside the flow. Think about a boss fight. If the boss fight is too difficult, after a couple of try, the player will be anxious and soon will get frustrated. Otherwise if the boss fight is to easy, the player won’t feel challenged enough for the game and so he will eventually get bored.
So what the flow channel is telling us is to increase the difficulty gradually and in a balanced manner. One game that does that very well is God of War. In God of War you will always find an opponent of a new type and that gives you the feeling of a new boss fight every time. The player will always be forced to learn new ways to beat the opponent, and each time one is defeated, the player will have the feeling of power and skills mastering. Then, when you have learned how to beat an enemy, the game will force you to fight more than one at the time. This logic forces you to stay on the “flow channel” of the game.
Get out of the flow:
In some cases, the player should get out of the flow. Think again about one boss fight, every time you beat the boss you should have a few moments to relax, why is that? Because you’re giving the players the time to make them reflect on what they have accomplished so far.
From the book GAME DESIGN PROTOTYPE
“an optimal challenge, it’s also about giving her the understanding that she is getting better and granting her time to just be awesome. After a difficult fight, give the player some time to just be powerful. This encourages feelings of empowerment.”
Most designers create their games without being conscious about the game flow, but this is one of the most important concepts to know, if the player will quit your game, it’s because you as a designer have not been able to keep the player inside the flow.
You must increase difficulty and challenges in each level and always keep the player focused to the actual challenge.