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lenses:lens_of_flow [Motivational Design]

Motivational Design

Lenses and Patterns for Motivational Game Design

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Lens Of Flow

Flow is a state the player reaches given the proper balance within the game. Players need to have the capability, both in game, and physically out of game to complete the given goals and obstacles. The game also needs to provide the correct amount of balance to the challenge. Together these two elements help build Competence.

The graph above provides a visual idea of flow. A state the player enters when the balance between challenge and player ability. Players enter this zone at the peak of immersion and enjoyment in gameplay.

Focusing Questions

  • What abilities are afforded to the player?
  • Do you provide time for the player to develop skills?
  • Do the challenges provided tax the player to an appropriate level?
  • Do you have any elements of the game that might suddenly force the player out of flow?
  • Do any elements of the design feel disconnected to the experience that you envisioned?

Can be instantiated by

Name the sub-patterns and sub-lenses that are more concrete instantiations or examples of this one.



  • Afforded Abilities
  • Obstacles
  • Goals
  • Enemies


Mega Man 3

Flow is a hard concept to visualize, as it is a very personal aspect of game experience. In Mega Man 3 the game provides ample challenge to the player, but designs all enemies and obstacles in a way that allows the given abilities to handle any situation. In the video above, we see both the state of flow, and a situation that breaks flow. Overall, the video is an excellent example of Flow, as his mastery over the controls of the game allows him to handle all enemies and game situations with ease. However, within the video the player encounters a platforming section in which his twitch movements cause him to fall off of the blocks. Player character bounding boxes are most certainly the reason, as he moves slightly too far, and the game considers him to be off of the platform. This disconnect slowly pulls him out of flow, as he has to repeatedly try to complete the simple puzzle. Designers must be aware that the decisions that they make, along with the programmer's decisions all have a direct impact on the lead up and development of the player's flow state.


Establishing Flow

Flow is a very personal experience for each individual player. Design the game to allow for flow to be reached, but do not try to force a player into flow. Flow is ethereal and is not a pattern, it is a concept that is to be acknowledged and designed for, not implemented into the game itself.

Breaking the Stream

Allows make sure to be cognizant of the possible state of flow within your game. Be aware of elements that might cause a player to be pulled out of a flow state, and attempt to design so that these flow breaking moments do not interfere with gameplay, or the experience as a whole if it can be avoided.


At the current time, there are no available tools


At the current time, I am not aware of any metrics.


The lens is industry standard.



Currently looking for references to improve the depth of the page's information.

List of scholarly and professional sources and references that serve as background or support to this pattern. Please reference using the APA citation style.


lenses/lens_of_flow.txt · Last modified: 2014/05/12 03:02 by strapp