Sunday, 11 March 2007

Fishy and Flow

The flow channel occurs in game play through the attainment by the balance of skill or ability, and challenge. It’s a zen moment of dynamics, with anxiety and boredom on either side. Theorised by Dr. Mihaly ‘Mike’ Csikszentmihalyi, and followed up by notable others such as Bernie DeKoven who has identified vector lines within the flow model, and tendencies towards complexity.Collaborating with physical educator Muska Mosston, developer of the ‘slanty line’ principle on the high bar, allowing each pupil to set their own flow level. Jenova Chen is another theorist in the area, whose games, Traffic Light (concerned with response time, in which players set the speed), Cloud and the eponymous flOw, all concern themselves purposely with player control of skill level.

With Fishy, gameplay and challenge is structured through progression, and a system of rewards that is immediately available. It bears a similar resemblance to other games of its basic 80s design. In easy opening level the effortlessness is somewhat boring for a experienced player though the pretty of the games look and sound provides a therapeutic environment much like Samorost does. Further levels require more concentration, and intensified sense of personal control. Like racing games there becomes a merging of awareness and action- I find myself not only ducking and diving, but gliding, happily taking in un-mathematical routines in favour of a graceful character control that is more showy than anything. Submerging myself in the game I’m aware of time on an intuitive level – the distortion is the only component Csikszentmihalyi lists that I’ve not experienced with this game. This may have something to do with the size of the .exe, significantly smaller than monitor size.

(Word count: 278)


Csikszentmihalyi M. (1975) Beyond Boredom and Anxiety pp.72 Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA. 36.

Wikipedia entries

Flow: an optimal psychological state of total involvement in the task at hand : Introduction, Retrieved online on March 10th 2007 at

Chen, J. Flow in Games : A Jenova Chen MFA Thesis, Retrieved online on March 10th 2007 at

DeKoven, B. Of Fun and Flow Retrieved online on March 11th 2007 at


Flow from
Traffic Lights from
Fishy Screen-capture from


James Morris said...

Awesome blog! The hours I wasted on Fishy...

Mal said...

You mentioned something about Northern Ireland in one of your blogs - if you are from Ireland, with your interest in game development, this might be a good site for you - Game Developers Ireland.

Check out the forum etc.

Scott Lackey said...

great site... love your thinking. we have a couple game manufacturers as clients for our ad agency. do you think there's any way to conspire?

oh...and thanks for visiting our blog. c'mon back and check out Daisy Whitney's "New Media Minute" webcasts each week. in addition to the tortured McLuhan pieces.