Raph Koster’s recent post theorizes that we play games we’ve already mastered as a form of meditation, like raking sand. Again, it’s simple kinetic activity helping our brains get to a happy place. Flow, on the other hand, is felt when we haven’t mastered the activity yet and we are in the process of doing so.
I agree when he mentions that neither flow nor meditation is about fun. Fun comes from what I am referring to as egotistical action – the desire to triumph, make a meaningful decision, or perform meaningful social interaction. This makes me wonder: is it worth creating experiences that grant fun? Peace endures as long as you participate in a certain activity that grants it, but fun wears off over time. The wearing off causes unhappiness, which is when we start searching for the next thing that makes us happy. This is how motivation in games works – go from one challenge to the next. However, if we never perform egotistical action, we run into production problems. Many people require egotistical action because it enables them to get important things done, like producing food for our species, or defending against harm.
It’s possible to incorporate meditative behavior into everyday activities, and I wonder if a game could teach players to meld these two together. Can peace and fun be simultaneously experienced?