Any gamer can talk fondly about the times when we got into the zone, lulled into a zenlike state of concentration thanks to smooth, satisfying mechanics. The hours flew by, and we were mesmerized. This is a psychological phenomenon known as ‘flow’—often associated with a state of focused motivation, immersion, and trance-like enjoyment—and, while it’s tricky for games to guarantee this state, achieving it can make a game more enjoyable all around.
Gaming flow isn’t restricted to soothing games, nor is it limited to fast-paced action. Flow is based on mechanics, meaning any well-designed game is capable of inducing that state of immersion regardless of what those mechanics look like.
Uncharted’s Platforming Provides Satisfying Flow
The Uncharted series is best known for its graphics and story, but its mechanics have great flow to them as well. The game’s platforming system is less about testing your observational skills and response time (though that does sometimes play a role) as it is about really feeling like a skilled explorer. While the platforming sections aren’t incredibly long, they do create a sense of flow because of subtle corrections and guidances to keep you on track.
Though Uncharted’s platforming sections are broken up by other mechanics, successfully jumping from ledge to ledge can induce the feeling of flow in players. Video Source: RajmanGaming HD via YouTube.
In Uncharted, the longer you’re able to jump from cliff face to cliff face, the more likely you are to get into the zone. Platforming isn’t especially difficult, especially when the game gently corrects you if you only slightly miss a jump or grab. This gives you a greater sense of accomplishment, elongating the amount of time you succeed—that sense of achievement is what contributes, in this case, to the satisfaction of gaming flow.
Combat in Arkham Franchise Feels Fluid and Fun
The Arkham games are known for their dynamic combat system, where, as Batman, you punch, kick, and throttle your way to victory. Combat in this series is incredibly cinematic because of how reliant it is on combos; the more you hit, the more opportunities you have to execute impressive attacks, making each fight feel smooth and polished.
Combat in the Arkham franchises uses combo movies to create a flowing, engaging system. Video Source: MrEdxwx via Youtube.
Because the series is based on a comic book, it makes sense that the Arkham series takes a less realistic, more satisfying approach to combat. You don’t want to see Batman stumble and struggle—you want to see him dominate. And as the fights get longer, with Batman pulling off increasingly impressive stunts that feel natural and fluid, you enter a state of intense, enjoyable concentration. That’s part of what makes the game so fun: you feel like Batman because of your repeated successes, all thanks to the fluid combat.
Lichdom: Battlemage Encourages Flow with Visual and Gameplay Smoothness
Like the Arkham series, much of the flow in Lichdom: Battlemage comes from the game’s fluid combat. The game is centered on making you feel like an incredibly powerful mage, so rather than bogging you down in moments of defeat, Lichdom always makes action a priority. Your spells are fully customizable, so you have the ability to create whatever effects you like and use them frequently without the restriction of a mana bar.
Lichdom: Battlemage’s combat is fast-paced, visually interesting, and unique to each player, making it a continued source of excitement. Video Source: MrEdxwx via YouTube.
The result is a constant stream of action, rather than the more calculated strategy of something like Skyrim or turn-based RPGs. You feel flow because the action rarely slows down, letting you chain together attacks from various schools of magic with critical hits and explosive effects, making each subsequent attack even more exciting than the previous one. This is immensely satisfying, especially in comparison to other games where you play as a mage—instead of worrying about mana, you’re able to continuously feel like a powerful magic-user.
Flower Uses Flow to Relax and Soothe Players
At the complete other end of the spectrum is Flower. Rather than basing the mechanic in feeling powerful, this game lulls you into a sense of relaxation. With soothing music, beautiful visuals, and gameplay that emphasizes the flow in Flower, it’s hard not to see how this contributes to the Zen-like state a good game can create.
Flower’s soothing music and visuals are supported by a relaxing gameplay mechanic, making this instance of gaming flow calming rather than thrilling. Image Source: EightBitHD via YouTube.
In this game, you control a flower petal blown by the wind, bringing life and color to dead, lifeless areas. It’s based in emotion rather than power, giving you an entirely different experience than many games. This time, flow relaxes you rather than pumps you up. Everything about Flower is soothing, including its music, color choices, and controls, creating an experience that’s no less impressive for being calming rather than thrilling.
Gaming Flow Adds Enjoyment to Any Genre
Gaming flow is at the heart of all of these titles, each one built on creating a sense of immersion through repeated success that makes you feel competent and, in some games, powerful. You get drawn further into the mechanics because of how satisfying it is to play them, a very different experience from games that aim to startle you, such as horror, or test your strategy, such as an RTS or MMORPG. A sense of flow can be an incredibly fulfilling one, and it’s not limited to just one genre or set of mechanics—a well-designed game of any kind can give you a satisfying experience no matter what kind of gameplay it has.
Lichdom: Battlemage’s combat is fluid and thrilling, giving you an incredible experience unlike any other in fantasy or first-person shooter games. Order your copy now!