Simon, Scott and Dara

Wow. I asked Simon, Scott and Dara to come up with a post for the blog about something in IT that they thought was interesting and this is what I got back…..

I am a visual learner so I particularly like the diagram flow.jpg. Clearly we want flow (being so absorbed in something that time disappears) in our lessons!

Well done guys. 🙂

To see Simon’s post read on, Scott’s is here ->  scott-blog-post.jpg

“Flow” and DDA in games

DDA: The Basics

DDA (Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment) is becoming increasingly popular in games. The idea of it is to alter the difficulty of a game in accordance to the apparent skill level of the player. This is all done to attempt to access the player’s “Flow”

Flow: What is it?

Flow is the name given to that feeling of total immersion and time not existing when partaking in an activity. This could be reading, watching a film, going for a jog or playing a video game. There is ongoing thorough research into this idea, how to initiate it and how it can be applied to the world.

The 9 Components of Flow

Research has shown that there are nine main elements which identify the feeling of Flow. They are:

  1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals are attainable and align appropriately with one’s skill set and abilities).
  2. Concentrating and focusing, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
  3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
  4. Distorted sense of time, one’s subjective experience of time is altered.
  5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
  6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).
  7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
  8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.
  9. People become absorbed in their activity, and focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity itself, action awareness merging


Flow: Origins of the Term

Flow all began as an idea developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist from Hungary. He wrote a paper named “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”. The name “Flow” comes from the description of the experience from several parties. They describe the feeling as “being carried along in a current” and so the name was born.

Accessing your Flow

The defining element of whether or not someone will access their flow in a game is the relationship between the difficulty of the game and the ability of the player. If the game is too hard, the player will develop anxiety and will not access their flow; if the game is too easy then they will get bored, also not accessing their flow (As shown in the diagram)

Methods of Achieving this

The most widely used method of achieving this is to target a specific market: hardcore gamers, casual gamers or your run of the mill average gamers. Although this can help the target group access their flow, it has a relatively narrow scope. Difficulty settings are a relatively effective way of overcoming this, but the game will still really only appeal to the target group as the game will be specifically designed for them.


Enter DDA

DDA (explained on the first page) is a modern way of appealing to a wide range of customers. The adjustment of difficulty depending on skill refines the game and therefore helps that player access their Flow. It is used in a few games currently, such as Heavenly Sword and Flow (named after the idea).


Where it should be Included

If a game is set to include Flow logic, then this should be included in every stage of the software development cycle; from Analysis all the way to Maintenance (You don’t want to delete a key component completely if it doesn’t work do you?).


The Future of Flow

The application of Flow logic and DDA is getting increasingly popular in games and I think that eventually it will be included in most games that are released.


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