The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Is Flow Always Good?

the following terrific note was on my bullitin board this morning, concerning the phenomenon of Flow:

There is one situation where I can reliably invoke the conditions of flow: a complete loss of time sense, my needs (or perhaps more precisely, my desires for) food and sleep become secondary ( I lost ten pounds the last time I allowed myself to partake of this activity), and a complete mental focus upon a single subject. So why am I being cryptic about this mystery activity? Because I find myself rather chagrined at admitting just how lost I get in this pursuit. I’m referring, of course, to computer games.

I’m primarily speaking of strategy games (think Civilization or Warcraft for you fellow gamers out there), or first-person shooters with a strong story and strategy element (i.e. Halo, Marathon), though I can certainly get lost in far simpler arcade-style games. But what I experience when I’m playing these games strongly echoes what this fellow Csikszentmihaly speaks of - the “narrowing of attention”, clearly defined goals, depth of concentration, etc.

And yet, though flow seems to be described in such glowing terms, both by Steve and now by Mr. C., it seems to me that it is not necessarily such a good thing purely in and of itself. Flow in service of writing a story, designing a house, fending off blows in a martial arts contest? Yes, excellent, wonderful applications. Getting lost until dawn getting to the next level in the stupid game? Somehow it seems to be less than admirable use of the time. For me the answer has been to delete the bloody games from my machine, just to prevent me from getting lost in them again. And though they sound fun to me, I don’t even dare to check out any of the online games - I know they’d just be rapacious time sinks to me, flow or no.

So, my comment is to ask: Is flow a desirous thing in and of itself? Obviously, I’m tending towards the answer that it is not, if it can be invoked in the pursuit of less than productive ends. And yet, I see no hint in this excerpt that there can be anything negative in the state of flow. I recently read somewhere on Coach Sonnon’s site where he stated that he didn’t believe in hobbies, that they were (I’m paraphrasing from memory here) distractions from the pursuit of one’s true goals. I think that is a partial answer to the question. But if flow is such a powerful and positive force, is there perhaps some good to be gained in its practice, even if it is through such a suspect path?
My answer:
You've touched an important point: No, Flow is no more important in and of itself than, say, protein or food or water (less vital to life, of course) each taken out of balance or context can kill you, or cause great harm. The knowledge that you can achieve this state is excellent--have faith that it is possible to find it in more social, healthy, life-affirming and building activities as well. When you meditate, seek the same state. When you write or read, seek the same immersion. There is nothing wrong with you--games are great fun! Just understand that you have hit one of the currents in your life, and must learn to construct a "turbine" there to harness some of that energy!


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Also I think that there aren't problem if you play games but you have distributed your time in different activities.

Cheap Viagra Online said...

well until certain point you have reason, the flow in the last times has declaine, for disgrace as almost all good things in this world.