Games are played by people of all ages and across all cultures because they are fun. However, we have long separated ‘play’ and ‘fun’ from learning and behavioral change. When games are fun, they are powerful tools because games have strengths strengths that reinforce positive development in human behavior. Two things are critical to successful games: flow and fun. Fun provides the motivation to play. Flow provides the intrinsic motivation to keep playing and facilitate the learning of new skills, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Games can do reinforce all kinds of behaviors, from teaching content and improving health management to staving off cognitive decline. Like any other psychological intervention, the problem is compliance.
Video games and game design support learning, behavior change and problem-solving when they are designed to engage. Creating “Flow zones”: 1) challenges balanced with skill that lead to exploration and problem-solving, 2) immediate and accurate feedback that reward the player’s accomplishments; 3) a sense of engagement and presence; and 4) no “flow break points” where we fall out of fun. Gaming experiences that achieve flow have multiple benefits far beyond any content. They increase self-efficacy, mastery and control, improve resilience in the face of setbacks and encourage problem solving, creativity, and learning. Game-based experiences that are fun lower stress, strengthen social relationships and improve overall psychological wellbeing.
Case study: The mobile game BattleKasters was created to as part of a literacy project. It is a transmedia extension of the world created by author Alane Adams in the young adult series “The Legends of Orkney.” Kids today, especially young adults, don’t read enough. BattleKasters is a way to intersect with young readers and provide an entry point to the exciting characters and adventures in Orkney, igniting their curiosity and motivating them to explore the rest of the world and characters through reading. BattleKasters game was designed to be fun whether or not you read the book. This presentation describes the theory of flow, gives an overview of the game BattleKasters, designed to promote literacy and the adjustments in development that enhanced flow and immersive experience.