Flow is an interesting game to play and really strange. It is a weird science experiment of a game that adapts to the player. It’s creator, Jenova Chen, actually created Flow for his master’s thesis which was a concept of dynamic difficulty adjustment. It’s a form where the game adjusts itself to the player’s reactions which is quite different from normal games. Normal games usually expect the player to continuously grow and adapt but Flow is different. I played the free flash version of flow on my web browser which is quite different in aesthetics to the shiny and polished console versions.
I was very confused playing this game as I had no clue in what I was doing. Nothing was explained when I was thrown in at the start but as per usual, this is the part where you start pressing and clicking everything to get a response. I eventually got an idea of what to do and how to navigate and my adventure started. It was sort of like snake, where you eat to get bigger and try to stay alive. Other creatures showed up to rival my slowly evolving germ but I never felt joy playing this game. I don’t really understand why but I just couldn’t find anything entertaining about this game. The music was also a loud blaring godlike music as if you were ascending into the heavens of some sort. After a while I also discovered that I cannot even die or lose in this game! Was it even a game at this point? I couldn’t find an end goal and I couldn’t find a way to even lose! Jesper Juul’s Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds, gives good guidelines of sort to what a game is. Flow, unsurprisingly doesn’t fit most of his categories of what a game should be. Juul believes that “the rules of the game must provide different possible outcomes” (p. 38) but in Flow there really is no outcome! There’s only further progress but no real purpose. This game never gave me a sense of accomplishing anything. Yes, I could see that I was making some sort of progress but it was just the same as where I had originally been. Flow never gave me any feeling other than boredom and a sense of emptiness. I eventually saw the other versions of it in play and they play similarly but with polished looks. The console versions do have some sorts of ending though, it’s actually just credits and then the game continues as normal but resets your creature to it’s smallest state. Juul believes that an “emotional attachment of the player to the outcome is a psychological feature of the game activity” (p. 40) but that never really happens in Flow. I don’t feel any attachment to this evolving blob worm. I also never feel any emotional attachment to the game that keeps me entertained or gives me a reason to come back. Flow is a game but it isn’t as well. This leaves it in a horrible limbo state where it really doesn’t know what it is. It’s best fit would be an Open-ended simulations game but does it really fit into that? Jenova Chen found it as an experiment. Maybe it’s best to leave it as just that.