Video game research indicates that gamers regularly enter flow-state during their time spent gaming.
Flow-state refers the experience of feeling fully engaged and focused on an activity, so much so that the individual’s perception of time is transformed. As one study shows, the intrinsically rewarding and engaging nature of gaming induces flow.
‘Positive Psychology’ is the study of what is colloquially referred to as the ‘good life,’ or the more positive aspects of human life. It is this branch of psychology that has studied flow-state at length. In a book titled ‘Flow - The Psychology of Optimal Experience’ by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the author claims that flow enhances our lives by increasing happiness and overall life-satisfaction. Another study indicates that insubordinate adolescents showed reduced delinquent behaviour over a two-year period when engaged in activities that stimulate flow more regularly and for longer periods.
Flow-states and growth-states are closely related. The flow-state experience is associated with the motivation to master the activity or skill that has induced this state. Further pursuits of flow-state then require a greater challenge to achieve the same reward. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the process whereby growth is fostered is accompanied by feelings of increased competence. This can be viewed as a form of positive-feedback. As this study suggests, it is this positive-feedback process that leads to the improved sense of self-esteem and the subsequent increase in motivation to direct further learning in the pursuit of the activity, as mentioned earlier.
It is this process that is rewarding, and it is the pursuit of further rewards that bring gamers back for more.