Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Flow-er Model: Introduction

This is The Flow-er Model. Go ahead, click it. Check it out.

The Flow-er Model as illustrated by the wonderful Anders Bohlin (DeBracy)

In short:

  • Energy is the basic currency of roleplay gaming. If your game has energy, it is going somewhere, it is interesting, dynamic and involving. Simply put, energy is what makes roleplaying feel good.
  • This model identifies seven steps to cultivate this energy and bring it into a state of flow, which is what make roleplaying feel great.
  • The model is meant to be useful for both players and game designers.
  • The model places great emphasis on clarity, sense of security and sense of curiosity. It stresses confusion and rigidity as antagonistic towards flow.

Before diving in, a short introduction on my assumptions in this model:

Flow is psychological term for a state of total focus and immersion in what you are doing. You cease doubting and planning, you know what to do, and just do it. Performance is at it's peak, and all you need to do is to follow the momentum and your intuition, hence the term "go with the flow". Flow can be achieved in almost any task that requires concentration. The article on wikipedia describes flow as a very strong experience, but remember that flow is a gradient, not a strict category - You can have both slight and enormous sensations of flow, and everything in between.
For this model, let's consider flow as the moment when you're immersed in the game, whether you're immersed in your character, the story or overcoming a challenge. Everyone is active and throwing out great ideas, the mood is at it's top. Simply put; roleplaying that feels great.

Energy and flow is something that happens in play, in the group. To me, roleplaying is primarily a group process, it's what happens between the players. It is not primarily obeying, exploring or using a game book.
What the game book is though, is a participant in this process, just like the other players, one that shapes this interplay. A game as written can facilitate or inspire energy, but the game book never has flow or energy in itself..
Also, when I refer to "players", that includes the game master. (If the game utilises a game master at all)

Play style
This model is drawn from my personal experience, it's a way for me to map out what makes roleplaying feel great. Although I feel that energy and movement is what makes roleplaying enjoyable, other people might of course emphasis other qualites of roleplaying.
Also, the model places a great emphasis on improv roleplaying and story games, which I feel are the kind of games that lend themselves best to flow. If you are new to improvised roleplaying, this is as good a place as any to start learning about it, and how it works.

Improvisation and pre-planning
In my model, I draw a lot from improvisation theatre, and in a way the model is born out of my experience in both improv and roleplaying. Throughout the text I problemise and criticize the tradition of planning stories and scenarios before playing. This is not because I hate that kind of roleplaying, but because I hope to develop both the traditional and the improv style of roleplaying with my writing. My goal is to make a model that is useful for all kinds of roleplaying, that inspire and provoce development in the entire field of roleplaying games. I hope everyone can find something informative, inspiring or useful from this model.

Okay, let's go!

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