Whalen and the flow

I like many others really enjoyed this article above all other assigned readings. I think that this article did a great job at explaining how music plays such an imperative role in games. I especially like how he explained his concept of flow. In class, we discussed how flow was kind of like Koster’s concept of grokking. You become so immersed in what you’re doing that you don’t know you’re doing it. You simply “go with the flow.” In terms of music, flow is established when music is able to expand the concept of a game’s fictional world or to draw the player forward through the sequence of gameplay (Whalen). The result is this sort of trance effect one gets while playing the game.

 I have most definitely experienced the effect of music on gameplay most recently with the game “the crossing.” What makes this game is the music. Like Whalen noted, music does indeed draw me into the game and keep me playing for many minutes at a time (playing for more than 15 minutes is an achievement in my book). However, while playing this game yet again, I thought to myself: could it be that a game with such peaceful music really keeps me that entertained? Would I still play this game if music were absent?

I investigated the answer to this question. Without music, this game is very boring and this game really has no real purpose to being played. You simply move animated deer to the other side. Turn the music back on and this game is suddenly a lot more entertaining again (not in terms of being challenging or anything of that sort), but the sounds bring you back into the state of mellowness and keeps you playing for another 15 minutes at a time. The deer become more than just animated pixels. They become deer and you become sad everytime you let one die.

Whalen made a statement that I think best sums up “The Crossing” and a lot of other games that use music to enhance gameplay. The result of music “is that the musical cues and non-musical sound effects instill objects with even more life than the simple appearance of figures in motion” (Whalen).