How Arcade Games Put You In A Flow State

If you don't know what a flow state is exactly, I'll get to that… but first a quick rant about games: One of the things I hate when playing a game is the upsells. Ugh. I get enough of that in the digital marketing space.

Sometimes you just want to let loose and play a simple arcade game – without upsells, without having to install another app.

Who else has too many apps already junking up their screen?

So I found a site recently that has some simple, arcade-style games you can play without any additional apps or software. Yep, old school fun!

It's easy to jump right into a simple arcade game without having to learn 50 new controls, like Red Dead Redemption 2, for example.

red dead redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2: Takes hours to learn the basic controls

Remember back to when you were a kid at an arcade? Simple controls. Simple instructions.

A Look Back In Time

I remember my Dad used to take us skiing almost every year, and usually we went drove from Toronto, ON to Mansonville, Quebec where there is a ski resort called Owl's Head. Owl's Head, as I recall, had a restaurant with individually packaged Grissol breadsticks with sesame seeds, which I devoured like crazy, and a little arcade room with a Pinball machine and a couple of arcade games.

So when skiiing was over for the day, the kids could log a couple hours exploring the hotel and hopefully playing a few games in the old arcade room.

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Why Arcade Games Are So Universally Appealing

So what makes simple games more fun?

I think it's the simplistic nature. It's you vs a computer using simple controls and trying to complete a task. The reason it's pleasurable is because it locks out the thinking part of your brain. It's like a rest for that part of your brain that gets stuck on work, or things to worry about, or an ever-expanding to-do list.

What is the State of Flow?

When you're playing an arcade game, you're locked in. Your focus is at a peak.

To be honest, that's one of the reasons I love playing soccer also. The focus you need means that everything else melts away. All the problems disappear and you're in the game.

I've known about this concept for over a decade, ever since I read a book that changed my life. The book is called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, and it's by a brilliant guy called Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Yeah, try saying that correctly the first time.

If you're short on time, here's a quick Ted Talk about Flow:

Now, I'm going to make a jump here and state a theory of mine.

How To Instantly Make Yourself Feel Great

Playing simple arcade-style games puts you in a flow state. If you have enough competence to compete, you can put yourself in a flow state by playing games. And I would further argue that simple games tend to put you in flow better than a bunch of expensive games.

Now, there are some exceptions to that. For example, since playing FIFA 21 is ultra-competitive, it can put you in a state of flow. Also, if the storyline is very compelling, as it is often in the sad tale of Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2, it can put you flow.

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Sometimes a really good movie can put you in a state of flow. But if you find yourself pausing and “checking something” while you're watching Netflix, then you ain't in flow yet, honey.

The Apple Secret

It's no doubt that Apple is a smart company. Apple Arcade launched in 2019 with the same goal – to bring you simple, flow-inducing arcade games. It's clear to me that they wanted to give their customers that feeling you can only get from a simple arcade game.

There's really nothing quite like it.

But Apple Arcade is a monthly subscription. And you know what, thousands of people are paying Apple for the joy of playing simple Arcade games. But there is a better way. The site I found has just as many games, but without a monthly subscription. Double-win! Thank me later.

I just played this game and lost!

funny soccer
Funny Soccer

But hey, there's always next time! And I had fun. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger said in the Terminator, “I'll be back!”

But the quickest way to put yourself into flow? Playing a simple game.

And there's whole bunch of them over here on this free site.

So, if you feel stressed, or bothered, or can't get that massive list of things you need to do out of your head, and you need some quick relief. Try playing an arcade game. You'd thank me, but you'd be in a state of flow and you wouldn't even be thinking about me anymore!

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