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Flow is a highly desirable state that is characterised by absorption in an activity, and it is one of the principal reasons people play games. Three key conditions are necessary for a person to experience flow: clear goals, immediate feedback, and a balance between challenges and a person's perception of his/her skills. Most games adequately meet the clear goal and feedback conditions, but the balancing of challenges and skills is often lacking. For a player to maintain flow throughout a game, he must be continually learning. However, in a serious game, unlike a game for entertainment, in-game goals cannot simply be any goals that balance the challenges and skills - they must be chosen so that the particular learning outcomes of the game will be achieved. We propose an approach whose aim is to enable the player to experience flow most of the time, as he progresses towards the required standard of the learning outcomes of the game. This approach employs a user model that represents a player's perception of his/her skills and an index of the learning outcomes required for in-game goals to predict to some degree whether the player will go into flow. Moreover, it uses criteria based ssessment and shows how this is well suited to modifying the challenge of in-game goals, in order to make it more likely that the challenges and skills are balanced so that a player experiences flow. We describe a serious game currently being developed for learning software development, which incorporates this approach.
Date of Conference: 4-6 May 2011