Do you need dy­namic dif­fi­culty ad­just­ment, branch­ing paths and fine-tuned game­play to cre­ate a game that flows? Not nec­es­sar­ily.

Flappy Bird, be­fore it burned out like a Ro­man can­dle, saw thou­sands of play­ers talk about it in ways that echo the state, but is also an il­lus­tra­tion of the downside of flow’s chemical un­der­pin­nings: by mim­ick­ing the adren­a­line and dopamine surge of gen­uine achieve­ment, it hooked people for much longer than Dong

Nguyen in­tended. “I just wanted to cre­ate a game people could en­joy for a few min­utes,” he told the Wall Street Jour­nal, shortly af­ter tak­ing it off the iTunes store. “It was just too ad­dic­tive.”

From top: Seth Kil­lian, de­signer; Steven Kotler, Flow Genome Project di­rec­tor; Jamie Madi­gan, doc­tor of psy­chol­ogy

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