Review of Behavioral Economics > Vol 7 > Issue 4

An Investigation of Flow Theory in an Online Game

Daniel J. Acland, University of California, Berkeley, USA,
Suggested Citation
Daniel J. Acland (2020), "An Investigation of Flow Theory in an Online Game", Review of Behavioral Economics: Vol. 7: No. 4, pp 317-336.

Publication Date: 10 Dec 2020
© 2020 D. J. Acland
Behavioral Economics,  Psychology
JEL Codes: D01D91
Flowonline gamesleisureplaymotivationself-controlcyberaddiction


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In this article:
1. Introduction 
2. Data and Methodology 
3. Results 
4. Discussion 
5. Conclusion 


Flow Theory posits that motivation is highest when individuals experience above average challenges and perform at above average skill. I use data from a short, repetitive online game to test this hypothesis and to explore the role of Flow Theory in motivation and game play. I also explore the relationship between Flow Theory and demand for commitment. For each player, the Flow-Theory channel in which they are most likely to continue playing the game is identified, and players are categorized into types accordingly. Control, Boredom and Relaxation types are most common. Flow types are among the least common, making up 12.6% of players. Flow types have the lowest skill level, but challenge themselves the most, and are most likely to make use of self-control devices available within the game. Control types play most frequently and over a longer period of weeks. Apathy types are high skill but seek out low challenges and are least likely to make use of self-control devices. Flow and control types are more likely to play during the workday. Relaxation, boredom and apathy types are more likely to play during workday evenings. I conclude that the principle hypothesis of Flow Theory does not explain my findings, but other aspects of Flow Theory are relevant to an understanding of motivation and self-control.