In the world of game design, whole volumes have been written about flow — generally speaking, that thing that makes us happily lose several hours to a game without realizing it because we’re in a groove. But in this 2017 GDC talk, designer Robin Arnott questions whether mindless flow is something we should be trying to create or find in our games.
Instead, Arnott puts forth the topic of trances: deliberate, beneficial altered states. By using methods gleaned from meditation practices, hypnosis and even psychedelic drugs, he argues, designers should be able to induce transcendent states in players responsibly, and to a purpose — rather than simply allowing them to happen when they crop up. It’s an unusual, complex topic, but one Arnott has personal experience with through his in-development VR experience, SoundSelf.
Arnott has also provided a free workbook on trances to accompany the talk.