A couple of interesting paragraphs from an article I linked to last week.
A first-person shooter combines (three dimensionality, violence and escapism) in a distinct way: a virtual environment that maximizes a player’s potential to attain a state that the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow”—a condition of absolute presence and happiness.
“Flow,” writes Csikszentmihalyi, “is the kind of feeling after which one nostalgically says: ‘that was fun,’ or ‘that was enjoyable.’ ” Put another way, it’s when the rest of the world simply falls away. According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is mostly likely to occur during play, whether it’s a gambling bout, a chess match, or a hike in the mountains. Attaining it requires a good match between someone’s skills and the challenges that she faces, an environment where personal identity becomes subsumed in the game and the player attains a strong feeling of control. Flow eventually becomes self-reinforcing: the feeling itself inspires you to keep returning to the activity that caused it. (emphasis mine)
It isn’t just the first-person experience that helps to create flow; it’s also the shooting. “This deviation from our regular life, the visceral situations we don’t normally have,” Nacke says, “make first-person shooters particularly compelling.” It’s not that we necessarily want to be violent in real life; rather, it’s that we have pent-up emotions and impulses that need to be vented. “If you look at it in terms of our evolution, most of us have office jobs. We’re in front of the computer all day. We don’t have to go out and fight a tiger or a bear to find our dinner. But it’s still hardwired in humans. Our brain craves this kind of interaction, our brain wants to be stimulated. We miss this adrenaline-generating decision-making.”
I’ve experienced “flow” on pretty much every practical shooting stage I’ve ever shot, and I’ve also experienced when I *nailed* a kata in front of my sensei.
Do the shooting sports, as they stand now, encourage that feeling, especially in new gun owners? Does firearms training create a sense of enjoyment, empowerment and adrenaline rush that makes people want to return to the range for more training?
Maybe the answer lies in that bit that I highlighted, where it talks about when the player (or trainee) faces a situation where the challenges they face and their ability to master them are closely matched, and then a sense of mastery occurs.
How often do the challenges at a match or in a training class match up what a new gun owner actually can do? What, if anything, are we doing to increase that feeling of control?