The Soviet-era computer game Tetris helps users achieve "flow," a state of mind "so engaged it makes the rest of the world fall away, and time pass more quickly."
If you’re worried or waiting for bad news, scientists have found the best way of distracting yourself is by playing Tetris.
Researchers at the University of California at Riverside wanted to understand a phycological state known as flow, so they monitored 290 undergraduate students as they played the Soviet computer game—famed for its addictive pressure to make lines by stacking different shaped blocks—while waiting for a stressful situation.
Described by the researchers as “a state of mind so engaged it makes the rest of the world fall away, and time pass more quickly,” flow is about achieving the perfect combination of distraction and pressure. “Flow requires a delicate balance,” said psychology professor Kate Sweeny, a researcher behind the study. “Flow is most readily achieved with activities that challenge the person somewhat, but not too much; have clear, achievable goals; and that provides the person with feedback about how they’re doing along the way.”
Sweeny and her team had told the students they were waiting for a test on attractiveness and were about have their physical appearance rated by a student in another room. They were then asked to play ten minutes of the game, or various degrees of difficulties, before filling in a survey measuring flow, worry, and emotion. After the test was completed, they were finally told the true purpose of the experiment.
“Video games are perfect for flow,” Sweeny explained. “As long as it’s a game that meets and slightly pushes the skill level of the player.” She went on to say other activities can help people achieve a state of flowing; including rock climbing, carpentry, playing chess, or swimming, or other video games.