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Beautifu, unique game about microorganism survival.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids can learn that microbes live all around (and in) us in their own microscopic ecosystems and compete with one another to meet their basic needs and survive. Kids can learn that organisms change over time in response to their environments. While flOw does a beautiful job of representing microbial life and change over time, how and why these organisms change may not be clear to players.

Positive messages

The game is about meeting an organism's basic needs to survive. It does not have a message as such apart from that.

Positive role models

Players control a non-human, microscopic creature that moves and eats other microorganisms. There are no traditional role models in the game.

Ease of play

The controls are mouse-or thumbstick-based and intuitive, though it takes some time to get used to turning.


Abstract, geometric microorganisms eat one another.


There is no depiction of sex in the game. After completing the game, players will see an abstract, geometric egg "hatch" into a new creature.


There are no spoken words in the game.


Jenova Chen produced fl0w independently as part of his Master's thesis. Kids will see ads on the PlayStation Network if they download it for the PlayStation 3 or PSP rather than play the game online.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that flOw is a unique puzzler and simulation game that puts kids in control of a microorganism that eats others to evolve and survive. Jenova Chen made the game as part of his Master's thesis on "flow states" -- emotional zones in which participants feel immersed and compelled to continue in a game or activity. Because of its design, flOw is made to hook players using its graphics, sound, simple gampleay, and scaling difficulty by level. The online game has no save feature, which also encourages players to stick with it rather than lose progress.

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What's it about?

The player begins as a small worm-like microorganism in an aquactic environment. The microorganism and swim and eat other creatures. As it eats others, the microorganism grows, gaining body segments and flagella that let it swim more quickly. Moving between levels, the microorganism can attack and eat the cells of increasingly complex \"enemies\" until it reaches the bottom level. The organism never dies, but if its cells are all eaten by enemies, it gets kicked up a level to regain its health by preying on smaller creatures. On this last level, the organism fights a highly-evolved version of itself. If the organism defeats its counterpart, a yellow cell or egg appears and floats back to the top level of the game, hatching into a new kind of creature for the player to use in a second playthrough.

The game is available to play for free online (http://www.jenovachen.com/flowingames/flowing.htm) or as for $5.59 on the PlayStation Network. The PlayStation versions have extra creatures to play that they online version does not have.

Is it any good?


FLOW is a beautiful example of game design and draws the player into guiding, protecting, and growing the microorganism. flOw looks and sounds beautiful and the game uses a minimalist, abstract graphic style and subtle audio effects to give the player feedback about her performance in the game. As the organism grows, it gains body segments and flagella -- or wings -- that allow it move more quickly. Some creatures fight back by eating the organism's cells. Larger creatures can have multiple cells and take strategy to defeat.

While its gameplay is not deep or varied, the game's visuals, sounds, and scaling difficulty make it fun to play. Because the game was designed to keep players playing it, not only is it useful for talking about creatures and their needs, but it's also helpful for talking to kids about how to manage their time around playing games and become self-aware of the feelings and behaviors they have while playing.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can discuss organisms' needs and compare and contrast the needs of different creatures and people.

  • Families can discuss how flow states can help and hinder people and how to manage time and behavior to avoid addiction.

  • Families can talk about games that teach. Did you learn anything about science from this game?

Game details

Platforms:Mac, PSP, PlayStation 3, Windows
Subjects:Science: animals, ecosystems, life cycle
Skills:Self-Direction: achieving goals, goal-setting, work to achieve goals
Thinking & Reasoning: decision-making, making conclusions, prediction
Price:Free (online), $5.59 (PlayStation Network)
Pricing structure:Paid, Free
Available online?Available online
Developer:Sony Computer Entertainment
Release date:April 14, 2006
Topics:Science and nature
ESRB rating:E for No Descriptors

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