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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Jenova Chen, 26

Gaming with the flow

Thatgamecompany

Jenova Chen has been playing video games for 20 years, and he's desperate to see something new: right now, he says, most games focus on stimulating players by inciting aggression. "I want to expand what a video game can be," he says. So as a graduate student in interactive media at the University of Southern California, Chen looked to psychologis­t Mihály C­sikszentmihályi's theory of "flow," which identifies a state of focus that people find enjoyable and fulfilling. Chen uses the theory's principles to design games that offer just enough challenge--not so little that players become bored, not so much that they become anxious.

Chen's first effort was FlOw, a Web-based "Zen game" in which players control a sea creature that swims, eats, and evolves. After graduating in 2006, Chen cofounded Thatgamecompany to continue his work. The company released a PlayStation 3 version of FlOw in 2007; it has become one of the most downloaded games on the PlayStation Network. The next game, Flower, will be released later this year. By going with the flow, Chen may help video games reach a whole new audience. --Erica Naone

2008 TR35 Winners

Blaise Agüera y Arcas

Building immersive 3-D environments

Dries Buytaert (video)

Simple, flexible Web publishing

Jenova Chen (video)

Gaming with the flow

Tanzeem Choudhury (video)

Inferring social networks automatically

Jack Dorsey (video)

Personal updates made simple

Stefanus Du Toit (video)

Programming for parallel processors

Seth Hallem

Deconstructing software to find bugs

Xian-Sheng Hua

Enhancing video search

Sundar Iyer

Making memory at Internet speed

Farinaz Koushanfar

Locking microchips to prevent piracy

Johnny Lee (video)

Streamlining human-computer interactions

Meredith Ringel Morris (video)

Searching websites jointly

Andrew Ng

Building household robots

Adam Smith (video)

Making sense of e-mail madness

JB Straubel (video)

Engineering electric sports cars

Eric Wilhelm (video)

Putting DIY projects online

Robert Wood (video)

Building robotic flies

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