Meditative Gaming

Even before the escalating pressures of a widespread pandemic, meditation could be a challenging routine to approach. However, the acceleration of our collective stress innately demands even more balance, making meditation more crucial than ever. Unfortunately, that first step of commitment is always the most daunting. And with the pandemic keeping so many of us short on time, our days taxed by sheer necessities and financial battles, meditation might seem more impossible than ever. However, there is an accessible gateway that might seem counterintuitive to some. 

Video games have always caused controversy, regarding violence and the like. They boast quite the reputation for concerned parental discourse. Further, gaming is often associated with youth, and that social construct may dissuade older interested parties from indulging. And yet, the spectrum of gaming is so much broader than conventional impressions. Many views only concern themselves with “Triple-A” titles—meaning more expensive and popular franchises. And while some of those might even transcend their own public optics, there are surprising alternatives for those who remain skeptical.

There are actually methods of gaming that do not insist on pure excitement, even if venting through competitive multiplayer might benefit some. In fact, there is a plethora of independent games, with unique artistic visions and goals for their audience. Some video games are deliberately designed to relax. This is a perfect bridge for those who are particularly preoccupied during our unnatural, exhausting circumstances.

It can be difficult to reserve time, and clear your mind, with such a constant influx of pandemic-related stress. Yet some video games can peacefully busy your mind, instead of emptying it. That traditional avenue of meditation can feel like icy waters, demanding that one acclimates before actually practicing. 

Luckily, there are indeed fitting games for just that purpose, like Refunct. It is a low-risk puzzle game, with serene ambient music and a dreamlike setting. Players will engage in first-person platforming, leaping across a surreal grid of columns. Developing simple techniques, and discovering a series of buttons, will help you climb ever higher. 

Rising up is already a mentally positive concept, even if it feeds the subconscious. But the player’s ultimate goal is also to “restore” the surreal world, which is equally healing and uplifting. Further still, there is no time limit or punishment for falling. Yes, there are no deaths, in a puzzle that is just challenging enough to occupy the mind without frustration. 

Although Refunct is a relatively short game, this also ensures that the player won’t become carried away with their time. It can fit the busiest of schedules. Best of all, the game is considerably inexpensive—typically a couple of dollars or less. Available across a variety of platforms, Refunct is a cozy, atmospheric fit for these turbulent times.

And Refunct does not stand alone. There are countless puzzle games that invite mental rest through tranquil activities. It is a profoundly easier way to open yourself up to the experience of meditation. Smaller games can simply become more experimental, unrestricted by committees and commercial demands. The smallest dose of personal research could help you discover the best personal match for meditative purposes in gaming.

For example, Human Fall Flat is a fun, physics-based puzzle game with charming ragdoll heroes. It is equally dream-like and friendly, and although it is certainly more difficult than Refunct, it shares many of the same characteristics. There are no time limits, and no deaths. However, there is also more than one way to solve any of the puzzles.

Portal is one of the most popular puzzle games to date, but even with comic violence, its mythology and sense of humor can feel a tad dark. The player is vulnerable to lasers, bullets, acid pools, and so forth. Bridge Constructor Portal, however, is much tamer and invokes the same amusing tone without that immersive edginess. Using basic fundamentals, players must learn how to create bridges that will be subject to legitimate physics. The reward is watching cute, non-playable stick figures successfully cross the screen, all thanks to you. Further, there is a “Test Mode” which allows you to ensure the final submission will function properly. Besides, building bridges has never been a more crucial art to emphasize.

~ by, Anthony Fertino

Anthony is a frequent contributor to both The Gamer and Screen Rant, and the author of two novels. His film analysis and suggestions are part of our regular column, “Making The Day,” here on This American Quarantine.

What are your favorite games? Video, or otherwise?

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