Sometimes, life can be a very stressful experience. Our world is filled with dangers and worries, both physical and societal. Whether they are at the forefront of our minds or not, we are constantly on the run from hunger and other natural dangers. We also constantly work to avoid becoming social stigmas by trying to prove our worth to society.
While the grind of everyday life can be satisfying, it also tends to wear us down. That’s why we often turn to ways to escape the real world for a moment and relax. While there are many ways to do that, I want to talk specifically about meditation and gaming.
It might seem strange to see meditation and gaming lumped together, but they can both serve a similar purpose. Video games, just like meditation, serve to reduce stress and focus energy is a positive way.
So Why Should We Meditate?
Meditation has become a popular past time in recent years. It has, for the most part, lost the sigma of appearing “new age” and superstitious. Studies have been made examining the health benefits of meditation.
Some such studies suggest meditation helps people cope with high blood pressure, sleeping disorders and anxiety – as explained by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
While meditation alone does not replace traditional medicine, research is finding it as a useful supplementary practice for recovery. Even as a placebo effect, the relaxing effect of meditation could possibly be enough to get people through harsh medical conditions.
Even the business sector is accepting meditation as a generally positive activity. The Harvard Business Review lays out some of the productivity benefits of meditation – ranging from building resilience to enhancing creativity to helping focus.
Major CEO’s are also turning toward meditation, whether they meditate themselves or they encourage their employees to meditate.
It just makes sense, really. Meditation is, at its core, an exercise in relaxing and refocusing yourself. If you think of your body and mind as an army, meditation is that moment before a battle where generals discuss formation and strategy. Without that, the army would just be rushing wildly into the battlefield. Sure, they might win a few skirmishes, but they will take far more heavy losses along the way.
Ultimately, meditation can be a key activity for maintaining low stress levels and high focus.
Great, But Where Do Games Come In?
When most people think meditation, they picture somebody sitting cross-legged on the floor with their eyes closed. While that is typical for most meditation practices, meditation does not need to be stationary. There are several forms of meditation that use movement, as well.
Walking Meditation is exactly what it sounds like. You meditate while you walk. The goal of meditating like this is to use the zen-like mental state of meditation to pay extra attention to the things going on around you. You can focus on your breathing, the sensation of your legs moving, or that of your feet touching the ground. Berkley has an excellent step-by-step (no pun intended) walkthrough (okay, pun intended) on how to take a meditative walk.
Yoga is a very popular exercise that uses movement and body weight to enhance meditation. Yoga often emphasizes the awareness of breathing and finding your “center,” much like stationary meditation. The extra movement and use of difficult positions are great for practicing the meditative state in stressful situations.
Tai Chi is yet another great way to meditate while moving your body. A major goal of Tai Chi is to focus on breathing and the feeling of your body’s movement. Heck, Tai Chi is a form of martial arts. If you can perform martial arts while meditating, you can probably do just about anything while meditating.
Which leads us to Gaming Meditation. Gaming is more than a way to pass the time or even a major form of competition. Gaming is, at its core, a way to practice life skills. Gaming Meditation could help you with is maintaining that relaxed, focused state in stressful situations. On top of that, it can simply be a fun, alternative way to meditate.
It turns out that video games, can have a positive effect on managing pain, which could be useful after medical treatments. Much like meditation, video games could even help reduce anxiety or depression. It may not be too farfetched to say that doing both at once could be especially useful.
What Games Should We Play, Then?
Thankfully, I am not the only one to think of using video games to help meditate. In fact, there are already a few games out there that seem to be specifically engineered to be played in a relaxing, meditative state of mind.
For example, developer thatgamecompany specifically produces games that are meant to be enjoyed at a calm, meditative pace. See Flower, flOw, and Journey for great examples. Each of these games provide, for the most part, stress-free gameplay with serene music and beautiful art. Playing these games can be great, meditative experiences.
Another good game for meditation is Abzu, which is mostly about exploring large underwater locales to the tune of relaxing classical-style music.
But Those Games Are Kind Of Boring!
Calm games with slow gameplay are not the only games that we can meditate to. Even some action games, especially games with repetitive gameplay, are great for clearing your mind.
This may be surprising, but Diablo 3 is a great example of a game that can be great for meditation due to its repetitive gameplay. Diablo 3 plays largely by spamming the same attacks over and over. By the second act, much of your abilities become embedded as muscle memory. After that point, you can use that muscle memory to massacre millions of demons, all while zoned out in a meditative trance.
In very much the same way, most MMORPGs are also great for meditation. Take Final Fantasy XIV for example. Much of that game is farming – whether that be fighting thousands of monsters or crafting. Both the combat and the crafting require repetitive, well-timed motions, making it similar to Tai Chi. All you need to do is focus on breathing while you’re at it, and you’ve essentially pioneered Eorzean Tai Chi.
Lately, I have been playing a game called Tree of Savior. Tree of Savior is an MMO that utilizes Diablo style gameplay, perhaps making it the perfect game for meditation. It even plays well on a controller, making it easy to play in a comfortable position.
Those are just a few examples. If there is room for mastery for any game, there is room to use that game to meditate. If Super Mario Bros. or Call of Duty help you relax, you should be able to meditate while playing them. All it takes is a concentration on your breathing and an awareness of what is happening. Doing so might even help you get better at said game. Video games are usually relaxing, so they make a great medium for mindfulness.