It’s often a pleasant surprise to discover certain elements in video games which you would think have no business being there. Not as in Easter eggs or cameo appearances, those are great too, I’m referring to a concept or idea that doesn’t typically fit with the themes or expected experience for the game but that blends seamlessly within it. Whilst the amount of examples I can give on the topic for this week are limited, the fact that they even exist are further reasons to celebrate the quality of their games. This week I am taking a look at video games which enable or encourage the practice of meditation.
I got into meditation, or practising mindfulness, a couple of years ago when working a day job I absolutely hated, which I am no longer in. My ability to deal with stress, soaring blood pressure and irritating and difficult people was dramatically improved inside a couple of weeks using the free trials of meditation apps as well as guided practises on YouTube. It is highly recommended by those who use meditation that you do it once a day, but I have found that in my experience once you have learnt how to do it the frequency in which you practise it doesn’t hugely matter.
Back to the topic of the games I have played and enjoyed which provide opportunities to practise meditation while in-game, I want to talk about the two examples which have done so for me. The first up is already a relaxing game but takes it a step further by including statues within its beautiful setting and actively describes them as meditation locations: Abzu.
Abzu is a light and vibrant underwater exploration game which released on PlayStation 4 in 2016 developed by Giant Squid Studios. Throughout the levels you encounter twelve shark-headed statues, typically located in big open areas with lots of wildlife to watch, where your character will sit cross-legged atop. The ambient music is naturally slow and calming until later in the story, so the first 30 minutes of the game is very relaxing and easy to gradually drift through at your leisure. I can highly recommend Abzu for the solid gameplay and enjoyable journey, whether you are inclined to try it for the sake of its positive disposition towards meditation or not. Subscribers to PlayStation Plus Premium can stream this game for free.
The other game which has encouraged me to meditate more is a much stranger sounding one: Ghost of Tsushima. These opportunities present themselves in the form of the sixteen haiku locations spread throughout the ridiculously gorgeous Tsushima. It’s a strange experience where you can seamlessly switch between butchering Mongol soldiers to a peaceful and reflecting meditation practise, before getting right back to butchery within minutes. The sheer variety on offer in this game is incredible; whether you are in it for combat, platforming, relaxation or, umm, chasing foxes. You are sure to find what you want in this game world.
For the future of gaming, I would like to see more games open to promoting meditation within their worlds. Games which could do so without jeopardising the game’s original experience would be anything with an open world that lacks real threats to the player, and could provide similar locations to the shark statues and haiku locations mentioned above. Games like Shadow of the Colossus could have had these locations, possibly atop the save shrines the player regularly sees on their journey between Colossi. Open world exploration games like the Assassin’s Creed RPG trilogy, who added Discovery Tour modes post-launch that remove the combat and add an educational component could also include the opportunity for in-game meditation, though granted it would feel quite out of place with the characters you play as.
Are there any games you can think of which could introduce a meditation mechanic? Are there any I have missed which have already done so? Have you ever practised meditation yourself? Let me know in the comments below, and thank you for reading.
Written, edited and images sourced by Alexx.