It Ain't Zen but It's Still Inneresting
There’s an interesting but flawed Gamasutra article here called Persuasive Games: Video Game Zen. Interesting because it examines some games that emphasize “leaning back” or relaxed play, as opposed to the usual “leaning forward” experience we associate with twitch gaming. Flawed because it cannot distinguish between relaxation and meditation, and criticizes some games according to standards they were not aiming for. It also mischaracterizes fl0w which was a flash game before coming to the PS3. Be sure to read the comments – the ones from Thomas and Celia are illuminating.
The article hits on a couple things that ring true, though. One is Solitaire. I agree it’s relaxing, or rather non-twitch, and I think that’s because it’s turn-based and not real time. One can play the game at one’s own pace, taking however long one needs to make moves. I like many a turn-based game, and it’s for this reason. What’s the rush? Life does present many a situation in which one’s quick reactions are of the essence. However, just as often it presents opportunities for reflection, where one should not make a move until one has thought it through. The former experience is well simulated by games, the latter should be moreso.
The other shoutout I could relate to was the practise of wandering in Grand Theft Auto and other open-ended games. Oh to unlock a new area in San Andreas and simply drive through it, listening to music, checking out the sights. I’d agree that a good roamabout is primo relaxation time, both in games and in life.