/ PATHWAYS / Mental Health / Andy's Mindful Gaming Practice
I've played video games on and off my whole life. This has ebbed and flowed depending on what else was happening in my life. In recent years, and particularly during the pandemic, I've returned to play games more intentionally.Setting aside regular time to just play every day has been one aspect of looking after the state of my head. I'm someone who is achievement oriented and often struggle to grant myself time to do things that aren't productive.As I've wanted to find more calm and time-out in my week, video games have been a helpful thing to commit to. Not only as an escape that can't be justified by being productive, but because of the meditative aspect of entering new spaces for the sake of inquisitiveness and discovery.
Outcome Regular video game time that is calming and mind-ordering.
This outcome arises from the following 6 milestones over the span of 13 years, from 35 - 48 years-old:
Age: 35-years-old / 12/02/2009 / 13 years ago
Platform: PlayStation 3
I played Flower when it was first released and it was something of a revelation for me. Before it had caught the imagination of the gaming press I had found an experience that was beautiful and moving in a way that was distinct from other media.I enjoyed the flow and energy of the experience. It reminded me of music, poetry and painting. Although unlike encountering those things, this was something I was involved with creating rather than just consuming.I played it through a number of times in the space of a week. The experience stayed with me for some time (and I wanted to get friends and family to play it). But, I think because it felt so new, I didn't get into a rhythm with it or find a way to situate it more deeply in my routines.
Activities: Andy found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Flower:
Age: 39-years-old / 26/03/2013 / 9 years ago
Platform: PlayStation 4
Although a different sort of game (and a violent one), the Bioshock series were games I could take seriously enough to intentionally engage with on a deeper level. They offered a world that invited investigation in a variety of ways.Discovering the Bioshock book helped me set aside time for this. The novel tells the story of the game before you arrive. With the scene set, you can then take your first steps into the place.It took a while to get into a rhythm of play, and also required me to get used to the more violent aspects of the story, but over a series of weeks it clicked. I started to set aside regular time each evening and appreciate the escape and structure it brought to my day.
Activities: Andy found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Bioshock:
Age: 44-years-old / 01/01/2018 / 4 years ago
I played Abzu and was reminded of the story of Jonah. Not only the watery location beneath the waves, but the hero unsure of their identity and reluctant of playing a part in the adventure.This was an important step into considering video games a genuine part of my spiritual life. Even typing that sounds like some kind of category mistake, or stretching too far to make out that games are more important than they are.I was invited to put this to the test by putting on a service in Exeter Cathedral. The result was both fascinating and surprising. My private gaming practice was warmly welcomed by the older congregation.
Activities: Andy found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Abzu:
Age: 46-years-old / 01/04/2020 / 2 years ago
Platform: Nintendo Switch
It took me a while to click with the game Everything. I had heard it talked about for some time, but it wasn't until it came to Switch and I tried the game at the start of the pandemic that it really clicked for me.It's a game where you roam the planet by becoming all sorts of different things. When I say all different things, I really mean it - skyscrapers, insects, birds, trees, continents, planets, pollen.As you play you can listen to audio samples of Alan Watts. He offers philosophical insights into the dance of life. How everything is interconnected and how consumerism doesn't make sense.But more than the philosophy, it was the changing pace of time that really fascinated me. When you are a huge object like a tree time moves quite quickly. When you are tiny, like a blade of grass, time moves slowly.I spent many evenings, making my way to become a different object in the game and then setting the game down to watch as time passed. The sun would set and the stars would rise. The seasons would change. Or sometimes, when I was something very small, just a few seconds would pass.
Activities: Andy found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Everything:
Age: 47-years-old / 05/10/2021 / 13 months ago
I had struggled to get my head around Paper Mario style adventure games. Rainbow Billy was a similar format but with a different texture and rhythm to the play. The idea that you were talking and helping (rather than battling) other characters in the encounters grabbed my attention.I found the large number of characters to meet and help, along with their interesting stories, fitted well with slowing down for more meditative game sessions. This was accentuated as I slowly discovered the inter-related relationships between the varied cast.I would come into each character interaction with preconceptions about how I could help. However, many of them needed to be listened to closely before I discovered what to do. One stand-out encounter was with someone who felt inferior. To help them I had to fail the related puzzle rather than solve it like with other characters.The process of slowly picking away at each characters problems, and then making connections between each of them, felt almost therapeutic like crochet or knitting.
Age: 48-years-old / 01/01/2022 / 11 months ago
Submerged Hiden Depths was another game that I could take at my own pace. There are no enemies, no jump buttons, just a simple beautiful world. It was therapeutic from the off, providing a world to methodically work through and a growing story about abandoned siblings. The game has an emotional story, but one that leaves enough gaps for intrigue. Who are these young people? Where are their parents? How can a sibling compensate for the damage of an absent elder.It grew into a lovely journey that I could fit into my regular quiet-game-time. I would close the door, light a candle, load the game and spend an hour steadily exploring the submerged world.
The culmination of the milestones in the pathway lead to Andy regular video game time that is calming and mind-ordering. We have described it as a linear journey, but of course, there is always a fair amount of back and forth between the games they played.
Along with the main outcome Andy also changed in the following ways:
We focus on how games contribute to this outcome, but also include related activities that play a part of this journey: