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“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:

DetailsPathway Details

Name: Andy Robertson
Stage of Life: 35 - 48 years-old
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Narrative, Open World, Platform, Puzzle, Race, Rhythm, Shooting and Simulation
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4
 

 

Poetry For The Fingertips

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.

Andy's feeling towards video games was altered. He felt differently about how they could relate to other media and the deeper parts of life.

Activities: Andy found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Flower:

The developer of Flower talks about the response to the game and how it relates to more traditional places of connection.
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Andy was invited to organise a service in Exeter Cathedral that included Flower as an integral element.
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Committing To Grand Narratives

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.

Andy made time to play Bioshock regularly, working through the game methodically and researching problems if he got stuck.

Activities: Andy found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Bioshock:

Game creator Ken Levine discusses the faith aspects of Bioshock games and Bioshock Infinite specifically.
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The book tells the story of how the game location (a city under the sea) came to be built and the society there started falling apart.
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Still Play But More Than That Too

Age: 44-years-old / 01/01/2018 / 4 years ago

Platform: PlayStation 4

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.

Andy found that Abzu could be a valuable part of his spiritual rhythm. Not only playing alone, but sharing that in public spaces.

Activities: Andy found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Abzu:


BBC Abzu Documentary
FILMS AND SERIES

Andy was asked by BBC to create a service with Abzu they could film.
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Using Abzu In Worship
SOCIAL GATHERINGS

Andy was invited to create a Cathedral service incorporating Abzu and Jonah.
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Slowing Down Time

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.

Andy found that the game's time-slowing mechanic worked well with his growing habit of stopping and sitting once a day.

Activities: Andy found that the following related activities worked alongside playing Everything:

Life is not learning to find the destination and getting there as quickly as you can. It is learning to dance every day along the way.
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Letting time pass while walking or sitting in a forest extended the calm joy of the game out into nature.
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Unpicking Problems and Making Connections

Age: 47-years-old / 05/10/2021 / 13 months ago

Platform: Nintendo Switch

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.

Andy found the slow and steady work of helping the varied animals problems and the gentle connecting of one to the other created space to reflect on the people in my life. What they need isn't always what I think they need.

The Lapping Rhythm Of Exploration

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.

Andy found the game created space to reflect on the importance of siblings in his own life, and how they sometimes filled the gaps left by absent parents.

Pathway Outcome

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:

  • Behaviour: Andy made time to play Bioshock regularly, working through the game methodically and researching problems if he got stuck.
  • Behaviour: Andy found that the game's time-slowing mechanic worked well with his growing habit of stopping and sitting once a day.
  • Belief: Andy found that Abzu could be a valuable part of his spiritual rhythm. Not only playing alone, but sharing that in public spaces.
  • Belief: Andy found the slow and steady work of helping the varied animals problems and the gentle connecting of one to the other created space to reflect on the people in my life. What they need isn't always what I think they need.
  • Disposition: Andy's feeling towards video games was altered. He felt differently about how they could relate to other media and the deeper parts of life.
  • Relationships: Andy found the game created space to reflect on the importance of siblings in his own life, and how they sometimes filled the gaps left by absent parents.

We focus on how games contribute to this outcome, but also include related activities that play a part of this journey:

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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