Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Games to switch off your mind

What gaming experiences feel like entering alpha state of mind? What games make you not think, but meditate?

As a player, two distinct approaches can do the trick for me:

The first one are hand-eye coordination games, specially if they require repetition of some kind. Racing games, platform games... Going several times through the same level often helps me to disconnect (not that I do it on purpose, though). Games like that make you feel like my your reflexes are doing all the work, while you passively stare at the monitor. It feels a little bit dumb too, really. Thinking is hardly a problem - you have already memorized every single action I need to perform in order to advance. It's just a matter of timing - a little bit like playing a musical instrument. Icy Tower is a good example of the kind...

The other category that has a similar effect on me are more free-style games. The annoying flash mini-game on your right is my attempt to do something like that in a very economical way (and I really need to make a new one). Games where you don't have to worry about the outcome (I've been avoiding the use of the term nongames lately), and just perform actions to watch what happens next. Maybe Electroplankton could fit.

A balanced title, between those two categories, would be the Tony Hawk series, I guess.

Interestingly, most titles mentioned above present some variation of Vertigo, to a certain degree. I am not sure real-life activities like that allow participants to empty their minds, although I'm pretty much sure roller-coaster and radical sports enthusiasts could argue something at least vaguely similar about the effects adrenaline or endorphine. I believe Sutton-Smith would identify such activities as related to the "self" rhetoric on games - also related to individualism and what he calls "Peak experiences". Would meditation fit?

8 comments:

Chris said...

Meditation certainly empties my mind - or at least, while I am meditating I am in the process of emptying my mind. On a really good day, I can reach a flow state in meditation.

chico queiroz said...

Interesting. Do you feel any similarities between the state of mind during meditation and while playing games? If so (and I guess the answer is "yes", since you used the expression "flow state"), which genres or titles do you feel get closer to that effect?

Anonymous said...

Tony Hawks achieves this very well. I often play this with some my music playing and just skate around making pleasant patterns and looking for new lines and combinations. I do not know many other games in which I am happy to do this. Free mode often feels a hollow experience and makes you feel that you are not developing or making proper progress- which you will only do in the main game. Is this kind of free play what you are calling the "flow state"? I have not met this term before.

chico queiroz said...

I'm not sure that's exactly what Chris meant on his comment (I guess it is), but I understand this "flow state" as an optimal point between boredom and anxiety - something related to Csikszentmihalyi's model of flow.

You can learn more about it on Chris' website.

Hoofin Dan said...

You mentioned in this post that you are trying to stay away from using the term non-games.

Why is this?

chico queiroz said...

I often think that's not quite an appropriate term, since those products seems to be, essentially, video games.

But I gave up not using the term after seeing that it is already being used to describe those same products. More on that on the next post...

Hoofin Dan said...

It works for me. In my head non-games represent an alternative to the stereotype of what a video game should be. So I think of it as more of a statement than a genre.

PS Could jazz be considered non-music?

chico queiroz said...

Possibly. Free-jazz, maybe. Revolution #9, from the white album, for sure.

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