As a gamer and a meditation teacher, one thing I absolutely love is meditation games and apps, by which I mean relaxing games that make you feel the same kind of Zen that meditation does.
If you’re into meditation you are really spoilt for choice with the amount of technology and entertainment available today. There’s everything from relaxing VR apps too to meditative virtual reality environments
Naturally I can’t mention meditation games and apps without talking about Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, and Synctuition. But for meditation apps like that you can refer to the links above.
My favourite form of meditative entertainment, however, has to be video games. Some games are simply so relaxing that you cannot help but feel Zen.
There’s a reason for that.
Why Meditation Games & Apps Are So Relaxing
Video games sometimes get slammed because they are supposedly antisocial—although in my experience as a once part-time esports commentator, I do think there is a good social scene around some games. The media talks more about the negative effects of video games than anything positive. They talk about how games make us stressed and angry. And that is sometimes true. But games can also have positive effects. Just as some television is good for you, so are some types of games, specifically, meditation games and apps.
Yes, video games can be a positive form of entertainment. And today we are starting to see the rise of games use for entertainment, health, and relaxation. The interactive medium can change lives for the better. And one way that can happen is through what I call “Meditation Games”—relaxing games that make you feel Zen.
It might seem weird to think that there is any sort of link between mindfulness / meditation and games. Meditation is, after all, a psychological exercise derived from Buddhism and used in therapy. It’s based around the idea of present-moment mindfulness. And although there are mindfulness apps like Calm and Headspace, surely there is no link between meditation and video games. Heck, I don’t suppose many of the famous meditation teachers (Jon Kabat Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sharon Salzberg etc.) play too many video games. But perhaps they should. Because there is, indeed, a link between mindfulness and gaming.
One of the main links between meditation and games is the state of “flow”. Flow is a term coined by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975 [Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience]. Flow refers to the state of being “in the zone”. It is full immersion in an activity. Some experts believe that the sole reason why games are entertaining is because they create this state of flow [(Hoffman and Novak, 1996; Quinn, 2005; Guo et al., 2012; Nah et al., 2014].
Meditation also includes the state of flow. In 2013, Belgian researchers (Pickut et al) found that eight weeks of meditation increases gray matter density in the caudate nucleus, which leads to more experience of the flow state. So, both meditation and games increase flow state, and many would say it is easier to experience flow by playing video games than by meditating. So perhaps in some ways playing relaxing games is a better option for many people than a hardcore meditation session.
I do have to admit, however, that many people do not respond to games with relaxation. Some gamers, when they are in the state of flow, will actually experience gamer rage (anger), which certainly is not similar to meditation. However, we can choose to be mindful gamers. We can choose to monitor the reactions we are having to video games, and seek out relaxing experiences rather than stressful ones. We can choose to use games for our betterment. And interestingly, you might like to note that mindfulness can make you a better player too [READ: Meditation And Yoga For Gamers]
So what meditation games should you play?
Relaxing, so called “Meditation games” tend to be the slower ones. They often have graphics that focus on relaxation (either by showing natural environments or by using relaxing colour schemes). They tend to have simplified gameplay that does not overtax the brain (which would cause stress). And their soundtracks tend to be relaxing too, similar to classical music.
I’ve played many mindfulness games in my life. Below I have shared a selection of my favourites.
Best Meditation Games
SoundSelf is a VR meditation game from Andromeda Entertainment that features a “technodelic transformative experience”. SoundSelf is an interactive experience in VR where the controller is your voice. It can be played using either a VR headset or your regular Windows or Mac setup. A webcam and microphone are required in order to control the game.
Meditation Game (Android--Get it on the Play Store)
Meditation Game is one of the best relaxing game apps. It will help you to enter the Zen state.
This one tells you all about different meditative exercises. It’s very relaxing and great for beginners who want to learn about the practice, and for people who find it hard to focus while meditating.
Controls are done by tilting the device or by using an on-screen joystick.
It features different modes, including Awareness, Existence, Love, Wisdom, and Silence exercises. I love the relaxing soundtrack, too.
Enchanted Forest (Android--Get it on the Play Store)
This is the second title in the Meditation Game app series. It’s a short interactive title with relaxing sounds and images.
Similar to binaural beats, the developers tell us that it uses different frequencies of sound to produce different brainwaves, which is a similar theory to the one used in sound healing.
This one is also completely free, though it does have some in-app purchase.
Journey Collectors Edition (PS4)
Journey Collectors Edition is probably the best meditation game you will find, even if it is not explicitly about meditation.
Journey Collector’s Edition features three games: Journey, Flow, and Flower.
The main one is Journey. It’s a spiritual odyssey adventure game that is arguably the most “Zen” title of all time.
I think you will love Journey. It’s really relaxing, tranquil, and soothing. You cannot play this one without feeling chill.
Flow And Flower
Flow and Flower are more basic titles. Flow is a version of that old Nokia favourite “Snake”. Do you remember that one? You had to move a snake (which was actually a string of cubes) around a room while avoiding the walls. Flower is very similar. You play as a bunch of flowers blowing on the wind (seriously, how Zen is that?!). You can probably tell just by that description how relaxing this is.
If you have a PS3 or PS4 and you’re looking for some good meditation games, this should be your first choice.
Abzu (PC / PS4 / XBox One)
Abzu is an adventure title from Giant Squid Studios. You play as a diver who is exploring the ocean. Your mission is to restore life in the ocean using magical springs. If you’re like me and you absolutely love nature and the ocean, you will find this to be one of the best relaxing video games on XBox One and PS4.
You can play freely and go anywhere you like in the ocean. There are lots of different underwater environments like caverns and ancient ruins.
The best thing about this one is its ambience. It looks so soothing and relaxing.
Playing Abzu really puts you into that chilled-out Zen state.
Playne is a meditation game from independent game developer Vismaya.
Playne is designed to teach you how to meditate and how to be mindful, with the help of a little fox.
In the game, you meditate daily and the world around you starts to change as you meditate. The landscape turns from a barren wilderness to a beautiful picturesque scene, which is just like when you meditate and you start to notice how beautiful the world is.
There’s a story too, which you discover by talking to the fox character. The story was actually written by a BAFTA-nominated filmmaker and is really engrossing.
Even More Meditative Gaming!
The above are some of the best meditation games and apps. But there are tons more fun titles you might like to try too.
Games like Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, for instance, are great to help you unwind after a hard day. And tons of people have mentioned how the new Animal Crossing is an amazing Zen game.
Then there are titles like Witness, which is visually beautiful and very immersive. When I play Witness I feel really chill, and the puzzles are great little brain-teasers too.
Or you could just play Deepak Chopra’s Leela, which is an old XBox 360 title all about meditating—I didn’t include it in the list because a) it’s old and b) I’m not a fan of it. But check it out if you’re interested.
Warning About Meditation And Games
Okay, guys, listen, this is huge. I have to give you a warning. Because there are some health risks of meditating.
I really care about my readers and as a mindfulness teacher, I do know that it can be risky for some people.
So here is a warning. Please do not meditate while playing. Don’t do it! If you do there is a risk of having a seizure.
This is because meditating puts you into a hyper-aware state. If you engage in an activity that floods your mind with information (e.g. playing, watching high-octane movies etc.) there is an increased risk of seizure.
Here’s the deal:
Play games to relax. And sure, feel Zen while you play, but do not actually meditate while playing. This is a friendly warning to help you guys out.
What’s your favourite meditation game or app?
What is your personal favourite meditation game or app?
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