Most people seem to think that the point of meditation is to empty your mind. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: being adept at mediation means you can direct your mental focus on a single point and/or deeply consider the thoughts that flow through your mind.
Now think about that in the context of gaming. Depending on the game you’re playing, it’s not entirely different.
I’ve been hooked on city building and management games since Sim City first graced my home computer screen, and it’s taken me a couple of decades of gaming to realize why: they’re meditative. Take They Are Billions – a game which I’ve spent a lot of time with lately. In They Are Billions, players are charged with building, growing, and ultimately defending a colony of humans amid a Steampunk zombie apocalypse. Brilliant setting aside, the game does an excellent job of delivering a rollercoaster pace of potentially long stretches of downtime brutally slashed with panic, mayhem, and very often a Game Over screen as hordes of undead (or sometimes just a sneaky few) tear your beloved town to pieces.
It’s during those times of relative quiet that I find peace in They Are Billions. Tending to the needs of my colonists while keeping an eye on the wandering hordes just beyond the settlement’s ramshackle defenses is a beautiful dance of concentration and focus. I’m forced to think on two levels, and need to constantly balance the energy I commit to them as each session plays on.
It’s this required mindfulness that makes They Are Billions an excellent tool for zoning out of the real world and homing in on a handful of thoughts. That is essentially what meditation is all about: removing yourself as best as possible from the whirlwind of life around you, and focusing inwards on a few or a single point. Traditional meditation is a challenge for many people, but chances are, as a gamer, you’re already quite adept at it.
And when the hordes swell up against your walls, you better be ready to shift back into gaming mode: order your units with care and precision, man the walls, reinforce weak points in your colony, and whatever you do, don’t let a single infected in.
Aside from the many puzzle games out there, here are a few games I suggest you check out if you’re interested in a mindful gaming experience: