Why I'm Still Meditating With Playne

Games can help us maintain healthy habits

Why I'm Still Meditating With Playne
Source: Unsplash.

Meditation doesn't come easily to me. I come without an ounce of focus but a lot of desire to settle down and breathe. Clearing the mind can be difficult when your mind is racing for a very long time, and you have a to-do list running on loop of the things you are missing. Rescheduling yoga classes would help, but that requires actually going to yoga class in a pandemic world. I've gotten a lovely yoga pass for my birthday, but have been trying to find the right times to go to the studio. It's a work in progress to return to a pre-pandemic routine while avoiding preventable risk. After all, we are due for a surge in the winter so keep yourselves safe!

One thing does motivate me, however: streaks on websites and apps. Receiving a one-year Headspace subscription as a gift was one of the best birthday presents, as I have motivation to listen to the meditations and do the breathing exercises daily. Even if I fret about life (like the Thanksgiving holidays), I try to maintain that streak. It helps that the electronics remind you about the days that you've missed due to flying, or that a Wookie can speak to you and remind you to plant your feet on the ground. While there is sibling game with a similar premise by the creators, that you can play on a smartphone, I haven't looked it up yet since using Headspace on my smartphone to meditate. Plus, I was so happy to get Playne working on the gaming laptop. It wouldn't work on the desktop that I was using before, because technology becomes obsolete within a decade, which sucks a lot.

Mild spoilers ahead for Playne.
Source: Steam.

I've technically completed the whole story in Playne, by meditating the number of hours required to activate new dialogue. The fox has told the whole story of what happened to an Emperor that sought immortality. Immortality had a price, that when you do not age, you do not change. If you do not change, you stop growing. Growth brings improvement and wisdom.

After that, the only things to do are explore or plant seeds on the island on the other modes besides Meditate. At best you can plant trees in the third part, which is a winding prairie. It feels like I've reached the point where the creators would plant seeds in the real world, encouraging tree restoration.

Still I click on every day, boot up the game, and wait for the fox to appear with the start menu. The power of the streak remains, with a welcoming campfire and the wind rustling through the leaf graphics. But what are other reasons to use a meditation game?

Closing your eyes for a second

You can take refuge in the advice that the fox gives. Why yes I will remember to go for a walk outside, in nature like a wholesome and fulfilled human being will do. I will not become a feral opossum. "Being grateful" is a phrase that raises my hackles, but for the fox I will substitute it in my mind for a more pleasant synonym.

And for another, there is comfort in that the fox always waits for you. The canine does not judge you for missing a day, merely asking if things are all right. It's nice to have that bit of stability.

Unless I'm traveling, I turn on Playne every day and set a timer for 15 minutes. Even if I don't meditate, I do try to at least clear the mind while seeing the campfire and hearing the bell. It's actually playing as I write some bits of this draft, to get into the right mindset to extoll the benefits. You can change the settings as you see fit, to account for if you have a time crunch, or want more time on the mat.

Source: Steam.

Should there be more meditation games on Steam?

I think it would be a good idea to fill up tags related to "self care" and "mental health" that is more than buying a game you love. Searching on Steam can be a game in itself. I do agree that playing games by themselves can be a form of self-care, but breathing to Playne has been nice. While some people may debate if gamifying meditation takes the healthy benefits from it, making the practices available in different media can only contribute to gamers taking a few moments to breathe. A yoga mat and a strap can only take you so far where self-discipline is concerned, after all.

It's why a game like Celeste can feel life-changing and I'm so glad a friend recommended that I play. We see representations of inner anxieties and worries, like the sense that we are our own worst enemies who will sabotage each of our moves to reach a goal. The main character of Celeste learns how to use a feather meditation, but her inner self makes the feather rattle to show that sometimes a deep breath isn't going to solve your problems. Sure, it can help, but you need to do more than simply breathe and wish your worst flaws away. You need to actually dive deep with some assistance and confront your flaws with both firmness and understanding. They also won't go away in the blink of an eye.

Not to mention that games are a great place to explore healthy ways of maintaining a calm mindset. You can see characters discuss either coping mechanisms or learn them along the way to deal with a huge problem. Syntherapy was one game that talked about using talk therapy as a means to look inward and explore your feelings. Even if I'm not calm all the time, I've built the habit of using these tools. The habit means that I know where they are and how to look for them at different times during the day.

While I wish that Playne had continued with the story of the fool and the emperor, and what the emperor found when he got what he wanted, I understand that the game was a passion project and not meant to go beyond those players that want to take a few minutes to lie down on the yoga mat and breathe.


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