There has been a bit of a slump lately on this blog, but it may have turned out for the better as I had come across a realization. This little turnaround could be what’s needed to inspire more content here as it’s about playing video games and how it seems to be correlated to my ability to be productive. Games as meditation and productivity aids may seem absolutely ridiculous at first, but I find it to be a rather intriguing concept.
Something that I used to do a few years ago that I seemed to have stopped doing for some reason is playing games in between spurts of work. But it’s not just playing any other kind of game, but one that lets me shut off my brain a bit and play, usually while listening to a podcast or audio book. It should be something that I can play without having to think to much throughout the gameplay, letting me just go through motions instinctively while recharging for other tasks afterwards.
There’d surely be plenty who’d disagree with me in this, but I’m merely describing something that had somehow heightened my ability to work, kind of like how a blacksmith would tap the anvil with his hammer to set the rhythm with which to shape the hot metal. It’s not just about any kind of video game, but that which satisfies a certain set of criteria. (Bear with me here for a bit.)
NOTE: I tried searching for articles regarding video games that let you turn your brain off and enjoy on auto-pilot, but the search results I got were on addiction and negative effects of video games (that old rhetoric). Maybe I should write/vlog about that topic someday since it never seems to die down.
Criteria for “Games as Meditation” etc.
I’m of the opinion that chores and busywork can be turned into meditation when done right. Anything with repetitive action can be done with a sort of focus that lets you “be there” and yet “not be there.” It’s a rather abstract concept that most don’t get since these things are supposed to be “boring,” but perhaps that’s why meditation in itself is such a difficult concept to grasp for some, and you need not be stricken with ADHD to not get it.
Pretty much anything that’s a grindfest can be games as meditation. “Skinner boxes” are a good fit here, as well as most online RPGs that require long hours of play. If it’s an online game that you’ve become accustomed to, even if it’s something like Warframe, then it can be treated as a “meditative game” if it happens to “take you there.”
In my case, Diablo III is what made me rediscover this. There’s a lot that can be said about Diablo III, including how it doesn’t measure up to Diablo II and all that, but it has still become a fairly good game on its own right. (Not great, but still good.) For me, it’s a great way to unwind a bit and listen to my podcasts as I go through 2 or 3 level ups in an hour-long break. After playing the game for a bit, I’d feel mentally refreshed and ready for more work. (It works for me, I don’t know about you.)
It used to be StarCraft II. Back when I used to play SC2 ladder daily, I’d play while listening to podcasts in the background whenever I had free time. A lot of people do the same with League of Legends and Dota 2, although while having to communicate with teammates at the same time. (I’m not too sure about that since I don’t play MOBAs.)
But they don’t have to be all like that. It also includes any game that can be played by either: A. not needing to concentrate and/or think so much but still be engaged enough, or B. let your muscle memory take over. That does mean “idle games” are out (watch this Extra Credits video to learn more about idle games) since a certain level of engagement is still required for a game to be “meditative.”
City builders like Tropico and Cities: Skylines can suffice as well, although not as meditative since they’re more like “semi-idle games” in a way. It seems that management games that don’t require a lot of babysitting may enter this category, but just barely. The games in this genre isn’t as “meditative” as they are just a good way to pass time with during a break, or kill a whole afternoon in a flash if you’re not careful (The Sims has claimed many victims this way).
Whatever lets you go autopilot—letting you “turn your brain off” and/or enter a Zen-like state of mind during gameplay—can be seen as a “meditative game” of sorts. It does depend on what kind of player you are and if you’re conducive to this form of gaming in the first place.
How Can They Be Productivity Aids?
This is where a lot of people will disagree, but it really depends on what makes you tick. If even a bit of distraction derails your work process, then you best not take upon this thing altogether. But if you’re the type who works best with well-spaced intervals, then this might work well for you as it lets you take breaks while keeping stimulated.
Of course, this isn’t a be-all-end-all among various things you can do on your break. Some may argue that it’s less healthy than hanging out by the water cooler or even a smoke break (socially), and I mostly agree with that. But a lot of people do work in non-traditional work environments, so this may be a viable—albeit unusual—option.
Certain games can set the pace, such as StarCraft that require high APM (actions per minute). Play that for a while as best as you possibly can, then switch to doing work. You may find yourself being able to do more (or at least feel like it) due to the momentum. It’s not really for everyone and it may not work every time for long, but it’s pretty cool when it does.
This is definitely a stretch and I’m not sure if I really got the whole gist down, but I think there’s something to this idea. While it’s still rickety at best, the idea of games as meditation and productivity aids instead of distractions is something that can only be attained through understanding one’s own process.
If you happen to be the kind of person that responds well to something like this, then more power to you. It’s fun to explore this side of the road, and I do wonder how many other people do as well.
Is this a completely useless post? Do you think I got the concept of meditation and unwinding all wrong? Think that I’m just making an excuse for being a massive procrastinator?
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