Zen Gaming — What is zen?

People play games for a variety of reasons. Some play them to fulfill fantasies of grandeur, others to blow off steam through some headshots. The reason that I play games nowadays is to relax, to achieve some zen in my chaotic head. Ever since a burnout a few years back I have found refuge in video games and especially ones that have what I call zen. So without further ado let’s explore zen gaming in the first episode of this featurette!

What is zen?

To be zen is to exist in the now. It is to enjoy what is current without worrying about what is behind you or in front of you. Zen in video games is a similar thing. It is putting your brain in pause mode, relaxation mode or even automation mode. After a long day at work or in school, zen gaming is the process to slow your brain down. Zen is very individualistic, so I will be giving my take on it. Your zen might be very different from mine, but hopefully you will get something out of this as well.

Zen through ambience

When I was a kid there was a beast in my home. A big white beast with a huge mouth. It ate our dirty laundry and spat out clean clothes when it had finished. My parents told me that as a kid I used to sit in front of this “beast” for hours watching clothes go round and round with the occasional spray of water. Recently I found the same ambience through No Man’s Sky.

In No Man’s Sky you can refine materials through a refiner that resembles a washing machine. Instead of hours it takes a few minutes but every now and then I stop, listen to the whirring of the machine and watch the spinning.It makes my brain pause for a second or two.

Zen through repetition and progress

I grew up playing the Harvest Moon games. As a youngin’ I loved the cartoony aesthetic and the big round cows. Then I kind of forgot about it for years. Enter Stardew Valley, a game I now have over 500 hours in. A simple game about farming. You till your soil, plant your seeds and water your plants. Then you repeat that process. Again, again and again. Then you are rewarded with money to buy sprinklers to automate your process. Great, now you can start to grind up your fishing, mining or even fighting skills. Again, again and again.

There is something beautiful about repeating actions to progress into more repetition. I always tend to get lost in the simple and fun monotony of it all. Out of all my journeys trying to pause my brain this is one of the most efficient ways I have found yet.

Zen through vast expanses

While writing this piece I talked to a few friends. One of them brought up such a good example that it became my last and final one. While playing Dragon Age Inquisition my friend got awestruck by the vast expanses of land in the game. The open world genre is full of vast expanses to explore. It’s almost like an eternal walk in nature. Observing your surroundings at your own leisure can be one of the most relaxing things in the world.

There are certainly hundreds of examples of finding serenity in one’s gaming session. These are only some of my own examples. I hope this has inspired some of you to look at your gaming with a new perspective. Perhaps it even got you thinking about what gives you a brain pause in the world of games. In the next episode we will sink knee-deep into the imperfectly perfect No Man’s Sky.

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