Here’s a few mainstream games that I’ve found or have been recommended to me.
A game for the Wii called Innergy:
This game is well presented and uses bio-feedback sensors to work as a direct relaxation tool that helps you control your breathing. I’m interested to know how effective it is especially long term as it looks fairly repetitive and one dimensional when you get past the funky presentation. It also feels a little patronising in it’s approach. My main doubt about it is that it proves ultimately shallow as it appears to have only one activity which is in itself pretty basic. Nintendo is very good at making software and hardware that appears simple and intuitive for inexperienced gamers while containing sophistication and depth that rewards repeated play and experimentation. From what I can see, Innergy only has the simplicity and intuitiveness.
A pc game called Cloud:
This game creates a great feeling of freedom and life by introducing a dream that most people can relate to, being able to fly. This feeling of freedom is emphasized by the simple but effective prologue which introduces the main character’s plight of being stuck in hospital long term then imagining that he can fly away. The flight is an escape for him and the actual purpose of the game (to collect together clean clouds and remove polluted clouds) is merely a device to justify that free flying experience. The environment and music enhance the liberated feeling and the pace of the game is deliberately slow to let the player enjoy the experience without stress.
A game on the Wii called Endless Ocean:
I’ve played this one, it is a relaxing game especially with the music playing and the beautiful environments. I did find it a little empty though and there never feels like there’s very much to do- or what there is to do is more boring than fun. There’s little variety in the way you deal with each different animal, you feed them, wave the wii remote at them, then they’re you friend. The biggest problem though is that wherever you dive, you are severely restricted to where you can go, there’s an invisible cone around you that you can’t pass through, this is a major problem for a game called ‘Endless Ocean’. Constant ‘you can’t go that way’ messages remind you that you’re playing a restrictive game instead of imagining you are diving without limitations.
A pc game series called The Journey to Wild Divine:
I’m not sure about this one, I would need to try it to get a proper feel for wether it works, but by the look of it, there is a limited amount of interactivity because it focuses more on simple individual tasks like controlling breathing. These tasks could accumulate into a very effective introduction to traditional meditation techniques. The use of fantasy imagery and introduction of health experts as guides on your journey is an effective way of engaging your imagination which is a key element to immersing and relaxing the player. There is still a risk that the exercises could quickly become boring and repetitive in the same way that replaying a DVD would.
A game on the Nintendo DS called electroplankton:
This video is a good review of the game which I’ve also played. The points that the reviewer makes about it allowing players to make beautiful music and sounds are accurate and the idea of performances being ‘one offs’ that you can’t record makes the game (or toy) feel like something that you can return to. The only problem that I found with it was that there was little to do beyond just making these nice sounds, there was little to discover once you’d tried them all. It would have been more powerful to have certain kinds of interactions causing emergent possibilities for more interactions that would encourage players to explore and experiment further.