Photo by Oskar Krawczyk on Unsplash

If you’re not a gamer, but you dig yoga — that’s for you.

There are many reasons why we play. Some are quite evident – the first layer of the onion: we play to challenge our brains, to socialize, to live a fantasy tale, to exercise our muscles.

Some are still comprehensible, but require a more nuanced look into the medium: we play to explore new combinations between elements, to forget about our boss, to express who we are.

Some… well… Some are quite strange. For example:

  • We play to judge. No added sugars, the simple act of judging is very pleasant for many of us.
  • We play to panic. Some brains mix the signals of horror and excitement and we like to experience this mental-bug.
  • We play — to meditate.
oooooommmmm

The maturity of art

Games are a form of art. I think it’s alright to say this now, nobody’s throwing rocks anymore. But shall I remind you that games are very young? If I said fidget spinners were a form of art, I’d be shunned Galileo-style. That’s that, the rejection of the new.

My generation was not young enough to see the evolution of photography or cinema. I’m sure it was pretty cool — from a totally technical apparatus to a new form of expression and a sort of a way to see the world in frames. Beautiful.

If you think about it, writing lived a similar, yet much slower process. It started as a counting system and slowly evolved into a language tool. From the Pharaoh’s cattle to Emily Dickinson.

Games are no different.

can I be in a museum? Please?

Indies — the Nouvelle Vague of games

Games came from the void of non-existence to a technical experiment to a sort-of-a-toy-thing to a form of art. Now, as many forms of art reaching maturity, they want to change you. For good. Some games don’t even want to entertain you, they want to make you sit away from your own point of view and — even for a split second — see a world with different colours. That’s some Godard shit (but hopefully a little less pretentious).

How did this ever happen? Well, economics.

The boom of games in the 1980s and the 1990s was propelled by big corporations with blatant the-ball-is-mine-you-cant-play policies. Bunch of assholes. The game world was restricted to their bubble.

But eventually the world moved on, PCs started to dominate absolutely everything about our miserable lives and making games became a thing. New softwares, new forums. Nobody was making much money, but people were making some magic.

Then our lord and savior came.

bless our souls, Gabe

Smoke that Steam, boy

Some genius had the idea: hey, let’s make an ebay of games — let’s call it Steam. Anybody can add their own game, anybody can buy any game. There’s no physical goods, so logistics are quite easy to figure out. The question is: are you ready for a miracle?

You see, until this moment of revelation on the top of a mountain (or most probably a humongous pile of sweet sweet money), I’d say that only 3000 teams had the power to actually put a game in the market and make a living out of it. Now this number increased to — every human out of the poverty zone. That’s a lot of brains.

Photographers make sarcastic comments about how everyone now thinks they are also professionals with their automatic DSLR cameras and stupid hipster filters. Well, if your definition of a professional photographer is “somebody who pays the bills out of photography”, I guess a lot of instagrammers are pretty successful photographers — but I digress. No I don’t, my point is: now everyone can make a living out of games if they are competent in game-making, marketing and they fit Steam’s prerequisites.

Don’t believe me? There’s a very successful game about being a crazy goat, it’s called Goat Simulator. It was developed in 4 months. It feels stupid, it looks weird, but it is also most probably a more relevant cultural phenomenon than… well…. me and you (unless you’re Tarantino or something) (in which case hi).

not even joking

Back to Meditation

This whole background allowed different people to get into the game scene. Humans with different ideas and aspirations. Sometimes, people who cared about those inner layers of the consciousness onion.

It’s normal to think about that book that changed you in a deeper way. There’s always a movie that speaks directly to your soul. The song that makes you cry.

How about the game that really changed your perspective on love and death? If this sounds weird, out of place, then the next lines are specially crafted for you.

I don’t expect you to enjoy these games, heck, I don’t expect you to play them. But just by reading about them is already a big step for our medium. If you are a thoughtful non-gamer, it will be a pleasure for us to introduce you to our passion.

So let’s have a look at some mind expansion games.

oooooommmmm level 20

Journey

What does it mean to be a hero? According to Joseph Campbell, American mythologist, it means pretty much the same for every culture that ever existed. This amazing man researched ancient and new traditions for decades and that was his final conclusion — there is only one myth.

Harry Potter, Hercules, Snow White, Queen Boudica, Buddha, Marie Curie. Very different stories, all heroes. The hero is an archetype.

Of course, you could read Campbell’s book. Or you could live it.

In this beautiful game you experience the hero’s journey. Every single step. Featuring an art style drawing from all parts of the world and not a single spoken word, it is a true journey — and will probably make you remember a lot of stuff you’re not expecting to.

As Campbell says: the figure of the mender of souls, the master of the depths of the mind now is fulfilled by the therapist. In ancient times, it used to be the shaman.

Allow this game to be your shaman for a couple of hours.

The Stanley Parable

Do you realise that the act of playing a videogame is really dull — staring at a screen, almost unmoving and pressing buttons from time to time. It is the most comically zombifying experience one can have.

Do you realise that you’re also doing this right now? Staring at a screen, almost unmoving and pressing buttons from time to time. If I tell you I’m controlling your right now and I command you to keep on reading till the end… will you be a sheep and follow my instructions? Or will you feel empowered and close your browser tab — oh what a heroic feat! You rebelled against a blog post.

In a flurry of really well written and recorded dialogue, The Stanley Parable confronts you with those questions: who’s in charge? Are you in charge of your own actions, Stanley?

It is HI-LA-RI-OUS. Also you may want to escape from society and become a hermit after playing it for a couple of hours. Worry not, it’s just a regular side effect.

Everything

How do you make a game about everything? What is everything anyway?

This game is a playable translation of professor Alan Watts’ lectures. So much so that you can actually hear the recorded lectures while you play the game — they are fascinating. So, not to spoil the good bits, let me explain the experience quoting another thinker:

Miyamoto Musashi is considered the greatest samurai of all times. Later in life he retired to a life of solitude in the mountains — where he wrote 5 books. The books talk about swordfighting and the way of the warrior, but they also talk about philosophy and how to understand and relate to this world. You see, Musashi had fought so much in his life — that he started to see the other side of fighting.

To him, a samurai training his battle skills, a monk pursuing the path to enlightenment and a drag queen perfecting her makeup to win RuPaul’s Race are essentially different forms of the same phenomena. That’s why Musashi can talk about swords and end up talking about… well, everything.

Have you ever felt that you were part of something bigger? You can play this feeling now.

Wrap up

I hope I inspired someone. Those are some of my favourite games and they most definitely expanded my consciousness. As I said, I don’t expect you to play them — but I’m glad you were willing to read about the mystery — this occult world that only certain people with a magic language can participate.

We are actually pretty open.

If you read this ‘till the very last sentence, let me invite you to participate in a small social experiment: I’ll ask you to comment this text with the name and colour of your spirit animal. If don’t know yours, you can create one, it’s cool. Pick an animal you respect.

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