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Apply Mindfulness To Your Gaming Experience

by on June 29, 2014
 

It was week six of my introduction to mindfulness meditation methods when I confessed to the class of chronic pain people – I used mindfulness to play video games. My instructor didn’t ask me to leave for creating some kind of meditation faux pas by applying mindfulness to video gaming and it’s something I continue to do.

Are gamers going to scoff at the idea of the mindful gamer?

Yes, someone right now is thinking, ‘how can you play video games with your eyes closed and humming?’ Mindfulness meditation can be done with your eyes wide open and your goal is to be in the present moment with calm heightened awareness.

It’s truly about being in the zone with no distractions.

You’ll recognize when you’re getting ‘gamer angst’ and take the three quick short breaths used for stress relieving. Those breaths get oxygen to deprived stressed muscles and should help you refocus on the task. If you continue to recognize the in game task is causing your stress then it’s time to put the controller down or switch games. The mindful gamer is a person who will be calm after gaming because they’ve completely immersed themselves in the experience. They are aware when muscles become sore, stomach becomes hungry, or even just gaming for far too long. The time is now is a mindful phrase, but awareness of the dishes or laundry needing to be done, getting outside, or socializing, is needed awareness when gaming.

Not realizing it, I was playing MLB13 with mindfulness. Then I began using it and the difference was incredible. Legendary athletes Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant use mindfulness and it was taught to both NBA champion teams Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers that it dawned on me I was using mindfulness to play MLB13. Baseball has an intense focus to it and MLB13 mimics this.

mlb13

Before each batter, a hot and cold zone appears and when focused I can recall where the batter is struggling and where they aren’t – just like a pro. Unfortunately, I’ll never be able to throw 102 MPH fastball, but my virtual self, lefthanded pitcher Matt Mernagh, does. Remembering these zones has allowed me to dominate and I’ve become so immersed, I talk about my virtual pitcher self with a fellow MLB gamer as if he was real.

Applying mindfulness to sport games makes perfect sense, but what about Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, GTA V, Skyrim Elder Scrolls, Thief or Mass Effect 3? Yes, you can apply mindfulness to these games by immersing yourself in the characters. It’s easier when you’re playing from the characters point of view.

Bringing heightened awareness of your virtual and real surroundings at the same time is a superb challenge. It’s accepting that maybe your actual workplace is stressing you out, the bills are piling up, or spouse is being a jerk, and then letting the feeling go to train your focus on the mission.

Note, it’s not about tuning out life problems where the game is a life crutch. I’d suggest many gamers are unawarely tuning out life problems and letting personal issue slide. Awareness is calmly acknowledging these problems exist, distracting us, and then simply put, letting go for the moment.

mind

Sometimes I find myself adventuring around Skyrim aware I’m here because the email is overwhelming, I’m stuck creatively or the pain is overwhelming. My pain is agitating, but Skyrim’s Eldritch requires me to be also hyper-aware of his surrounds or he’s not getting out of this adventure alive. My time in Skyrim allows me to be refreshed to tackle those tasks that were previously stressing me.

Playing Eldritch mindfully gives me a better opportunity to understand myself and this feeling is mutually reported. I found this article, The Reapers of Mindfulness on the website Practicing Mindfulness. The author reports spending less time doing traditional mindful practice because Mass Effect 3 took over their life.

However, like me, they began to apply the practices.

“I could step back, even amidst the adrenaline rush and excitement that fighting the Reapers bestowed on me, and notice what was happening internally. It gave me a chance to understand what happens when I become heavily engaged in a campaign.”

The gut reaction to video games is that they are the opposite of awareness; some think they cause stress, angst, violent tendencies and people tune out not tune in. Mindfulness is recognizing the game is causing agitation, you’re tuning out because life problem exists, or the game itself is creating internal bodily changes such as increased adrenaline. By becoming aware, a game is increasing our adrenaline we can slow it down and use it to our advantage like a virtual assassin.

Awareness is recognizing when the game is stressing and no longer true fun. The mindful gamer is having a much better experience because they’re in the moment enjoying themselves. When distracting real life problems crop up while playing, the mindful gamer recognizes them. A mindful gamer accepts the personal real life distraction and let’s it go to maintain gamer focus.

Like mindful meditation, after a gaming session, you’ll discover you can tackle real life stress easier.

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  • Kevin Fredericks
    February 3, 2016 at 8:38 am

    thank you for writing this. You are not crazy, video games can be played mindfully. I feel that video games offer a glorious opportunity that few other media can replicate.
    Habits can reveal themselves in video games, as our actions are abstracted and revealed to us through the game. For example, repressed desires for prestige can be revealed once we find ourselves chasing after meaningless trophies and achievements. This habit is not confined to games, and may be hurting us in other areas of our life

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