San Francisco -- You'd be hard pressed to come up with a game concept farther removed from hardcore gamers than a title focused entirely on relaxation through meditation. Yet that's the subject of Wild Divine's "Healing Rhythms," one of three games featured at the Meditation & Relaxation with Games panel (part of the Serious Games Summit at GDC this year).
On Monday afternoon, Wendy Goldner, VP of Marketing at Wild Divine, walked the crowd through the software, which operates based on bodily responses picked up by several sensors placed on your body. Goldner then outlined some consequences of stress -- moodiness, change in sex drive, feelings of helplessness -- and this got me to thinking: due to their competitive nature, are games driving us to depression?
Do we need something like "Healing Rhythms" after a few rounds of "Call of Duty 4" multiplayer?
Video games are very often designed around a competitive mechanic that's meant to drive the user to play over and over again, meaning frustration -- thus, stress -- is often part of the experience. Whether a player is after a new high score ("Geometry Wars") or topping a leaderboard during a clan match ("Halo 3"), if you're invested in winning, chances are you're stressed about achieving that goal during a play session.
Some gamers might argue competitive video games actually relieve stress, even if such relief comes at the cost of producing a little more stress. That said, while most gamers aren't likely to strap on body sensors, Tetsuya Mizuguchi's "Rez" has proven many will do something like that when handed a Trance Vibrator (or an Xbox 360 controller, in the case of "Rez HD"). "Rez" does have a scoring mechanic to it, but the combination of vector-inspired visuals, thumping techno and minimalist gameplay seems to inspire a zen-like feeing during the experience.
"Rez" has certainly expressed those qualities during my time with it recently, especially so in its high-definition state, allowing you to simply surround yourself in Mizuguchi's world. Stephen Totilo has waxed repeatedly about his adventures in "Endless Ocean" on Wii, another game that technically has gameplay mechanics, that are primarily a means to an end: quietly exploring the ocean is the draw there.
So, do video games stress you out? After a long day of work -- or more likely a string of bitter losses in "Halo 3" -- what games do you pop in to calm down?