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darktooth

Meditative Video Games

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Most narrative games are rich in dialogue and branching story arcs. In contrast, “meditative” games are mostly quiet, linear experiences. Just like narrative games, they are not fast-paced, competitive, nor play-to-win. The following is a short list of the more recent titles that fit the description. Readers, feel free to share your thoughts or add to this list.

5. The Longing

As much as it is walking simulator, it can also be thought of as a “waiting simulator”. You control Shade, a lonely humanoid creature who has to wait for his master to awaken. The game has a 400-day timer, after which the ending is revealed, whether or not you have played the game all throughout that span of time. The goal is to keep Shade preoccupied, or not, in his underground confinement. Isolation is effectively portrayed with graphics vividly contrasting Shade’s bright eyes with the dark earthy cave and the eerie ambient sounds.

4. Mosaic

It has the atmosphere of the open-world of Watch Dogs, but is much darker. Except for shades of black and blue, the visuals are devoid of any color. Dialogue is almost non-existent, save for the protagonist’s conversations with a goldfish, which arguably makes some of the more interesting parts of the story. However, I think that the interactions with the goldfish somehow break its serious tone, even if it may just be hallucinations of the protagonist. The imagery and ambience frighteningly convey the protagonist’s dilemma of meaningless existence.

3. KIDS

It is a short, interactive game rendered in black and white, with chorus music, and fully voiced dialogue, but that which largely makes no sense. It could be completed in under half an hour, and you control crowds moving with or against each other. In spite of the lighter and rather charming tone, it is full of symbolism. The way I see it, is that it is either an illustration of the folly of blind consumerism, or like Mosaic, the insidious grotesqueness of conformism.

2. Plug & Play

It is an earlier work of the creators of KIDS. Play time is short, but just enough to give you chills with unsettling scenes such as one which is obviously inspired by The Human Centipede. Like the horror film, it appears to tackle sexual themes but with the use of phallic symbols such as fingers and plugs. It is as surreal as art can be, and no other video game achieves this.

1. The Stillness of the Wind

It tells the story of Talma, an old woman living the last days of her life in solitude. It initially welcomes you with a barren but otherwise comfortable environment to explore, and a humble farm to tend. However, as it progresses, the tone gradually shifts to forbidding and ultimately leads to a tragic ending. It focuses on themes of depression, loneliness, old age and inevitability of death. The top-notch animation and melancholic music makes it, in my opinion, the best title on this list.

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