Here’s a Keynote Presentation on Zen in Video Games. Expect more game design and game theory presentations at my Twitch Channel!
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April 12, 2014 at 12:48 am
I would say that I ascribe to the more high octane type of video game as a relaxing time for me. Sure, I love puzzle games, but I find more “pull my hair out” moments when I play them. Dunno why. Maybe it’s because I don’t enjoy my brain going to sleep mode? The only reason I think that’s so is because where people call movies a lean-backward experience, I see it as a lean-forward experience. Movies that carry a message, that require me to think, are movies that I greatly enjoy. There might be a couple brainless movies on my faves list, but they are totally eclipsed by movies like “Inception” and “Avengers” (yes, it’s a lean-forward experience for me). Am I the only one who thinks this way, who feels that these lean-forward movies and games are truly relaxing? Sorta felt like Satchell is leaning towards it, but if anyone’s reading this comment, I wouldn’t mind hearing some feedback to at least know I’m not alone.
April 10, 2014 at 9:25 pm
Rad, I was wondering when this was gonna be uploaded. Been wanting to watch it again.
April 10, 2014 at 4:53 am
I love your videos Satch, I would really love to talk shop with you sometime as I am currently trying to get into the youtube scene specifically making videos talking about game design, aesthetics and art with the assumption that these are things we consume and are necessary for human beings(though not all product achieves the honor or purpose of art).
Anyway regarding this video one thing I felt like was perhaps left out about the active nature of zen is a clear connection to the source of the word Zen which is Buddhist monks in Asia. Not only were activities like raking a Zen garden and perhaps shaping a banzai tree, but martial arts have been used traditionally by Shaolin monks for meditative purposes. I have a strong connection to this as I have since I was young been involved in martial arts, as well as earning a degree in philosophy and focusing my studies on eastern philosophy gotten quite acquainted with a certain principle or should I say element in the east that we do not observe in the occident. This would be the element of void, or nothingness, which is always an accompanying element along with the familiar earth, water, fire, wind(substituted sometimes lightning). Void however is chief amongst these elements as it is from nothingness everything comes and to which everything returns/will return. Zen is not simply to achieve a state of passivity which is rather common place and where most clamber off to every day after work. It is instead a push or pulling of yourself out of your every day mind out of your conscious self into something outside yourself. It is to destroy ones ego, to dissolve yourself by some means into an unconscious state. This is not the same as retreating to an inner stasis repelling input but rather to be so overwhelmed by the input that your self is pushed out of your experience entirely. To what degree this has ever been truly achievable is impossible to say but the attempts we make are often extremely rewarding. I for example love to let my brain melt playing Super Hexagon, its an intense game but I always feel I do better and I get more out of the experience when I become sucked in to such a degree I am at once not focused on what I am doing and at the same time totally absorbed by it. This is by the way the critical purpose of art, to annihilate the self in such a way as to send all the pieces of your consciousness spilling onto the floor like a tray full of marbles or some other semi fluid mass of small objects. While these interruptions are near instantaneous one can not help but lose track of some objects, and perhaps we are so lucky as to find new particles that once reassembled changed our perspective, our inner marble idol of self worship for the better. To live and be human is not to work until you achieve perfection but to be torn down again and again and make improvements as we go along. Cheers.
April 9, 2014 at 4:57 am
I like the concepts presented here, but I feel that the presentation was too loose, with several competing ideas vying for space and even getting in the way of each other at times – passive zen games like Solitaire, active games that paradoxically achieve zen, and alternate “third option” avenues for zen games to try. This was most apparent with the conclusion, where I felt that you were giving me three summaries instead of just one, which could cause confusion rather then the desired clarity.
In future, I would suggest breaking these up into separate presentations and turning them into a series of multiple talks and videos. I understand that time and resource constraints might make this difficult, but I do believe you’re hitting on an important and interesting area of development that I haven’t heard talked about elsewhere, and I do think the effort would yield some very interesting results.
April 6, 2014 at 10:04 pm
You forgot something really important about Zen games, music. Almost every game I’ve played that induced Zen like experiences had some of the most *zen* like music ever. Journey had great music, FEZ did, Visuals in those games also suggested the idea of escapism and relaxation, key points that can’t be forgotten. Your point about moments in games requiring great precision is a little bit wrong. For example Super Hexagon by Terry Cavanagh. Great music(that can induce Zen) with some of the most precise gameplay I’ve ever seen required all coming at you at great speeds. At first while playing it is impossible, somewhat frustrating, but super addictive. When you get good at the game, when the movements required are almost like breathing, that’s when you achieve Zen. You feel as if you are the triangle in that game, it has this amazing effect on you. Whenever I play games with my favorite songs I am often 10x more relaxed and get higher scores, almost as if sound had a higher impact on how relaxed I was. I know a lot of these are opinions but I think a lot of Zen like games require great precision, it just depends a lot on the skill level of the player and the music.
April 4, 2014 at 9:36 pm
For me, one of the most surprisingly zen experiences with gaming was my first session with Dark Souls 2. I had never played a Dark Souls game before. Earlier in the day I had completely bombed a presentation of my Math minor. By playing this incredibly hard game that forced you to accept failure, and learn from it. This acceptance helped me move past my failure.
April 1, 2014 at 11:48 pm
As I see all the comments that want to change you and the way you present yourself I’ll warn you now: DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO! You’ve got our attention because of what you’ve presented so far and, just like everything else that’s creative, these videos are about you and express you as a person. The disclaimers and humility are YOU, the excessive and advanced vocabulary are YOU. When you change, these can change and we’ll change with you but don’t get pressured into changing. I am personally awestruck by your presentation and style. Nothing could make it better, but I am not the one who matters. Good luck, Mr. Drakes.
April 1, 2014 at 10:06 pm
There aren’t many things I can say that haven’t been said by others before me but I’ll try my best anyway. Watching your videos, while simultaneously realizing what I should’ve appreciated about games, is a rewarding and enriching experience for me.
I’ll have to make sure to follow you on Twitch for future live streams because if this video is any indication, it’s not something I can afford to miss.
April 1, 2014 at 4:45 pm
Satch, your videos are amazing. I absolutely LOVE watching everything you make. Every time I see you’ve got a new video available I drop everything and watch it.
April 1, 2014 at 11:58 am
First time I’ve watched one of your videos. I have to say, this is some really interesting and thought-provoking stuff. I don’t necessarily agree with everything, but it’s a pleasure to see content like this, I’m definitely a new fan!
March 31, 2014 at 9:42 pm
On the same note as Dheisey, I think it’s worth pointing out that your initial disclaimers are a bit excessive. I do agree with most of your observations, but I would avoid overly downplaying your own self-perception in attempt to avoid condescension. You are presenting, not arguing and trying to derive ethotic significance from being both knowledgeable and modest. Such approaches are generally effective in the case of argument, so long as the modesty does not become obviously contrived, but in the case of your endeavors the voice you employ is determining your audience already. Anyone who would see your approach as condescending just isn’t watching. Presently you give the impression that you are claiming to believe yourself to be under-credentialed to speak for effect without actually believing yourself to be. I’m not suggesting you should back off the complexity of your analysis; it is that, specifically, that I love; but honesty of exposition would serve you more effectively. If you believe yourself capable of making analyses as complicated as these (which most here would agree you are), then don’t claim you’re not and then do it anyway.
March 31, 2014 at 1:15 am
Honestly the bit about awe inspiring relaxation made a lot of sense for me. Shadow of the colossus came right to mind. The colossi are huge and awesome and there are tense heart racing moments but I relax when I play that game (it is also assisted by the feel of the controls).
March 30, 2014 at 4:11 pm
First off I’m a fan of your videos, but I have one minor critique. I find your scripts are a little over embellished. A lot of my schoolwork is summarizing scientific journals for laymen; I believe a simple and concise vocabulary works best unless I need a specific term (which does happen a lot). Your work is great regardless, keep it up.
March 30, 2014 at 10:33 pm
It can certainly be a fine line when it comes to the lexicon used and how people will respond and absorb the content being presented without coming across as pretentious, or even dull. I do however think Satchell’s writing style is appropriate for those who will enjoy and be engaged by the content. I get the feeling he’s not going after the wider demographic.
March 30, 2014 at 12:17 pm
I love your videos. Even before you joined NormalBoots I was a fan. You just have this very relaxed, humble and yet sophisticated style. It’s great.
Actually, I’ve always found that relaxation and meditation is very easily linked to engagement rather than just passivity. It’s how chanting and saying ancient prayers in a deliberate, formulaic way can elicit the same sense of peace and communion as silent meditation in some people. So I’m glad to hear someone else make similar observations within the particular context of relaxation.
By the way, as much as I like and even appreciate hearing your humility and refusal to show much ego, I feel you spend a lot of time unnecessarily justifying your thoughts and observations. It could just be me, but I think the brief disclaimer you already put at the beginning admitting you’re an “amateur”, so to speak, and not an “authority”, is sufficient to get that point across. Anyway, great video as always!
March 30, 2014 at 11:41 am
Great observations as always, Satch. Love it!
March 30, 2014 at 11:03 am
Hotline Miami, Dark Souls, or Street Fighter would be my most zen-like game honestly.
March 30, 2014 at 5:23 am
This may sound odd but I get the Zen feeling out of darksouls or a RTS.
March 30, 2014 at 2:33 am
I really love this format. The “remastering” of a live broadcast. I’d like to see more videos like this one.
March 29, 2014 at 9:49 pm
Who are you again?
March 29, 2014 at 11:27 pm
Satchell Drakes, a very talented artist who looks more at the scientific, social, artistic, etc. side of games instead of comedic reviews. He’s the sophisticated side of Normal Boots, I like him.
March 29, 2014 at 2:33 pm
As an individual currently engaged in the process of designing his own zen-esque and emotionally-stimulant game, this certainly came a lovely surprise to wake up to. Attaining peace and restfulness through cognitive interaction is still such a reasonably new area of study in modern science after all, specifically where video games are concerned.
Animal Crossing has always been the most engaged and memorable game of rest for me. The physical action required to wake up at 6:00am, boot up the old system and snuggle down to some virtual early-morning fishing amongst the mist and the tranquil sounds of the seashore is certainly an act of reward in itself.
Also, purely wondering due to my own inquisitive nature, what’s the soundtrack used within the initial seconds of the show?
March 29, 2014 at 1:29 pm
Your opening comments on the “Forward vs. Backward” struck a chord with me, because I realized that I most definitely gravitate towards activities that demand input and reaction over something that is passive or as you say, “contrived” relaxation.
You’ve used some decent examples of games that could be considered to attain this Zen-like state, but I wonder if more specifics would have been helpful. I think of something like your Call of Duty variants that demand a great deal of input, is competitive, and doesn’t really have those soothing environments 99% of the time – and yet people claim to play them for relaxation just the same. How do they fit into your explanations? Or…do they? Perhaps it’s a different type of ‘zen’ that they attain?
April 1, 2014 at 9:26 pm
Hello i’m just wondering if i could help with your question?
It seems to me that people who play call of duty and other such games for relaxation isn’t so much zen at the time that they are playing but are more inclined to reach or get closer to the zen state. Games like those are often created to arose excitement and simulate danger in order to stimulate adrenal glands which is why when people play an exciting (or frightening) game they can feel frightened in real life and start to sweat. Games such as call of duty again like the author said reward relaxation at the end of a race. The games can on occasion provide a sort of release toward feelings such as anger and other emotions when the player wins and accomplishes something in which case the brain releases the calming and zen feeling onto the perso
April 1, 2014 at 9:29 pm
sorry i don’t know how to edit and i don’t mean to double post. I was only trying to answer a question posted above my responce and I don’t mean to sound like an authority. oops
March 29, 2014 at 1:26 pm
I think all video games need a zen moment. Whether the game does not have the most zen theme,(DMC, Dante’s inferno) A zen moment in gaming always leaves the player in awe and reverence. Good games could include, Journey(duh….), the moment when you see the atmosphere of the world in skyrim, and even though i did not like this game for its linear story and boring fighting mechanism, Remember me still had a very Zen Moment which despite it falacies made me still play the game. Small moments of zen in a game for me at least keeps me wanting the discover more and more of these enlightening moments.
March 29, 2014 at 11:09 am
Good video, man. I think I good complimentary video is the one from Idea Channel if Bullethell games can be meditative:
Since they fall on the category of precision and action based relaxation and not passive and thoughtless (at least at first).
March 29, 2014 at 12:42 pm
Agreed. I actually had Fighting Games in mind for the good chunk of this video.
Another fruitful video, Satchell!
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