25/365 – Meditation Games #25 – Train Meditations

Developers: Laura Voss, Simon Pederick, Ben Harmon

Launcher Quote: “Not only is January 25th Laura’s Birthday, but it is smack bang in the middle of Australian summer. The sounds of the Australian bush, desert, and animals partnered with repetitive train ambiance creates (we hope) a meditative space. This game is based on The Ghan, which journeys from the bottom of Southern Australia right through the deep orange outback of Central Australia.”

Sometimes it’s nice to watch a game unfold in front of your eyes. Sure, I value interactivity as much as the next person, but part of the reason I enjoy, say, JRPGs or other story-based type games is because I see cutscenes or times when you aren’t in control of the action as rewards for successful gameplay. Watching the plot unfold, seeing what might come next, being treated to a spectacular scene of you striking the final blow on a boss fight you beat – these are the things that typically give me a sort of rush, a game-fueled endorphin-ish feeling that motivates me to continue playing.

There wasn’t much I had to do with Laura, Simon, and Ben’s entry in today’s game other than to set the speed of the train as it rolled through the Australian landscape, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I didn’t feel at least some kind of satisfaction at watching the consequence of that be displayed on the screen. Part of why I didn’t mind the lack of interactivity (even though I did end up changing the speed of the train) was that the point of it was partially to enjoy what was meant to be displayed, to enter a sort of zen state where you’re just allowing the scene to play out. That might not play very well to people who enjoy visceral action or frenetic effects, but it does what it’s supposed to in its own way regardless, which is put me into a bit of a relaxed state of mind.

Games are not obligated to be wholly interactive experiences – some of them operate with minimal input and give their message or presentation based on what small input you give them. I’ve found this to be the case in a lot of the Meditation Games projects, and it’s likely not to be the last time that something like this happens. The key, I think, is not to judge a game based on how much you are able to affect the outcome, but how the outcome is presented to you and whether it is able to properly send or elicit the feeling or thought it wants to inspire in its players. In that respect, the Australian train does its job well.

 

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