Welcome to part 1 of my 3 part blog series exploring mindfulness and gaming. This series will explore:
- How mindfulness and meditation can improve the gaming experience
- How gaming can be a form of mindfulness
- What video games use mindfulness in their gameplay
This series will also include the journey of three regular gamers, learning and implementing mindfulness into their weekly game use.
So to start off, what exactly is mindfulness?
You may have heard that mindfulness — the ability to be fully present in the moment — can have numerous benefits, everything from decreased stress and sadness to increased levels of focus and happiness.
We are able to train our brains to become aware moment-to-moment through meditation. When you teach the mind to be more present, we simultaneously teach ourselves to live more mindfully. This is particularly helpful when we are faced with challenging circumstances or difficult situations.
So, how can this be applied to gaming?
Numerous studies have shown that gaming can cause stress, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and anxiety. Although, it’s important to note that some video games can have a relaxing effect on players (Russoniello, O’Brien, & Parks, 2009; Whitaker & Bushman, 2012), it is often the more violent games that can have a negative impact (Barlett & Rodeheffer, 2009).
Here’s a quick look at the different brain activity levels used when playing video games (Zelda) compared to meditation:
The video compared an individual’s brain activity between 20 minutes of playing Zelda and 10 minutes of meditation. The results showed that during his time playing Zelda, his brain activity was 4 sec calm, 8 min neutral and 11 min active. When he spent 10 minutes meditating, the results were 5 min calm, 3 min neutral and 36 sec active.
If you’re a regular gamer, you may actually benefit from incorporating mindfulness meditation into your daily routine to improve your gameplay. Even professional gamers use meditation to improve their play.
One of the younger 2017 Overwatch teams, Immortals, says meditation is really beneficial according to Dot Esports,
“[Meditation] really calms down the nerves,” support player Athen “Aythen” Zhu told Dot Esports. “I found a benefit, but it’s really hard to do.” He continued: “We’re trying to get back into it, as our coach believes that it’s one of the best things to do before a game.”
We’ve gone through the benefits of mindfulness and how it’s applied to gaming, but what to do when you want to start and help your own gaming experience? There are many resources online, including resources at Headspace, apps like Smiling Mind, and guided meditations on youtube specifically for gamers.
Here’s a helpful video by DrPauli created for gamers to teach them how to meditate, basics of mindfulness and how to achieve a flow state:
The following are several benefits that meditation can bring to gamers outlined by PCZone:
1) A Stress Relief
The most common reason as to why people look to meditating in the first place is so as to try relieving stress. Esports demands non-stop focus and mental alertness, where response time is key.
Studies have revealed that meditation is a way to reduce stress levels, and can even aid in improving stress-related conditions like PTSD.
2) Reduce Anxiety
Gaming can really spike up one’s anxiety levels since you’re kept on your toes throughout the game in order to not make any mistake and bring down your team. Meditation can thus be used to decrease any symptoms of anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, and it helps to reduce your overall anxiety level and work-related anxiety.
3) Increase Focus
Focus is of utmost importance for Esports. To perform well in competitions, extended periods of full focus is required. Try meditation which can help in improving and maintaining an individual’s attention, and aid in preventing the mind from being distracted and wandering off.
4) Improve Sleep
Sufficient proper sleep is essential, as sleep deprivation can lead to poor performance for professional gamers, especially in the long term. Rather than turning to sleeping pills which could have harmful side effects, try meditating instead. Meditating can help you to enter a relaxed mode ready for sleep quicker, and enable you to stay asleep for longer.
5) Relieve Pain
Gaming involves sitting at one spot for long hours, where poor posture is likely to result. Hence, gamers are susceptible to suffering from pains in the wrist, hands, and stiffness in the neck and shoulders.