games Archives

Deep calming games 2018

After receiving an alarming medical diagnosis mid-month in January*, I've been very actively using computer games to help manage my situation. This autoimmune disease manifests itself in scores of itchy bumps. The initial treatment is prednisone, the main side effects of which have been insomnia and mood alteration (primarily an increase in anxiety). Games have been enormously helpful in managing both, and in lowering my stress levels overall as I deal with this.

While many games can appear soothing in early stages, they are often designed to increase in intensity, which is counter to my goal of calming my system. Below are a few which I've found which do work, and which have interesting side benefits. There are three key patterns I leverage as I (and my meds) work to reduce inflammation.


1. Stillness as a Constant Option

The one absolutely vital quality of a deep calming game is that at any moment you can stop the game without penalty to take a deep breath, let your eyes focus on the other side of the room, or otherwise pause not only your hands but your mind. This can take the form of simply stopping doing anything—as in turn-based games where there is no ticking clock—or changing out of the game screen—as in games which pause and retain your exact position when you switch applications. Some games are mostly turn-based with brief sections that don't allow pausing; Another Case Solved is a good example of that non-ideal mix, but it is just calming enough to remain on my list.


2. Impulse Interference

It turns out when you're trying not to scratch, it's possible to divert the physical world pattern you shouldn't act on into a virtual pattern where relief is easily available. The game element you want here is a random or semi-random resource which appears and needs to be 'harvested' or otherwise responded to individually. Collecting the magic fountain energy in Sunken Secrets or the tax revenue in Townsmen are ideal examples. I found that my brain slipped pretty easily from "argh! itchy spot I want to scratch!" to "aha! another coin to collect!" and that, amazingly, the act of touching the resource on my iPad screen with my finger took away the urgency of a specific physical itch on my body. This trick was probably the key ingredient to my getting through the initial awful weeks while I waited for the corticosteroids to begin reducing my symptoms. It's highly likely I would have scarring if I hadn't been able to divert that scratching urge.


3. Sense of Positive Action

Maintaining an optimistic attitude during very gradual change is a challenge. When my body is less able and my mind is less focused that becomes even harder, especially in those grim grey hours of the night when prednisone wakes you all the way up after three hours sleep. Games offer a space where I can act toward both short- and long-term goals and feel less powerless. The difference with deep calming games is that this needs to take place within a low-conflict (or at least very low-consequences) mood. When managing anxiety and using mental imagery to reduce bodily inflammation are the goals, tough battles against powerful foes are definitely not my friends. Enter, therefore, games of constructive, peaceful acts which build upon each other. These can range from the very simple—growing my fish and expanding my pond in Zen Koi—to the more ongoing and epic—building my farm and improving things for my imaginary neighbors in Stardew Valley. The tough part here is finding a game with the expansiveness that makes it maximally calming and yet which doesn't require fighting off attackers. (I've got enough of that going on with my autoimmune system, thankyouverymuch.) I am a long-time fan of simulation games, particularly old Windows city-builders and economy-simulators like Pharaoh and Cleopatra, but there are very few around which don't involve (or allow you the option of turning off) combat as a major part of the game. Farming and house-building games are the dominant form now, but many of them are tainted by in-app purchase models which render the games less fun as you progress in an effort to make you spend money to make it easier again. That flaw is what led to my abandoning Gardenscapes and Homescapes, neither of which I can recommend anymore despite their fun aesthetic and sense of humor. For the moment, Stardew Valley, and to a lesser extent Townsmen, is best to fully engage my mind in creating and achieving goals.

*Thanks to corticosteroids this diagnosis is not life-threatening, but it is life-altering.

Posted on February 11, 2018 at 07:37 AM in games, health, linky goodness, worry vs. clarity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sometimes what seemed like a skill game turns out to be a money game. 2013

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Posted on July 3, 2013 at 06:35 PM in Discardia, games, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

new game 2012

Photo by Mum Jinx, who writes
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Posted on December 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM in friends & family, games, holidays | Permalink | Comments (0)

Courtney and Robert's cocktail reception in celebration of their marriage 2012


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Posted on August 18, 2012 at 08:30 PM in friends & family, games, relationships | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gameful design 2012

RT @fraying: This. Yes.

Posted on June 18, 2012 at 02:36 PM in games, tweets, web design & documentation | Permalink | Comments (0)

It's good to have an eloquent ally 2012

"you're afraid of that woman's voice & you don't think you can beat her intellectually without using a cheat code"

More background and commentary from Daniel Nye Griffiths at Forbes.


"I don’t know who these hateful people are, but they are not the gamers I know. They are not the men I know."


Let's keep focused on having the "what you did" argument with those who leave hateful comments, not the "what you are" argument.

Posted on June 15, 2012 at 04:46 PM in games, linky goodness, politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

"We have to get over this, as an industry." 2012

RT @jessajune: Can't We Discuss This Like Adults? / Fantastic rational criticism of the recent game trailer furor.

Posted on June 6, 2012 at 10:47 AM in games, politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

nuanced and disturbing 2012

RT @neb: watch_dogs gameplay looks amazing. congrats Ubi team!

Cyberpunk is far from dead.

Posted on June 4, 2012 at 08:01 PM in games, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Warning: zombie-like singleminded urges may result 2012

You have got to check out the game Rebuild. It's like Harvest Moon meets Shaun of the Dead. Super cool.

Posted on May 29, 2012 at 11:01 PM in games, linky goodness, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

still great 2012

Another great day of D&D and delicious food with my awesome pals @thelancearthur, @george08, @somethingmodern, & @someben. Happy Dinah!

Posted on May 28, 2012 at 10:08 PM in Dinah - preferences, friends & family, games, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mastery is Well-Informed Improvisation 2012

RT @rands: Two Universes – Portal as great design

Posted on May 9, 2012 at 02:31 PM in games, linky goodness, tools, web design & documentation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fun at Booksmith's BookSwap evening 2012

Well, yes, I brought a repro of a 19th century cocktail book.


Booksmith's events are super fun.

Posted on May 4, 2012 at 09:11 PM in Books, games, San Francisco | Permalink | Comments (0)

playtime 2012

The iPad is great for casual gaming with fun stuff like Majesty.

Posted on April 26, 2012 at 04:54 PM in games | Permalink | Comments (0)

An obviously legitimate purchase 2012

Apple, making a foolish impulse buy is when to force update of my security questions, not on clearly rational ones like Majesty for iPad.

Posted on April 20, 2012 at 07:01 PM in games, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

I tried Farmville. 2010

Eh. Not fun enough to be worth even the 10-20 minutes a day it demands. I'll stick to real video games.

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Posted on March 22, 2010 at 02:39 PM in games | Permalink | Comments (0)

D&D game day 2010

Photo by Cal.

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Posted on February 13, 2010 at 12:00 PM in creativity, friends & family, games | Permalink | Comments (0)

D&D game at Rev Dan Catt's place 2008

Photos by Cal.

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Posted on August 26, 2008 at 12:00 PM in creativity, friends & family, games | Permalink | Comments (0)

game night at our place 2007

Photos and captions by Ann Larie.

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Posted on October 26, 2007 at 07:00 PM in Food and Drink, friends & family, games | Permalink | Comments (0)

scrabble with Joe and Striatic 2007

Photo and caption by Joe.
"Sadly, this [upper left] space is not currently occupied by the totally legal word 'apesauce.'"
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Posted on October 20, 2007 at 12:03 PM in friends & family, games | Permalink | Comments (0)

Me kickin' some butt in Wii golf 2007


I love Wii golf: no environmental or social guilt for playing, unlike real golf courses.

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Posted on August 5, 2007 at 12:00 PM in games | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Yuppie Game - the first loser in Game Fight 2007


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Posted on April 22, 2007 at 12:02 PM in Discardia, friends & family, games | Permalink | Comments (0)

fun puzzle 2007

There's some game I can't think of the name of at the moment where you try to get people to guess the word you're thinking of by giving words that are paired with it. Might be something I picked up from Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me on NPR.

Anyhow, these clues are fun





when the answer is "chowder".

Posted on March 17, 2007 at 03:27 PM in games | Permalink | Comments (3)

more SXSW 2007

Piano tuner at the Driskill


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A tiny hat pic for Tom


Matt is very very serious about his tiny hat.

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Cal is a healthy lad!


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Analogies between WoW interface and standard desktop activities


paper prototyping game dynamics


Posted on March 12, 2007 at 12:01 PM in Food and Drink, friends & family, games, SXSW | Permalink | Comments (0)

Flickr 333 party 2007

Good gne crowd for Flickr's 3rd birthday party.

Photos by Cal (bees/seeb).



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Posted on March 3, 2007 at 06:00 PM in friends & family, games | Permalink | Comments (0)

Edinburgh Castle Pub Quiz 2007

trivia night

Photo by Joe.

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Posted on February 27, 2007 at 12:00 PM in friends & family, games | Permalink | Comments (0)

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