‘Meditations’ delivers a daily dose of play to keep you chill in 2019

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‘Meditations’ delivers a daily dose of play to keep you chill in 2019

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Video games wear all the hats.

They’re an escape. An outlet. A distraction. A muse. We play them to remember or to forget, to focus in or to zone out. It’s a daily activity for most people, even if many of them don’t even realize it. 

SEE ALSO: Netflix’s ‘Hilda’ is the cozy winter binge you’ve been looking for

Rami Ismail’s Meditations focuses our innate fascination with play in a constructive direction. It’s a lightweight application for Windows or Mac that updates every day with a simple, new game for you to play.

No one explains the purpose better than Ismail, an outspoken indie developer who forms one half of Vlambeer, the studio behind Nuclear Throne, Ridiculous Fishing, and (a personal favorite) Luftrausers. Ismail unveiled his project, which is really more of a group effort, on New Year’s Eve.

(You can download it right here. More details here.)

One morning in 2017, I played a short game that made me wish I had a new tiny game like it for every day of the year. So for all of 2018, I’ve asked hundreds of devs to make a small game. This launcher will serve you a new little game every day. https://t.co/uPfA18W59h

— Rami Ismail (@tha_rami) January 1, 2019

If you like any days’ Meditation, I would very much appreciate it if you tweeted or talked about it using #meditationgames. January 1st’s Meditation is TEMPRES by @takorii, the game that started this whole idea. It mesmerized me back in 2017, and I hope you enjoy it too.

— Rami Ismail (@tha_rami) January 1, 2019

Happy 2019, y’all. Make games. Play games. <3

— Rami Ismail (@tha_rami) January 1, 2019

An FAQ on the Meditations website offers a bit more detail on what kinds of games you might expect and how they were made/the intent with which they were made:

Meditations are free games made in approximately six hours. They’re often small, experimental, and minimalistic – and can frequently be personal. Many of these games have been inspired by the day that they’re available on, and will relate in some way to the creators’ life or interests. In general, they will feature no text, and should take you approximately five minutes to complete.

That’s been my admittedly limited experience so far, two days into the new year. I unfortunately missed the Jan. 1 Meditation — the app’s internal clock switches to new ones on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and I got home too late on New Year’s Day to check it out — but that’s part of what’s appealing here.

There’s no commitment! The mainstream gaming world is ruled these days by a desire on the publishing side to keep players hooked, and spending money. Meditations unmoors itself from that mindset. 

Seeing every single Meditation will take some commitment, of course. But the motivation to keep up needs to come from inside you. There’s nothing in the app that tracks your progress or measures your performance at a macro level. Each daily Meditation is just that — a contemplative act of play that’s replaced by a new one within 24 hours.

Consider the Jan. 2 Meditation, from Adriel Wallick. (Every day brings a different creator.) Before you even begin the game, you’re greeted by a bit of text that sets the scene. The words read more like a daily affirmation than an instruction manual. 

Image: screenshot from meditations

It’s just something to ponder in the brief moment before you hit the button to begin your Meditation. The way it’s written suggests that Wallick is sharing a bit of herself and what inspired her addition to this project. 

As a naturally outgoing person, I long to fill up my happiness by being near friends, but I often quickly hit a wall after a small amount of time. It’s hard to find the balance between making myself happy without draining all of my extra energy. This is always [exacerbated] by the holiday season, as I tend to spend a lot of time around those I love over the New Year’s holiday.

It’s also a hint. Wallick’s Jan. 2 Meditation is effectively an interactive representation of this hard-to-find balance she’s talking about in her preamble.

Clicking the “Begin” button opens up a new, roughly square window with a small, pulsating greenish-blue circle situated in the middle of a larger, lighter blue-green circle, tinged with shades of yellow. Clicking anywhere inside the window, or even just pressing and holding a button on your keyboard, causes the central circle to slowly grow in size, and change to more of a reddish color. Let go, and it’ll slowly shrink back to its original size and color. 

Hold the button for too long, though, and you’ll get an audio cue, at which point you’re barred from inflating the circle for around five seconds. During that time, the circle shrinks and reverts to its original color as it normally would when you let goal.

The goal of the Meditation is to make that central circle large enough to fill the whole playing area. To do that, you’ve got to get into the groove of holding down your button just long enough for the circle to inflate without it going full red. Then you release for a few seconds while the color reverts, and repeat the whole process again.

Image: screenshot from meditations

Image: SCREENSHOT FROM MEDITATIONS

It’s a simple activity that most people would figure out on their own after a few minutes of experimental clicking. But then, once you realize what you’re supposed to be doing, it requires total focus. The color change is subtle and slow, which can complicate that moment when you decide how much red qualifies as “too red.”

Remember: this is just one Meditation out of 365. And if you’re reading these words on any day other than Jan. 2, you’re going to find something very different waiting for you when you boot up the app. But even if you missed this one, I think Wallick’s contribution offers a good example of what to expect  in general from Meditations.

A few things to note from my own experience of downloading and setting up Meditations: Windows 10 might freak out on you (depending on your security settings), telling you the app is suspicious and shouldn’t be trusted. I won’t tell you how to handle your own PC security, but I can say I’ve downloaded and installed it without issue. Just follow the link in Ismail’s tweet if you’re worried — he’s a trustworthy creator.

(I don’t own a Mac, so I can’t speak to how this setup process would work in Mac OS.)

There’s also nothing in the app that makes it open up automatically every day, and nothing that nudges you to do so. If you want to check out each day’s new Meditation, you’ll have to manage your schedule accordingly and make time for it on your own. Though the same could be said of more traditional approaches to meditation!

The overall execution may be impossible to judge at this point, but I love Meditations as a concept. I love that idea that every day, I can sit down at my desk and take five minutes before work to puzzle through something new and fresh and original. It feels like a much-needed daily reset button for your brain.

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