In Jonni Pollard’s 1 Giant Mind app, simple game mechanics—levels that unlock prizes—help you stay motivated in developing a meditation habit. The 12-step program unlocks a 30-day challenge that gives you access to extra features, including a journal and video FAQs. The premise is simple: Meditate for 10 minutes a day for 12 days to unlock the next level. Meditate for 30 days to unlock more. The idea is that once you’ve followed their structured learning plan (game levels) and meditated for 42 days, you’ve probably got a habit going, and as a reward you can unlock the app’s timer or fire up a guided meditation whenever you want.

On a smaller scale, Forest asks you to stop “phubbing” (snubbing someone in favor of your phone) by growing a tree. The tree will grow for as long as you keep the app open, which means that if you want to keep the tree alive, then you can’t use your phone for anything else but photosynthesizing. When you close the app or press “give up,” the tree dies. Its tagline is simply “Stay focused, be present,” and the app helps you achieve this through exploring simple mindfulness techniques, disguised in a cute, goal-based gaming interface. The idea is to try to cultivate a less-distracted mind that is capable of focus—which is the same goal of meditation.

The most notable experiment in the crossover between gaming and mindfulness is probably PAUSE, an iOS game developed by ustwo in partnership with Danish mental-health company PauseAble. Driven by scientific research, it combines principles of mindfulness and Tai Chi with haptic feedback from smartphones, augmenting the way tai chi rewards you by lowering stress-related chemicals in the brain when you slow down your movements.

To play PAUSE, you touch the screen and a blob starts to follow your finger. All you need to do is follow the prompts and calmly move your finger across the screen. The slow, gentle motion grows the blob, and you’re prompted to grow it for as long as you can, perhaps even while closing your eyes. It sounds easy, but it’s not as simple as you’d think. If you go too fast—which you will—you’ll be told to slow down, but if you go too slow, you’ll be told to speed up.

“With the constant change in technology, it is easy to blame our devices for causing stress or disturbing our attention,” ustwo writes on their site. “A natural reaction to this is to view them as a dangerous force that we must keep a distance from or set clear boundaries. Creating PAUSE, our goal was to turn this assumption on its head. Using that same technology, we’ve instead created a simple, beautiful, intuitive app that helps users relax and embrace mindfulness in seconds, no matter where they are.”

PAUSE was made with mindfulness as its core purpose, but other non-meditative games can offer comparable experiences—it’s up to you to work out what puts you into a flow state, zoning you out while honing you in.

For example, Chen’s company, Thatgamecompany also created Journey, a beautiful wandering game where you are a hooded figure flying around dream landscapes. You can move from space to space and complete some simple puzzles, but the joy of the game lies in something deeper: something similar to the good feeling you get from those flying dreams. Despite not having any dialogue, points, bosses, strict rules, or dramatic tension, it has won numerous awards and was even awarded “5th best PS3 game of all time” by Playstation Magazine. (It has also recently been re-released for PS4.)

Good games can make the real world disappear because they take us into their complex and interesting fictionalized worlds. The best immersive games magnetically pull all our attention, require our mental effort to engage with the dynamics and logic of the world, and can easily spark emotional responses.

This is seen in ABZÛ, the immersive underwater game that has received better reviews than the now-infamous No Man’s Sky (and retails at less than half the price). This stunning experience sees you swimming through endlessly beautiful underwater landscapes, interacting with sea creatures, and enjoying the stunning marine world. With no overarching storyline or goals, ABZÛ is almost a perfect example of free play; an experience similar to dreaming or free-form creative expression where flow is demonstrated in its simplest form. More than just wandering, ABZÛ triggers a sense of wonder as well as a more tactile sense of enjoyment where you just want to keep swimming. Once you’re in, you’re in.

The re-emergence of virtual reality (VR) also offers some exciting possibilities for mindfulness gaming. If you get distracted meditating or you find games too stressful, this could be the flow tool for you. Guided Meditation VR works for HTC Live, Gear VR, and Oculus Rift and offers guided meditations in relaxing VR environments such as rainforests, Japanese temples, and tropical beaches.

Perhaps you find peace tilling crops in Farming Simulator, or maybe you build your focus solving ancient Chinese wood block puzzles in Knot. Or perhaps you might ironically find quiet even in the face of something more challenging, like a first person shooter.

My partner and I have been playing a new game on our PS4 recently. It’s called Tricky Towers, and it’s like Tetris, but the pieces don’t really fit properly, and there are no walls to contain your construction. You have to build a precarious tower while the second player builds their own in a split screen (and they’re always inevitably going to be much better at it than you). Watching that other tower go up while mine teetered not only distracted me from the pieces falling on my side, but it also made me feel like I wasn’t any good at the game. Or life. It wasn’t long before I threw down the controller and demanded we play something else.

I’ve still got a way to go, but maybe one day I’ll be able to calmly decide how to place each piece and build a bigger tower—or at least learn to watch my tower fall, pick up the pieces, and try again. After all, who knows what pieces will fall from the sky? I can only try to work on staying focused and keeping a cool head while they do.

Maybe that’s how you really win the game.

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