One of the meager upsides of the pandemic has been the growing consciousness about self-care. By necessity, people have been getting better at finding ways to take care of themselves, practicing everything from meditation to massage to put themselves at ease and stay happy.
One of the creative means many people have turned to in order to calm their minds and improve their minds has been to play certain types of games. Mileage will vary as to which games someone will actually benefit from; some enjoy complex rules and strategies like those found in Settlers of Catan, while others something opt for cerebral games like quizzes. Others still will lean toward something simple and perhaps with a significant physical element, such as darts.
Whatever the case, the following are a few recommendations for games that might help keep you level.
Anyone who used Microsoft Windows around the turn of the century will likely be very familiar with Klondike, a sort of variety of solitaire. That version is still great, but there’s nothing quite like the tactile, distraction-free feel of systematically arranging a set of physical playing cards, –– which is what all kinds of variants under the umbrella of solitaire have in common. The repetitive actions and observant state of mind practically amount to a meditative exercise. Although usually a solo game, there are in fact a number of competitive versions that can be played with two or more people as well, either in person or, these days, via apps.
If you like the idea of relaxing with a card game but want something a little more involved, look no further than poker. Among other things, it’s a game that teaches emotional control. Maintaining a level head through defeats and triumphs is widely thought of as one of the most important aspects of winning poker games; people who do well at the game are those who don’t get too excited or agitated because of wins or losses. That is, not getting too high or low can balance your mood and help you to keep a level head. Learning this helps you become a more effective player, but it also teaches you a sort of emotional balance you can carry into your day-to-day life to deal with stressful situations.
A lot of video games are high octane, violent, and twitchy –– anything but soothing, even if there’s something to be said for pure escapism. Stardew Valley however, made by solo developer Eric Barone, is basically the antithesis to those. Essentially a farming simulator in the same vein as Natsume’s Harvest Moon series you’re challenged with tending crops and animals, going fishing, and mining for resources at your own pace (as well as courting and marrying the townsfolk, if you like). Changing seasons, quests, and items provide enough variety to keep you exploring this delightful game. And unlike some similar titles (like Nintendo’s Animal Crossing), Stardew Valley can be played on virtually any modern device. It should be noted, however, that the mobile versions probably won’t be getting multiplayer support.
Wordsmyth (iOS/ Android)
As word games go, Boggle is already pretty chill. But Wordsmyth, a mobile iteration geared toward focus and relaxation (with no timer or other annoyances) may be even more so. Soft music and pretty visuals are paired with exceedingly simple, functional design that strips the game down into its light puzzle core: making as many words as possible. You can even sync with friends so they have the same daily letter grid, adding a social element to the relaxation.
Lots of people have reconnected with the natural world in the last two years, and it’s not hard to see why; try visiting a National Park without getting a mood boost or feeling more grounded in the world! While visiting every National Park in the U.S. is a tall order in the real world, you can at least do it in game form in Henry Audubon’s Kickstarter hit. The basic premise is simple: Visit all the National Parks, gathering resources and memories along the way. Everyone seems to agree that the game deserves top marks for design, and aesthetics certainly are a major part of the experience. This is clean, wholesome fun.
These games take various forms and involve a range of different types of gameplay. All of them have the ability to relax you a little bit though, making them helpful tools for calming your mind and boosting your mood.