'Zen' Games The New Trend?

If you take a look at games today, you will see that most of them are about 'conflict' and players should figure out 'solutions'. Usually, the solution has something to do with spraying a large load of iron through someone's chest, while dodging an axe fr

If you take a look at games today, you will see that most of them are about 'conflict' and players should figure out 'solutions'. Usually, the solution has something to do with spraying a large load of iron through someone's chest, while dodging an axe from behind. I do like those games, believe me they are fun. However, there are on average so many games using this principle. That is why different types of games starting to arise. I would like to describe the 'atmosphere' or 'zen' games with you today. Games that do not particulary have an conflict / solution architecture, but tell you a story about your feelings.



The first time I heard about these 'zen' games was at a 'GameLab' in Oktober 2010. I remember sitting in the audience at a game showcase in Amsterdam nearly three years ago. Niki Smit co-founder of 'Monobanda' telling us a story about an experimental game they had in development. The game was called 'Bohm'. The only thing you can do in this game is passively grow out a tree from the ground up. I remember Niki telling us about playing this before you go to sleep. He saw players start this up before bedtime after your long stressful day at the office, and take a moment to relax with Bohm. No conflict and or solution are required here. Just naturally grow out a large tree. I found this very innovative at the time. For me this was a first introduction with these type of games.

Bohm game 



The Journey 
March 2012, I started to hear a lot of noise about the game 'The Journey' by "thatgamecompany". After seeing a short trailer. They caught my attention immediately. Something about this game was mesmerizing. I was convinced I definitely had to try this game. I remember a late evening, when a few friends were over. We were pretty bored. Then luckily it struck me again, let's play Journey! So I started to play, a couple of my friends watching behind me. Somehow we all were caught in the atmosphere of the game. The Sand, the music, the abstract character, the nothingness, and our curiosity of what to come. More and more friends joined just to experience this 'bizarre' game. Another fun fact is that we weren't aware the game was connected to the internet. When we met another character looking just like us, first we thought he was rigged with an 'AI'. But when we finished the game. We saw a list of people we have been playing with online. I thought this was amazing and the game left me with a feeling that this game somehow reached places in the emotional spectrum I wouldn't have guesed games were able to. 
Journey game 


After playing a great experience like Journey, I directly bought their older game 'Flower'. I was expecting a similar experience like Journey but, Flower is more like a relaxing game. I couldn't compare this to the 'vibe' they achieved with Journey. It was clear to see flower has been a great process of learning for them. It's even more 'vague' than Journey. In Journey they added a little more context to hold on to as a player. In Flower you just fly around and touch the flowers to let them bloom. Still the game is unique on it's own.

Flower game


So is this a new trend?
I think we will see a lot more games like this in the near future. I think all games described here are seriously playing with 'borders' of being an actual game. They are actually 'experiences' of certain emotions. Different journey's through relaxing atmospheres. I think it's possible to reach even more emotions through gameplay like this. For example, I can see it reach deep sadness, and also extreme terifying feelings. Maybe we could design and develop a new 'award' architecture that rewards players with different types of 'great' feelings instead of getting more 'coins'. Maybe at some point we are able to help 'depressed people' find their way to happy feelings again, just by creating experiences like this. Well, wouldn't that be something.

What do you think about 'Zen' games like Journey and Bohm? Are you creating one? Do you think this could be a new trend?


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