Anyone who plays games regularly understands their ability to heal. We’ve got endless books written about this, charities set up behind this idea, and now game designers explicitly making games about healing. With all of the madness in the world I thought it would be a good idea to run through some games to help us all make it out.
Now, everyone is different but when I’m looking for a game that helps me feel better I’m looking for a game that I can play on my terms. I want something that is simultaneously short and unending. Fans of our weekly itch.io Recommends column may know where I’m going with this. Morning Post is a game we featured earlier this year where you play as a postman in the world’s smiliest house. Everything smiles: the plants, the furniture, the people, even your letters -- When I say everything smiles I mean everything. Morning Post can last as little as 5 minutes there’s no ending, you can chuck letters at anything and everything to your heart’s content.
Whenever I get anxious I try to find things that are very deliberately paced. Something slow that forces me to move at its pace and calm down. Gone Wandering is ostensibly a game about a girl sailing in a boat to catch butterflies in her net. You don’t move particularly quickly in your small boat and there isn’t a ton to do outside of grabbing butterflies. It’s this combination that gives the game a slow, almost meditative, pace which makes it a great game for healing.
There are also times when I’m trying to escape from the harsh realities that come along with being alive in 2017 where I want to put myself wholly into a game. This is where games like Cosmic Express come in. Cosmic Express is another game we’ve featured before, but it’s a fiendishly difficult puzzler with adorable blobby aliens. This is a game that requires you to put all of your attention on it in order to progress and I reach a trance like state of focus while playing. It’s hard to focus on the troubles of everyday life when you have given your all to putting aliens on trains.
Beyond all of this, I think it’s important to realize what helps you heal. Obviously no two people look for the exact same thing in games so maybe yours won’t look anything like mine. Maybe yours is a breezy adventure that’s full of pomp and spectacle or a hardcore arcade shooter. When talking about games for healing I think it’s important that we all listen to each other and practice empathy.
There are game jams for healing as well. Just recently WarChild started their HELP game jam, a jam that vows to affect real-life healing. Submissions are still open for this year’s event so you can heal via creation if that’s your jam.
At the end of the day we’re all human and that means we need time to decompress. Hopefully some of these recommendations have inspired you to take some time for yourself or design games to help other people recuperate. What’s your favorite game that helps you relax? Let everyone know in the comments below.