My palms were sweaty, sticking to the ipad screen. Annoyance washed over my face. My own hands were getting in the way. I brushed them on my comforter, praying that would solve the issue. Another level down, another one to go. Furrowed brows, my attention was solely to the wooden figures. I was more focused than I had been all day, all week even. I was in a zen mode, but for this game. This game that had come out of nowhere.
The minutes ticked by, and before long it had been an hour, and the dip I was making in the bed started to set in. This gripping feeling of fun, so much of it that I hadn’t felt in a long time, made me stop in my quest for a moment. My mouth fell open. I was surprised at myself. This was an ipad game? After that brief interlude, I began again. I couldn’t stay away. The game drew me back in with it’s calming melody, drums tinning and bells chiming every now and again. Irresistible.
So that’s pretty much how I spent my entire day, after work was done of course. Zen Bound 2 not only surprised me, it entrapped me for hours. This has never, in my experience, happened with a game so simple. I think that’s what did it. The simplicity. The tree arching upwards, promising more puzzles to solve, more fun to be had.
After a while, I knew I had to stop to actually write this review. And as I flipped through the electronic pages of the books we had read, something McGonigal wrote caught my eye. The idea of eustress, or “positive stress” clicked with me. When I had first read that, I nodded with agreement, thinking that yes, that seems plausable. I didn’t really connect it to a specific game or experience in my own game history. Zen Bound 2, however, reflects this perfectly. Every level is little bit harder (but of course) and the way to solve it was not so apparent. I kept going back to levels, trying to get a bit of a better score every time. Sometimes that would happen, and other times (most of the times, to be truthful) I got a worse one. It made curse. It made me grit my teeth. And I was having a blast.
Normally, I would completely tear my hair out at attempting something so many times, with the results up in the air as to how I would do. Normally, I might even quit for a while, and come back. That wasn’t the case today. I kept going at it until I forced myself to stop. McGonigal explained that eustress isn’t like normal stress, which can be bad for the body and mind, because “we’ve generated the stressful situation” so it’s easy to be “confident and optimistic”. I chose to play the game myself. I chose to go back several times on the same level to get a perfect score. I thought I could for every one of them. Now, as I look back at other gaming experiences, I can pinpoint this kind of optimistic quality in game play. It makes me smile just thinking about it.
While playing this game, I discovered my kind of zen. So focused on a task that I forget everything else, this is when I feel most content. If that isn’t a definition of zen, I don’t know what is. So here’s a question for you all: what kind of zen moments have you had in your lives, outside of games? Do you ever really think about it, or is the focus so much that you don’t even realize it? I had to think hard about this question myself, and I came up with some surprising answers. Ha, I surprised myself a lot today. It was a very good day.