There’s a small subset of games that trigger some weird zen focus state for me. I call them incidentally meditative or flow inducing games. This page lists them and tries to explain the subjective mechanisms that make this happen.
03/18/20 — It's Just Mowing added
12/26/19 — Endless Drive added
12/22/19 — Perceived Triggers sub list added
12/15/19 — List published
I play this on the easiest mode because I suck at driving games, using an automatic gearbox. I have no interest in the sim part of the game, usually playing it just by doing long-haul jobs and listening to something chill on the in-game radio.
Rhythm-based arcade game. Music-based games are an easy way to get your brain into a flow state, but Audiosurf is even better. I play it on the hard mode, usually with hardcore electro tracks.
I have been playing Diablo 3 on and off since it launched. I get in a very meditative state when playing with a character build I know by heart — flying from mob to mob, pressing the buttons in the same order, always moving and looting. The adventure mode is perfect for this — cutting downtime and lore noise — and the streamlined inventory and enchanting system makes it even better.
My most-played mobile game. Simple physics-based golfing with no frills, story or fanfare. As soon you get the ball into the hole, you are presented with the next one. Perfect for long flights.
A car, a procedurally-generated road, and me there to drive it. Closest thing to American Truck Simulator on the mobile. It’s a driving game, not a racing one. Perfect attention texture for podcast listening.
Awesome game (with a bit of IAPs) to play under COVID-9 quarantine. Not much besides mowing lawn.
I should be able to play the game for a long time without being presented with a game over screen or any other blocker. It should be repetitive and have a singular rhythm to it. Games like Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution excel with this, but I usually suck at playing them.
Little to no storytelling
I should not be interrupted by cut scenes, or required to make life and death decisions that change the flow of the game.
Challenging but not punitive
Games must be easy but not trivial. They should be balanced so I feel that what I’m doing matters without being punished all the time. Mastery would be the predominant feeling.
Streamlined engagement loop
I shouldn’t spend time jumping through a number of different in-game systems to play it. If I’m driving, that’s everything I’m going to do; if I’m killing monsters, I should not be asked to spend time going through pages of stats to pick a weapon upgrade.