How Nature Gaming Can Improve Our Lives
With urban sprawl, the 40-hour work week, and lack of affordable transportation, not everyone has the luxury of on-demand access to nature. Our emotional and mental wellbeing as humans is directly tied to “nature relatedness”, which is how interconnected our lives are with nature. If you haven’t read our other wellness article for National Mental Health Awareness Month about how and why nature makes us feel better, you can find it here.
Fortunately, there are ways to hack our system. Interior decorators know the benefits of having fake plants around one’s home. One study showed that “looking at decorative plants in their hospital rooms, patients recovering from surgery were reported to have lower blood pressure and less pain, anxiety, and distress.” A separate study showed that even viewing audio and video clips of nature can de-stress us in the same way that actually being in nature does.
Cozy gaming is a recent video game phenomenon. Gamers are purchasing and playing non-violent, sometimes very simple video games en masse. The player’s goal in some of these cozy games is to walk or fly around the map enjoying the graphics and nature. No one knows if playing these games has the same de-stressing effect as listening to recordings of real natural surroundings. If you’re not lucky enough to live near GlampLyfe, here are five games that bring you outdoors from home.
Beyond Blue (2020)
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Apple Arcade
Explore the ocean through the eyes of a deep-sea explorer and scientist with Beyond Blue. This diving game takes place in the near future and climate change is one of the biggest themes. It was inspired by BBC’s Blue Planet II nature documentary series. The setting is described as “Earth’s last untouched frontier” and NPC’s in the game include whales.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh operating systems
In this indie “adventure photography” game, you play as a traveling painter who explores an extremely lifelike and verdant world. Your goal is to find your mother’s favorite spots, and paint the scenery. Eastshade is Leaving Lyndow’s sequel, another adventure game with stunning outdoor design.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, macOS, Linux
Set in 1989, Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming, Firewatch follows Henry. Henry’s job is to find smoke and protect the wilderness. This is an adventure game with mystery elements and some mature themes. Two creative leads from The Walking Dead launched this project.
Dear Esther (2012)
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Classic Mac OS
Beaches, caves, and hillsides are the main features in Dear Esther’s biome. This remote, contemplative game takes place in The Hebrides, a Scottish archipelago. The player’s journey is guided by a melancholic voiceover of a series of written letters. With a soundtrack that has been heralded as “soulful” and “mind blowing”, this game is sure to move you.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
This underwater adventure game “evokes the dream of diving”. In ABZÛ, the player swims deeper into the ocean encountering natural caverns, ancient ruins, and the dangerous creatures who live in the depths of the waters. The player solves puzzles, meditates, and interacts with marine life using sonar chimes.