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On January 3, with the euphoria of the holidays and New Year’s Eve fading, I’m trying to move a prone figure in the darkness. The only help I have is a tiny will-o’-wisp, which pulls on this person’s limp limbs that flop like a rag doll. The challenge is part of a digital game, created by designer Lisa Brown to reflect on the smothering feeling of depression. In an introductory text, Brown wrote that she was inspired by her experiences with this exhausting darkness invading a joyous New Year, and how hard it is sometimes to even walk into the next room. At one side of the screen, an illuminated door beckons.
The game was one of the first released by Meditations, a new initiative to share a short free game every day of the year. After downloading the launcher (for Mac or Windows), you can play the currently available game, which is only accessible on its release day (set to Greenwich Mean Time). However if you miss one, you can play it on the same day the following year.
Meditations launched on January 1, and so far has featured puzzles, rhythm challenges, and highly personal vignettes. The very first offering was Tempres, an abstract puzzle requiring careful timing to illuminate a series of rectangles, by Takorii (who also created The League of Lonely Geologists previously covered on Hyperallergic). This is the game that spurred Rami Ismail of Vlambeer studio to organize Meditations. “I randomly stumbled upon it back in the winter of 2017, and was amazed at the effect the game had on my day,” Ismail told Hyperallergic. “When the game was stuck in my head still days later, I messaged ‘tak,’ the creator of Tempres, with the basic idea for Meditations, in the hopes of being allowed to use the game as the January 1 game.”
Other games and collaborations soon followed, with over 350 developers now involved, as well as a team of curators. Some of the days will have games with a particular resonance for that time of year. January 2 featured a puzzle by developer Adriel Wallick, in which a large circle fills a square by clicking on it for just long enough. It’s a reflection, Wallick explained, of attempting to “find the balance between making myself happy without draining all of my extra energy,” an ever greater challenge in the holiday season. Other games are compact showcases for innovative play, with January 4 featuring a multilevel puzzle by developer Egor Dorichev that involves navigating an arrow around blocks.
The sole things all the games have in common is that they are about five minutes long, and without text. “One of the infinite potentials of this medium is that play is truly global,” Ismail stated. “Play is understood by everyone, regardless of language — kick a soccer ball at someone and they’ll kick it back, whether you can speak to them or not. We wanted to challenge the contributors to tap into that. The primary use of language in the project is in the developers’ description of the game each day, providing a context for the project.”
A full list of developers won’t be posted until December 31, 2019 (which can make discovering the games you missed difficult, although there’s a @meditationgames Twitter account announcing when each is available). Meditations is ambitious in its scope, yet is a promising way to discover indie developers, while offering a pause from the day.
“Having so many voices through these games, so many different developers from all over the world and all walks of life, is truly wonderful,” Jupiter Hadley, a Meditations curator, told Hyperallergic. “The project, of course, has been intense to help manage, but it’s all really worth it seeing these little games.”
The free launcher for Meditations is available on its dedicated site.