Mindshift Game

A fun online game for a broad audience that draws players to subtly transform self-perception through mindfulness

The Mindshift Game

“We often get caught up in our own reactions and forget the vulnerability of the person in front of us.”
― Sharon Salzberg, The Force of Kindness: Change Your Life with Love & Compassion

As we move through the world, focused on status, wealth, and power, we often lose sight of our most fundamental human needs: compassion, understanding, and happiness. We sometimes take for granted the people we love, and spend little time examining the forces that drive us to focus on personal gain above human connection. Self-blame, shame, and judgment often cloud our ability to see ourselves and others clearly.

Mindfulness practice opens up avenues clearing this path – to give ourselves a view of who we are, and how we are in the world. By engendering a space for quiet and non-judgmental seeing and noticing our unexamined thoughts and drives, meditation proves fertile soil for a more compassionate self-understanding, and a place where presence and empathy for others can grow.

But meditation exists somewhat in a silo. Inspiring teachers like Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein have blazed a trail in bringing contemplative practices to the west, but meditation is still seen as something of a “new age” activity for “vegans and hippies”, or so the current mythology goes. Even the advent of the extraordinary science surrounding the benefits of meditation on the brain have not pushed meditation into the mainstream. Yet. The tides are surely shifting. But there is so much meditation has to offer. We’d like to speed that fire.

The Mindshift Game aims to address this issue by creating a fun, accessible, online game – based on the work of Sharon Salzberg – that models the practice of meditation. This game will bring mindfulness to the widest and broadest audience possible, engaging millions of young people around the world. We seek $25K in seed money from the 1440 Foundation to fund six key initial elements to the game, crucial to its success: Elaborated game design document, digital look and feel, detailed budget, research, fundraising plan, comprehensive fundraising proposal.

The Power of Games
In 2007, when conflict in Darfur was raging, a team of university students created an award-winning online game called Darfur Is Dying, where the player is in a refugee camp trying to keep one’s family alive. Supported by mTV, and promoted by Games for Change, the game has now been played by more than 5M people, many of whom were teens and 20-somethings who had never heard of Darfur. The game has also generated more than 100,000 actions, including letters to Congress.

Games have the power to reach millions of people – young and old – where they live. When PBS Online added the word “game” to a series of videos they had turned into games, their numbers went up as much as 50 times! Games are not only fun and addictive, they are also universal. More than 97% of kids (MacArthur, Pew 2008) and 72% of ALL Americans play games (ESA 2012.) If you want to reach people when they are relaxed and receptive, you reach them online, playing games. We aim to create a popular, fun and far-reaching game about meditation that engenders a transformative experience for players. How?

What most people don’t know is that games are the perfect medium for embodying meditation. Games are not only one of the best platforms for simulation and learning (Gee 2003), but have a unique correlation to meditation: they create what Csikszentmihalyi termed, “flow.”

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. (Csikszentmihalyi 1991)
Flow is one of the fundamental reasons that people play video games. This is especially true since the primary goal of games is to create entertainment through intrinsic motivation. The use of flow in games helps foster an enjoyable experience that increases motivation and draws players to continue playing. (Curtis 2011.)

Many game scholars agree that by creating an environment with the perfect balance of challenge and reward, players can enter into a state of immersion and focus so profound that they lose track of time, themselves and the world around them, where “action and awareness merge.”

This flow state is our chief goal in creating a meditation game. The design will engage players visually, skillfully, and creatively to induce their own experience of “flow ,” harnessing the extraordinary power of games to allow players to explore their minds through the prism of play. Through incremental self-awareness generated via individually-created avatars and profiles, we aim for players to become aware of their own thoughts, and learn how to see them without judgment or attachment. By shifting the “fight motif” to one of acceptance, embodied through original gameplay mechanics, players will become more aware of their own minds and more present to others around them, cultivating compassion. All this while having fun!

The Team
This is a unique cross-disciplinary team – the leading experts in Meditation, Social Impact Games, Game Design and Contemplative Practice in Art have come together to create a groundbreaking game aiming to reach millions of people with an immersive and engaging experience of meditation. There have been a variety of other meditation games, most notably, Depak Chopra’s Leela Game, and Bill Viola’s Night Journey. Most of them are about traveling through other-worldly environments seeking relaxation or peace. Our game sets out to embody the single most important skill – mindfulness, a concept central to Sharon Salzberg’s teachings. This game reflects the knowledge, commitment, and respect for the practice and rewards of meditation, held dear by this experienced team.

I’ve worked closely with both Suzanne and MV, and am excited about the potential of this game reaching millions of young people. It’s a great team!
– Sharon Salzberg

Nick Fortugno, Co-founder of Playmatics, is a leading independent game designer, scholar and journalist. His hit game, Diner Dash, was one of the top-selling online games of 2004 and has been downloaded more than a half a billion times across all platforms. His award-winning game about poverty, AYITI: The Cost of Life, has been played by more than 3M people worldwide. He’s a professor of Game Design at Parsons, and is a blogger, journalist and co-founder of the Come Out and Play Festival.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Fortugno) Nick has also practiced T’ai Chi for fifteen years and is an apprentice (Junior Teacher) at the New York School of T’ai Chi Chuan.

Sharon Salzberg is a best-selling author and meditation teacher who is one of the people responsible for bringing meditation to the west. She is Co-founder of the IMS Center in Barre, Ma., and teaches and speaks around the world. She is sometimes called, “America’s Most Beloved Meditation Teacher” and we couldn’t agree more!

Suzanne Seggerman is an award-winning new media thought leader. Co-founder and former President of non-profit Game for Change, she is an international advisor, consultant and public speaker on games and media, including on the President’s Innovate to Educate Initiative, Michelle Obama’s Healthy Kids Campaign, Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, and Microsoft’s Imagine Cup. Suzanne has served as primary evangelist for a new movement, and has given talks at conferences around the world, including the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, PDF, NTEN, PopTech, and the Harvard Human Rights Conference. She has been featured in a variety of press including the NYT, Time, ABC News, Newsweek, and The Guardian. (http://www.suzanneseggerman.com/) Suzanne has also taken classes and retreats with a variety of meditation teachers, most recently Tara Brach and Sharon Salzberg.

Mary Veronica Sweeney, MFA, is an award-winning teaching artist having exhibited both nationally and internationally, with work in many permanent collections. She is a recipient of a variety of fellowships for her work, including from Stobart and the Pew Charitable Trust. In 2007 Sweeney was invited by the US State Department to serve as Ambassador for their Arts-in-Embassies program. She has also studied extensively with many great contemplative scholars, most recently as a year-long Path of Service resident at Upaya Zen center with Roshi Joan Halifax. Sweeney is currently the Director of Creative Capital at the IDP in NYC, designing contemplative arts initiatives and raising fuunds for mindfulness in the arts, media and transformational activism. Sweeney was accepted into the Arts-in-Education Ed.M program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she hopes to contribute to the vital civic dialogue about empathy and imagination in human development.

The Budget

1. Elaborated game design document –
Design: $4K
Art: $4K
Production: $3K

2. Digital Look and Feel – $4K
3. Research – $4K
4. Detailed budget – $1K
5. Fundraising plan – $1K
6. Comprehensive fundraising proposal – $4K

Initial Timeline – 2012 (Seed Funding Budget $25K)
September – October: Game design, Look and Feel, Research
November – December: Fundraising plan, Fundraising proposal, Budget
January 2013: Delivery of 5 elements

Game Design Timeline – 2013 (Estimated Budget: $300K)
January – June: Fundraising
June – September: Game development
September: Alpha
November: Beta
December: Final Game