NEW GAME IDEA: Forgiveness Grampa

In high school I had a friend whose parents gave him a dollar every time he made a mistake. “Mom and Dad,” he’d say. “I smoked weed for the first time last night.”

“That’s great, son!” they’d respond. “Here’s a dollar!”

Or so I was told. But I love the idea of incentivizing and normalizing mistakes. Because it is normal. Humans make mistakes – big ones and small ones pretty much all the time. Constantly, really.

It’s so obvious, and still so hard for me to accept of myself a lot of the time. I suspect this is true for lots of people.

So here’s a playful pocket-sized reminder that it’s OK to make mistakes. A little computerized nudge that you’re still 100% lovable and good.

The whole thing is you having a chat with a friendly grandparent. They’re a cartoon-looking, animated character, sitting outside a house, and you can type to them. Of course, as part of the app setup, you get to pick your own grandparent avatar and setting, which could be either incredibly touching and healing (if you select the actual grandparent who gave you this attunement as a child) or a throwaway gag. It’s really up to you, y’know?

Anyways, you open the app, and your grandparent asks, “What’s bothering you, sweetie?” (or some variant depending on their dialect / accent, but just stick with it. Feel free to imagine it in Yiddish if that’s helpful to you.)

Up pops the chat box and you type in “I posted something stupid on Facebook,” or “I got really angry and defensive and was mean to TJ.”

And then… and here’s where the magic happens…

Your heartfelt admission is run through Google Translate a bunch of times, mangled just enough, and then spit back out to you in English by your grandparent.

“Oh. You’ve posted a sting on Facebook? Well, so what? I still love you anyway. Gimme a kiss!”

Then they pucker up and you gotta tap their big ol’ lips to finish the interaction.

“Thanks for sharing with Grandma. Come back and see me anytime, darling.”

That’s it. They’re always there when you need them. If you’re doubting yourself, or just feeling bad, or have done something harmful. Just a small reminder that the core of your being is still loved and lovable.

So, lots of questions, because this idea just came to me this morning. First off, does it provide any relief? Does it need more upfront framing of why you’re using the app in the first place like, “this is to practice getting comfortable with making mistakes?” And what about big things? Maybe those need a totally separate dialogue… I think this little exchange is too dismissive of real regrets. And also what about actually reconciling and changing harmful behaviors, too?

But! I think it’s a worthwhile start for practicing recognizing your own self-worth and lovability as a human regardless. Because we do make mistakes and hurt people – it’s just part of living, and keeping that sense of goodness at the same time can be a struggle. So hopefully this can be a tool towards that end.

And actually here’s the best thing about this app (and this post, maybe): you can really do this in your own head, by yourself, whenever you want to throughout the day. The app is really just a placeholder. So your challenge (and my challenge – seriously, I’ve been trying lately) is to try this exercise least once this week when you’re feeling down on yourself. Just imagine a kindly elderly mentor telling you it’s ok. That you’re good. That you’re lovable. Because you are – even when you post something stupid on Facebook.

More thoughts on Everyday Headspace

Okay! So I may have rushed my post from yesterday a little bit. Those are still good questions to ask as designers, but after a little more reflection and conversation, I think there was a little something else going on in my judgment of the new Everyday Headspace feature.

Mainly, I was jealous. Headspace is obviously a huge business. I’m just beginning to start out, and that size and presence and seeming success is definitely intimidating to me. So I wanted to poke holes.

Continue reading “More thoughts on Everyday Headspace”

Everyday Headspace and Questions to Ask

*** Update: I’ve posted some revised thoughts on this feature (and my jealousy) here. ***

I’ve gone from 4-5 chronic, debilitating headaches every week to just 1-2 over the past few months, and I attribute that success to Headspace and meditation. I use the app every day now, and it has truly transformed my life.

There’s so much about the app and its design that I love. For example, it never asks you to tweet or share an image. Coming from the games world, this strikes me as a very intentional and inspiring choice.

Continue reading “Everyday Headspace and Questions to Ask”

Games for Your Not-Self and Self Awareness

I went to a great meditation and teaching last night. It was actually my first group sit here in Austin, and I’m so glad to have met this wonderful sangha. Everyone was warm and welcoming, and I’m excited to go back for more practice and learning.

One of the main points of our discussion was how suffering is caused by clinging. We grab onto thoughts and feelings as they come to us. We get zoomed in on them and think that these thoughts and feelings are our selves. “I am sad. I am angry.” The self and the feeling get tightly connected, and that causes suffering.

We also talked a lot about how to take refuge from this suffering – specifically taking refuge in awareness. I picture this as taking a wider view of myself. In game-terms, I think of it as looking at the world through a 1st-person camera (self-oriented) vs a 3rd-person camera (self-aware). When I’m aware, I can pull back and see a bigger picture of myself and the world. I can recognize “Oh, there are some anxious thoughts coming up. They are not my entire being.” Having that awareness and sense of spaciousness can be a salve even for physical pain.

This awareness is a bit of a trick of letting go. Instead of clutching tight to the feeling, I have to be able to say, “This thought is not the entire world.” Yes, there is suffering, but it’s just something that’s happening. It’s just a sensation. It’s just true.

Naturally, I started thinking about all this clinging and suffering and self with respect to technology and games. Our phones are not designed to help us let go. In fact, apps are created for the exact opposite reason: to capture your attention and keep it. Apps want you to zoom so far in that no world or emotions exist outside of the app itself. CNN needs you outraged, Instagram needs you to have FOMO, Twitter needs you to believe that these next 140 characters are the most important ever written in the history of characters. The app needs you to believe these feelings are the only thing in the world and you should feel them really strongly! For a lot of people, myself included, this is a big cause of suffering.

But what if we had apps that helped you let go of thoughts? What if we built games that gave you a wider sense of yourself and your place in the world? Rather than upping your anxiety with thinking harder and gripping more tightly to your emotions, I want games that help you notice what’s going on in your mind and heart and then let it let go. Games that zoom you out. Games that don’t want your attention for themselves, but for yourself.

This is the future I want. Freedom from our phones. Freedom for ourselves.


Personally, I get clinched around twitter late at night. Leave a comment and let me know where you get caught in the self, suffering, zoomed-in loop on your phone, please!

Why Games Can Help Your Mindfulness Practice

I’m a beginner, and I’m trying to be more mindful throughout my day. I meditate in the morning, and as great as it is for me, it’s not always an option to sit for 15 minutes when I’m stressed out at 3pm.

I’m making mindfulness games to help people calm down and get in touch with themselves wherever you are – physically and mentally.

No matter where you are on your mindfulness journey, here are five reasons why mindfulness Continue reading “Why Games Can Help Your Mindfulness Practice”

Quick Tips to Prime Your Body for Forgiveness

This morning I drew up a game idea to help practice forgiving yourself by relaxing your body. There are definitely ways to calm your mind by calming your body, and here are a few simple ones to get started.

A lot of these ideas are geared towards generating a feeling of spaciousness. Feeling bad can make us feel small and clenched so “WHOOPS!” and these simple acts help us feel wide and bigger than our mistakes. Because you are more than your missteps.

  • Clench your hand into a fist, bring it away from your body, and then slowly release it
  • Shrug your shoulders
  • Touch your lips gently with your fingers
  • Place your hand over your heart
  • Roll your shoulder blades all the way low onto your back
  • Lift your eyes to something high up in your field of view
  • Turn your arms so your palms face forward
  • Place your hands behind your head and lean back
  • Breathe slowly & deeply three times (count to four on your inhale, and four on your exhale)

So if you’re feeling cramped, overwhelmed, stressed, or just down on yourself, try these simple postures for just a few seconds and then see if you’re more ready to forgive and move on.

Game Idea Round-Up

Hey! I’m trying something new today and posting a round-up of all the game ideas of written down on my incredible “GAME AND BLOG POST IDEAS” Trello board. I like to think of this board as a greenhouse for my little game idea seedlings. Whenever I get an idea, I put it on the board immediately, and then it germinates in the back of my mind until I’m ready to come back to it. Continue reading “Game Idea Round-Up”

Helpful Visualizations

After an experience on a cruise ship as a teenager, I was very skeptical of hypnosis. But then last year, I started seeing a hypnotist to help with my chronic headaches, and she really helped me. I recorded one of our sessions together, and for a long time, lying down and playing that calming recording was my first line of defense against a budding headache. I was shocked at how often what I had previously thought was “definitely going to turn into a full-blown awful headache” would dissipate with simply some focused rest. That I had a tool in my bag besides pills was honestly a revelation.

Continue reading “Helpful Visualizations”

Mid-game Uncertainty

Last week, I started a new game for The Gentle Issue and made great progress. I fleshed out the idea, sketched out a roadmap, and began coding. It’s a game about frogs and snow globes and taking breaks, and I really liked where it was heading.

After I got all the basic systems in the place, I stepped back and took a look at the little pond I had created.

A cartoon frog jumping around a video game
My little froggy friend

Continue reading “Mid-game Uncertainty”