video games

Turn On, Tune In, Zone Out: A review of Deepak Chopra’s new game, Leela

Blanca Myers: Leela, Deepak Chopra’s debut game for Xbox 360 Kinect and Wii, is part relaxation mechanism, part new-age stoner candy.

The game, which comes out next week, playfully steers you toward the gap between the conscious and the subconscious. There are different levels of gameplay — some help you tune each of your seven chakras, others guide you through meditation and relaxation exercises.

Chopra, a renowned figure in mind-body medicine, says Leela was inspired partly by his studies of spirituality, and partly by his own experimentation with psychedelics decades ago as a medical student. He teamed up with the game publisher THQ and a …

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Chakra and awe: A bizarre trip through Deepak Chopra’s “Leela”

Alex Navarro (Giant Bomb): THQ’s meditative software…thing is not really a game, but supposedly it’ll help you get in greater tune with your chakras. So there’s that.

One title in THQ’s lineup of casual games left me scratching my head. It’s a title that that, in theory, certainly would seem to have an audience, but the question of whether that audience would actually own and/or use a gaming console is, at this point in time, a relatively untested theory. THQ seems to believe there is an audience for it, otherwise they wouldn’t be producing the game. And yet, as I went through the motions of this peculiar game…

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Controlling pain with alternative remedies

Meditation, Alexander Technique exercises and video games are some of the complementary therapies being practiced to keep pain in check.

Beyond drugs, beyond exercise, beyond simply getting better are other ways to control pain. Typically referred to as complementary alternative medicine, many people consider their use to be common sense.

  • At the top of the list is the ancient practice of meditation. A number of studies suggest it can help people feel less pain. In one study, published in May in the journal Pain, people who had some experience with mindful meditation were subjected to bouts of pain. Those who had more experience with meditating showed less activity in certain parts of their brain as they anticipated pain.
  • The Alexander Technique, which emphasizes body coordination and awareness, was shown to reduce pain in people with chronic or recurring low back pain. In that study, published in the British Journal of Medicine in 2008, 579 patients with lower back pain were randomly assigned to receive normal care, massage, six Alexander Technique lessons or 24 Alexander Technique lessons. Half of each group were also randomly assigned to an exercise program. Those who combined exercise with Alexander Technique lessons had less pain than those in other groups.
  • Video games presented in a virtual reality format have potential as well, helping children feel less pain while being stuck with an intravenous needle. In that research, some children wore a helmet that covered their head and showed an engaging game while a control group of kids went through standard care. All children were blocked from seeing their arms. The control group had a fourfold increase in pain intensity compared with the children who watched the video games.

Jeffrey Gold, director of the Pediatric Pain Management Clinic at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, presented the study at the American Pain Society’s annual scientific conference last year and says there may be more at work than a significant distraction. Gold is now conducting a study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that uses functional MRIs to test the effects of virtual reality on the brain.

“Virtual reality is not a panacea — you’re going to have to practice this and create new patterns in the brain,” Gold says. “If you’re able to train a person over several sessions, you may change the neurochemistry, and that’s going to have a more permanent effect on the brain’s ability to modulate pain.”

[Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times]
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Making a game out of finding inner peace (Buddhist News Network)

Patrick Kampert, Chicago Tribune: In an age when most publicity for video games is reserved for the violent (Grand Theft Auto) and the ultraviolent (Manhunt), two Colorado entrepreneurs just want everybody to take some deep breaths and grab some inner peace.

In The Journey to Wild Divine, Kurt Smith and Corwin Bell have designed a computer game that teaches players to use biofeedback sensors worn on three fingers to help them control various events. Yes, in this game, the joystick is your body.

By using breathing techniques to stimulate or soothe their biological responses, players can start an onscreen fire, juggle brightly colored balls and direct the flight of birds.

“We took ancient technologies — yogic breathing methods — and coupled that with modern technology — computer gaming,” said Smith, whose background includes developing high-tech medical technology.

Both men are avid meditators as well as mountain climbers, and the Buddhist influence wafts through the game like a bowl of incense.

Wild Divine also features Bell’s visual artistry and gaming savvy. With Himalaya-esque peaks in the background, players navigate their way through templelike buildings, gardens and forests as they collect items that will later be used in the game.

Flowers, for example, are to be presented as “offerings” to see the Dancers of the Double Derga. Colored gemstones must be placed in the appropriate holders at the Rainbow of Rocks to unleash the power of harmony, love, truth, beauty, trust and peace. When that happens, lightning bolts arrive, the ground splits and colored lights erupt from the fissure like a Skittles commercial. Taste the rainbow, indeed.

Along the way, players meet various tour guides — actors, not 3-D simulations, who will help them on their journey. These, too, fit some karmic stereotypes with names such as Sophia, Cosmo, the Lady of the Wood and the Lady of Compassion.

The game also features an onscreen mentor, a Buddhist monk who in real life studied under the Dalai Lama, dishing out advice on Divine and the game of life. (The monk consulted with Smith and Bell on some of the game’s spiritual facets. So did Jean Houston, the controversial “human potential” mystic who guided then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton on her imaginary conversations with Eleanor Roosevelt a few years back.)

The game is available online at and through a few retailers for $159.95, including discs and sensors. Down the road, Smith said, he hopes the game’s appeal will fan out from home users into his old field of medical technology. He said he hopes to see, for example, patients in pain-treatment centers across the country using the game to bring them some comfort.

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