I confess: I’ve never been into meditation. But digital meditation? Via a video game? As a self-professed geek and gamer, that’s something I’m definitely willing to try.
Listen to Sophia
I interviewed Robin Arnott, CEO and co-founder of Andromeda Entertainment, before the launch on April 22. Andromeda touts “SoundSelf” as the first video game to produce transcendent states of consciousness guided by your own voice.I watched the teaser video. Saw the screenshots. Yes, it’s a game you control with your voice. With your breathing, actually. But knowing all this didn’t make the experience any less strange.
“SoundSelf” starts with a warning. After all, this is a psychedelic experience. So it’s all about strobe lights and intense visual and auditory stimulation. The game warns you to consult your doctor first if you suffer from epilepsy, migraine headaches, seizure, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and any other photo-sensitive or sound-sensitive condition. You should also not operate heavy machinery or a motor vehicle within 30 minutes of experiencing the game. “SoundSelf” also reminds you that you can exit the experience any time.
Then, the voice of Sophia guides you. Wisdom, right? Sophia tells you that it’s best to play this game with headphones. Also, play it in a dark room. Particularly in my case because I’m not using PC-VR.
At the start, the system will test your mike, asking you to make a long, loud tone. I have to admit, I felt very self-conscious doing this. The good news is that musical skill is not required. That’s a relief, because I can’t sing to save my life.
Sophia will then ask you to do a breathing exercise. Inhale. Exhale. Asking you to focus on your breathing. To focus on the moment.
Again, I felt self-conscious. Like I said, I’m not used to meditating. Even if this is digital meditation. My mind wanders. I keep imagining everyone can hear me while I’m inhaling and exhaling.
But, yes, as I keep doing it, the hypnotic audio and trippy visuals changing in response to my voice, I become less and less self-conscious. Andromeda describes them as “synesthetic DMT-style visualizations”. Because, yes, this is supposed to produce an intense psychedelic experience.
Turn off your mind
After all, Arnott’s own transcendental journey began with his first “peak” experience at Burning Man in 2011. Months later, Arnott had the central design of SoundSelf in his mind, as a digital adaptation of his own unwinding. And science seems to back the claim that virtual reality can be psychedelic.
I’m not even using VR, and I can believe it.
Because you really do get immersed in the experience once you let go. It’s fascinating to hear the sound and see the lights change based on your voice. I even tried humming. And doing some sort of chant.
Producing visuals like this one.
And this one.
And this one.
Then, before I knew it, 20 minutes were gone.
It’s a strange experience. And every time you play it, the experience will change. I haven’t entered a meditative trance, but it’s remarkable how digital meditation can make you forget all your worries while you’re lost in this swirling dance of lights and sounds.
As I said in the beginning, the publisher provided the Steam key. So I didn’t have to shell out US$29.99 for “SoundSelf”. Will I keep playing this game? So far, the novelty hasn’t worn off. It’s strange for me to play a game which isn’t a game, but I do find it relaxing. Admittedly, however, the price is steep, and this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
Beyond the game, digital meditation makes me excited about the possibilities of VR that we haven’t even tapped yet. And as our post-pandemic world becomes more virtual, experiences like “SoundSelf” might just be the tip of the iceberg.
How trippy is that?