December 7 saw the release of Bejeweled 3, the latest in Popcap’s flagship match 3 franchise. For the most part, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect. They’ve kept the same basic game mechanic but added in new game modes, achievements and the likes. So far so good.
Then there’s Zen Mode. This is carried over from Bejeweled 2 and essentially lets you play indefinitely at your own pace without the possibility of losing. The idea is that you can use this mode when you just want to play to relax or de-stress. For Bejeweled 3 they’ve made several additions to this. For instance, there’s an option to replace the music with ambient sounds like rainfall or ocean surf, and an option to add audiovisual cues for breath modulation.
Then there’s the option for what they refer to as “mantras”: various “positive textual affirmations” which appear at the bottom of the screen as you play. You can choose which category you want. So if you choose “positive thinking” you may be shown “I always think of myself in a totally positive way.” On the other hand, if you choose “General” mantras, you might be presented with “I let fear pass me by.”
I have problems with this already. I don’t think that it’s really appropriate to tag the name of an actual religion with actual adherents to the name of a game mode which has little to nothing to do with their beliefs. I also have my doubts as whether this sort of thing is in any way effective, and worry that in some cases it could prove harmful. While things like breath modulation and positive thinking certainly can have positive effects, they can also be harmful.
For instance, I suffer from depression myself, and there’s very little that irritates and upsets me more than people telling me that I should be cheerful or more positive. For people like me, seeing “positive” mantras can actually lead to a spiral of negative thoughts. I’m lucky enough to have a decent grasp on what can serve as a trigger for me and know what to avoid and when to avoid it. Not everyone is so fortunate, though.
I’d be interested to know how much input they had from scientists, doctors, or other specialists when making this. I found a blog entry and a video where they talk about Zen Mode, but neither of them have any mention of what input they had. The video does mention that the idea came from scientific papers, but it doesn’t really expand on that. Since they’re claiming that it can promote health and wellness, that sort of thing is important to me.
So all in all, I’m thinking “OK, nice idea, but I’m not certain about the execution. I’d like more information before really making up my mind”.
Then I saw that one of the mantra categories was “Weight Loss” and my reaction pretty much instantly changed to “aaarrgghh!”
I am fat. I am perfectly content to be fat. I do not need video games telling me that I should not want to be fat. Even if I choose never to look at it, it still irks me merely by its presence. “Losing weight”, it says, “is one of those normal things that people want to do if they aren’t thin already”. It promotes a culture of fat shaming and it makes me sad.
In fairness, some of the mantras in that category are pretty good. “My body is perfect right now”, for instance. But then we have things like “As I change my thoughts, my body changes”, “I lose weight systematically and I keep it off permanently”, and “I achieve my weight loss goals” which makes it clear that body-acceptance only goes so far and that thin is better. Even “I forgive myself” carries a negative message. Forgiveness is only necessary for those who have done something wrong in the first place.
This sort of message seems to crop up all over the place, but the last place I was expecting to see it was in Bejeweled.