Bejeweled 3: Now with weight loss mode

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.

Screenshot of Bejeweled 3 Zen Mode options, including options for breath modulation, ambient sounds, mantras, and binaural beats.

The options and settings of Bejeweled 3's Zen Mode, showing various Mantras, Binaural Beats, and Ambient Sounds.

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.

About rho

Scientist, woman, lesbian, transsexual, gamer, geek, feminist, liberal, rationalist, and various other labels. Gamer since the days of the ZX81. Feminist since the time I realised that the label was not synonymous with transphobe. I keep a sporadically-updated personal blog about whatever's on my mind at the time.
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9 Responses to Bejeweled 3: Now with weight loss mode

  1. That’s not just annoying, that’s potentially triggering for people who have eating disorders or who are in recovery! I can’t believe that Popcap thought that casual gaming needed to have something like this in order to make the game more attractive to consumers.

    I have Bejewelled 3 on my Steam wishlist, but I’m taking it off right now. Popcap can kiss my fat (gorgeous, fantastic) behind.

  2. Jayle Enn says:

    I recognize that the term ‘Zen’ has been stretched to include a general, meditative attitude. I am medicated for depression, and have pursued cognitive behavioral therapy– which, if not necessarily -positive- thinking, is counter-negative thinking. I’m also overweight, due in part to those medications, and I have a strong desire to get rid of that due to very real health concerns. I’m also on a horse.

  3. rho says:

    Godless Heathen: Good point about the possibility of triggers for people with eating disorders. That was something I hadn’t thought of. I probably wouldn’t have bought it either, if I’d known what I was in for. There are no shortage of games I’d like to buy, so I’d prefer to spend my money on games that don’t do this kind of thing. I like Bejeweled, but there are countless other games out there that I haven’t bought that I’d also enjoy.

    Jayle Enn: I’ve had CBT as well. One of the things I took away from it is that the brain is a seriously complex device which can react in unpredictable and unexpected ways, which is why I think it’s so important to do anything like this with enormous care to avoid unintended consequences. I’m also not suggesting that there aren’t any good and valid reasons for people to lose weight. There are. I had to lose weight earlier this year prior to having surgery, for instance. I just prefer that it isn’t always so in my face in places when I’m not looking for it.

  4. Nonny says:

    Ugh. I hate stuff like this. It reminds me of when the Wii Fit came out, and a whole bunch of folks in my chronic illness support were recommending it because you could do things at your own pace, and there were simple stretching exercises and the like. I was seriously considering it until I then read about how it will literally mock you if you gain weight. What is the fucking point of that? Grr.

    It sucks, because even in stuff that should be there for health reasons, there’s a focus on weight loss. And frankly, I couldn’t give a damn what my weight is. I’m perfectly happy in my size 18-20. I would, however, like to be more in shape (would help my fibro and arthritis, for one), but it’s not worth dealing with all the triggers.

  5. @Nonny (if a tiny bit of off topic chatter is permitted) One of my favorite bloggers in the fatosphere is Living400lbs who has some excellent resources on easy exercises you can do at home with minimal equipment. Her blog is a fat acceptance space and is a relatively safe place for discussion of exercise without the promotion of weight loss.

    The Wii Fit was really disappointing to me when it came out because it was rated to, I think, only 350 pounds. I stopped tracking my weight a long time ago to avoid a lot of triggering issues related to body image, but I assume that I’m hovering around the low 300 pound area. I get frustrated by the fact that everyone tells us fatties we’re supposed to be exercising until we slim down, and yet sturdy exercise equipment for the largest of us is really hard to come by. The fact that the program would scold me for being fat, or getting fatter, is simply an appalling side not in a system not designed to to allow my body access in the first place.

  6. Hi, I’m here from Shakesville. Great post. I love casual gaming precisely because of my depression and other issues: a game where all I’m doing is clicking based on certain rules is a good way to turn off the mess of thoughts in my head for a brief reprieve. I’ve bought other Popcap games before and was thinking about checking this out, but this makes it an absolute no-buy for me.

    @Nonny and Godless Heathen
    Another reason Wii Fit is awful is it does not take any kind of ‘circumstances’ into account. My 12 year old sister hadn’t played it in about a year, and had grown several inches in the mean time as she’s just starting to really shoot up in height. When she got on the board, in a cheery little voice it said, “Uh oh! You’ve gained weight!” and indicated that she was obese. She looked confused but not terribly upset by it, and I explained to her that it wasn’t taking age and body shape and muscles into account, and that it didn’t really matter since she knew she was healthy anyway.

    Seriously, if the game is telling an average-weight, average-height, healthy 12 year old that she’s obese, it’s now become an eating disorder promoting game instead of health-promoting.

  7. lilacsigil says:

    Well, I know a game I’m not getting!

    @Godless Heathen – Mod your Wii with a towel or some squashy foam! The Wii *board* is rated up to 500 pounds (I was about 350 when I was weighed for surgery a few months ago) but the *program* only measures up to about 320 or so. I just sing “la la la I’m a happy fattie” during the Wii Fit shaming part and go on to play the games and enjoy the activity. (Obviously “ignore the judging” won’t work for everyone – it’s not triggering for me, but it could easily be for others.)

  8. lemurcat says:

    Thank you! Finally someone who understands why I hate positivity mantras.

  9. Lis says:

    Here from Shakesville. I love the mechanisms of PopCap’s game, but am frequently disappointed by the peripherals. The low-level but constant presence of… not precisely sexism, but definitely homocentrism. How most of the pre-filled High Scores are attributed to male names. How “capture the princess” is a constant motif of several puzzle games. How you can play two games with a gender-neutral animal character before winning the second, and your “prize” is discovering that there is a MS. Game-Character, who has lipstick and a bow on her head.

    Popcap doesn’t seem to think about these things at all.

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