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kottke.org posts about Corey Glynn

Update to Alto’s Adventure adds endless Zen Mode

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 02, 2016

Altos Adventure

One of my all-time favorite iOS games1 receives a big update today. Alto’s Adventure has added two new modes, an endless relaxing Zen Mode and a Photo Mode for sharing your favorite moments.

Zen Mode is a new way to experience the game. We’ve stripped away many things from hillside; no scores, no coins, no powerups, and distilled the game down to its purest elements. There’s no on-screen UI competing for your attention — it’s just you and the endless mountain.

The developers were persuaded to add this mode because of letters from fans who liked the relaxing aspect of the game. An excerpt from one such letter:

I play games as a way to calm me down when I’m feeling anxious or down. But it’s been difficult to find games at the moment that don’t feel aggressive and violent (not that I’m against dealing out justice as Batman or taking out bad guys as Nathan Drake, they are good fun!)

Your game offers something different. Alto’s Adventure doesn’t make me more stressed than I already am. Skiing down a mountain is calming (especially helped by the music, props to your music maker!). It makes me feel as if I’m progressing and being productive without the frustrations of getting to that next level in narrative games or other mobile games.

I’ve played Alto’s Adventure a lot over the past year and a half. Like very a lot. At first, I played because the game was fun and I wanted to beat it. But eventually, I started playing the game when I was stressed or anxious.1 It became a form of meditation for me; playing cleared my mind and refocused my attention on the present. Even the seemingly stressful elements in the game became calming. The Elders, who spring up to give chase every few minutes, I don’t even notice anymore…which has become a metaphorical reminder for me to focus on my actions and what I can control and not worry about outside influences I can’t control.

So thanks to Snowman for building such a great game…I truly don’t know what I would have done without it.

Update: From Sherry Turkle’s 1984 book The Second Self, a video gamer talking about how playing games make him feel:

Well, it’s almost, at the risk of sounding, uh, ridiculous, if you will, it’s almost a Zen type of thing… where I can direct myself totally and not feel directed at all. You’re totally absorbed and it is all happening there. You know what you are supposed to do. There’s not external confusion, there’s no conflicting goals, there’s none of the complexities that the rest of the world is filled with. It’s so simple. You either get through this little maze so that the creature doesn’t swallow you up or you don’t. And if you can focus your attention on that, and if you can really learn what you are supposed to do, then you really are in relationship to the game.

And Turkle adds (emphasis mine):

When he plays video games, he experiences another kind of relaxation, the relaxation of being on the line. He feels “totally focused, totally concentrated.” And yet David, like Marty and Roger, indeed like all successful players of video games, describes the sense in which the highest degree of focus and concentration comes from a letting go of both.

I feel exactly that while playing Alto’s Adventure. Total relaxed concentration.

Also, after this post alerted Corey Glynn to the existence of a global high score list (on which he held 15th place), he went out and absolutely crushed the high score by more than 2 million points. I bow to your superior skill, sir. (via @mznewman)

  1. The others are Kingdom Rush and Drop7 (Area/Code represent!).

  2. When I say I’ve played a lot, I mean I’ve played so much that I’m #50 on the global high score list out of ~480,000 players. (Used to be in the high 30s.) That should give you a little taste at how stressful life’s been for me recently. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯