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 team of designers from Curious Pictures to create a game that offers a gateway to the mind-expanding world of hallucinogens without the use of drugs.
The group has built an unusual and immersive game, complete with vivid, day-glo visuals and an original soundtrack by various ambient electronic artists.
When I stood in front of the Xbox Kinect, Leela immediately projected my silhouette onto the screen, illuminating the location of my chakras, or energy centers. Leela comes with seven movement-based games, each of which stimulates activity at its corresponding chakra. I was feeling grounded so I jumped to level six, the third-eye chakra. That level of the game involves tilting your head in side-to-side motions as you fly through a tube of light on the screen. The object is to pick up bright little tokens of light that are the same color while avoiding the other colors. Other levels involve flying though giant lotus flowers, or blowing up comets with swipes of cosmic energy.
Leela also features guided meditations, seven of which use a breath sensor to detect movement in the lower, middle, and upper chest cavity to coach breathing techniques. It’s remarkable how sensitive the Kinect’s sensor is, though I had to tuck my shirt in to get the breath sensor to work properly (The Wii version of the game, which I didn’t test, doesn’t measure your breathing).
At its core, Leela is a biofeedback tool that spins your drishti, or “gaze,” inward through breath and chakra awareness. The central narrative of Leela is one of surrender, and the only way to get there is to relax and find your flow. In less esoteric words, this game rewards fluid movements and a detached awareness of the game’s stimuli. If nothing else, Leela will remove you from your twitchy gaming zone and take you closer to the “Om zone.” Or, as I like to call it, the “Zoooooooooone.”
Leela may not appeal to traditional gamers used to more intense action, but if you’re a gamma wave chaser or if you had a great time at Burning Man, you’ll likely appreciate Leela’s exercise in mindfulness.
WIRED Trippy visuals and soundtrack. Great use of Xbox Kinect’s motion-sensing technology. Takes gaming into the biofeedback sphere. Excellent path into the world of meditation for the curious.
TIRED Your character can die in the last level, which feels contrary to the game’s theme of self discovery. Kinect’s accuracy at measuring the movement of your chest is iffy. Wii version is dumbed down slightly.