Monday, 8 May 2017

The Best Phone Games for Anxiety & Dermatillomania

The Best Phone Games for Anxiety & Dermatillomania
It's no secret that fidget/stim toys, though actually designed and intended for people with ADHD, autism, anxiety etc. are having a "moment" despite being around for ages; it seems everyone's got their sarcastic "these are pointless and millennials are the woooorst" takes. Ugh.

Fidget toys are great, and really help when I'm anxious or I catch myself scanning as part of my dermatillomania. My tangle toy and stress toy are never far from me, and I'm excitedly awaiting the arrival of my fidget cube (thanks, Mel!), but in the mean time I've been investigating a new stim technique: phone games.

While playing on your phone might get you thrown out of class or inhibit focus and productivity in lectures or at work, they're great for when you're at home or out and about on public transport. I've spent a lot of my life on trains--travelling to and from uni, visiting friends in various cities, going home to visit my parents etc.--and sometimes I need to keep my hands and brain as busy as possible, and listening to music or reading a book just won't cut it.

Below are the phone games I've found to be most helpful when trying to stay calm or ward off unwelcome habits. I generally look for games that are nice to look at, repetitive in some way and easy to play while demanding focus.

For the most part, these games are free, though I sometimes pay for no ads (£1.99 max!!) just to make everything a little cleaner (and because I'm high maintenance). There's a few cheap games in this list, too, but I wouldn't include them if I didn't think they were worth the price.


001: Stack


Stack Phone Game


One of the most straight forward concepts for a game ever, the aim with Stack is to build up the moving blocks as high as you can. I love this game when my mind is restless because it gives me a point of focus without necessitating much actual brain power, and it's designed so beautifully I don't even mind losing. The graphics and

It can get a little stressful; it's quite fast and, to me, pretty difficult (getting screenshots was a nightmare), but if it starts getting too stressy I just switch to a different game for a bit. This one's best for a quick anxiety fix, if that makes sense? It's good for distracting my mind in a moment where it needs distracting most, like when I first sit down on a train or if I'm waiting for something I'm anxious about.

Free: iOS / Android

002: 2048


2048 Phone Game

Ah, 2048, my long-term puzzle game addiction. I first started playing this game in my third year of university when my friend, Jess, introduced me. Just one in a long list of games we both got addicted to (and competitive with each other over), I play it at least once a week three years later. More recent updates mean there's more goals to reach, as opposed to just trying to achieve the 2048 tile (piece of cake...)

This one's the perfect game for playing while watching TV, as it keeps your hands busy without too much distraction; you play at your own speed, and can stop without actually having to pause it whenever you want. I only wish I'd been able to save my score when I changed phones... I was so close to the 8192 tile I could almost taste it. I will be this person in no time.

Free: iOS / Android
See gameplay

003: Polyforge


Polyforge Phone Game


Like Stack, Polyforge is the ideal combination of simple gameplay and beautiful, also simple, design. It's another reflex tester but much easier than Stack, at least for me, in that it increases in difficulty by level, i.e. slowly, rather than every go. Essentially, you "forge" shapes as they rotate (at increasing speed) by striking each side with the pointer. The more you forge, the more sides are added to the shape. It's deliciously satisfying, and the "low-poly"-esque design gives the whole thing an almost serene aesthetic.

If you need to chill your brain out, rather than playing in levels/to goals, just whack the game on "endless mode", the setting that does what it says on the tin. I could get competitive over anything, so there's still an element of frustration involved when I can't quickly complete a level, but it's the good, distracting kind.

Free: iOS / Android
See gameplay


004: Contre Jour


Contre Jour Phone Game

Inspired by Le Petit Prince, Contre Jour is a gorgeous indie puzzle platformer. I saw a review that compared it to Limbo meets World of Goo, which hits the nail on the head, I think (though if you're not big on games, this might not mean much to you!) There's certainly a lot of Limbo in the atmospheric, almost eery, visuals.

The music, composed by David Ori Leon, is probably my favourite part of the whole game; beautiful piano melodies that are, in places, more than a little bit reminiscent of Yann Tiersen's famous Amélie soundtrack.

The gameplay is incredibly straight-forward to grasp, though difficult to master, and makes use of multitouch technology nicely--something I didn't work out straight away. My only criticism is that it can get a little fiddly, even on the iPhone 7, and perhaps would be easier to manoeuvre on an iPad. I quite frequently get frustrated when I'm trying to re-shape something at the edges of the screen and those iPhone arrow navs pop up as though I'm trying to view my notifications. Otherwise, it's amazing and I would 100% recommend it.

£0.99 iOS / £1.49 Android (available in HD on iOS for £2.99 - probably only worth it on iPad)

005: Blendoku


Blendoku Phone Game


Finally a Sudoku for visuals and non-Numbers People. Essentially a hex colour chart in the form of a puzzle game, the aim in Blendoku is to place blocks of colour in the correct order on the grid, so that they blend in a gradient (each lending to the ones adjacent to them). As in Sudoku, each puzzle presents you with a grid and a number of "fixed" colour blocks, which help you work out where the others in your given palette should go.

Unlike Sudoku, which gets more complicated as you take on bigger grids, Blendoku keeps you on your toes with alternating layouts. I love this game so much for when I'm feeling anxious, it really forces you to focus your mind (it's harder than it looks!) Plus, it's fun to watch your more logical-minded friends tackle it, especially when they're generally better than you at everything (hey Maddy).

Free: iOS / Android
See gameplay

006. Spirits


Spirits Phone Game




So far, Spirits is the only game I've paid more than 99p for. The reviews were so good and the gameplay looked so beautiful, I had to give it a go for myself. Though not as addictive as some of the other games on this list, it certainly didn't disappoint. Essentially, it's the newer, moodier, more artsy version of Lemmings, with simple gameplay, fluid visuals and a relaxing soundtrack.

Guide a group (herd? Troupe? Gaggle?) of spirits to the swirling goal/exit using various transformations and actions, blowing or blocking wind, growing bridges of leaves and digging tunnels. Each level is different and increasingly complex, requiring a carefully considered strategy (and therefore quite a few restarts for me!)

This game is good if I've got more time on my hands, and don't have to focus on anything else at the same time; you've got to move quickly, though it can be paused.

£1.99 iOS / £2.29 Android
See gameplay


Phone Games
In case they sound up your street, some other games I'm trialling at the moment (links to gameplay):
  • The Little Fox - free, or play online free here
  • Odd Planet - free game inspired by Playdead's Limbo, which I've watched most of the walkthrough for but haven't played myself. Giving it a go but it has very mixed reviews. 
  • Path to Luma
Some other games I want to try but money doesn't grow on trees:
  • Monument Valley (£3.99)
  • Alto's Adventure (£4.99)
  • Limbo (£4.99)
  • Oxenfree (£4.99)
  • Blek (£2.99)
  • MTN (99p)
  • Device 6 (£3.99)
  • Kiwanuka (49p)

Do you play games when you're anxious? Would love your recommendations. Let me know if you'd want a part two, as well, cause this post was fun to put together!

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