I can now officially announce a game I’ve been working on for the last couple of years – a Kinect title called Leela, which I created in collaboration with Deepak Chopra and Curious Pictures, published by THQ. I played the role of lead game designer.
Yes, you heard right: Deepak Chopra. Leela (the name means “play” in Sanskrit) is a game about play as a form of meditation, and conceptually it is based on Yoga traditions centered on the Chakras and meditation. While I’m not a disciple of Deepak, I do study Kung Fu and I am interested in meditation through physical action. Perhaps more importantly, Leela is also an experiment in game design on several levels.
The Kinect platform is quite new, and we started work on Leela before it had been released. It presented a tremendous number of design challenges, from working within the technical limitations to creating interactivity using a player’s whole body. Leela also offered a content challenge – making a game about Chakra meditation. Working with Lewis Kofsky, the Executive Producer, and the teams at Curious Pictures and N-Fusion (who spearheaded coding the game), we opted for a quite abstract approach in which different games within Leela focus on different parts of the player’s body.
Then of course there was the challenge of making a game about meditation. While I firmly believe that any well-designed, deeply played game is capable of a meditative experience (think Tennis or Tetris or Halo), in Leela we tried to create a game that foregrounds the idea of playing and meditating.
The game hits stores in a couple of weeks (November 11). I’m not sure if it will be hailed as the most interesting game yet developed for Kinect, or instead as a bizarre, new-age experiment. But I look forward to seeing what people think about it.