If you don’t play Hollow Knight, the only information you need to know is that it’s a moderately difficult game with occasional rest spots that feature benches. Your character can sit on these benches to heal and save the game. And they’re designed so well that it’s made me enjoy sitting down in real life.
Before articulating how to enjoy real-life benches, we must first examine why Hollow Knight does it so well.
Hollow Knight’s Rest Spots Are Pretty
Every bench location (rest spot) is just beautiful in its own way. The art direction is obviously amazing, but there’s more to the beauty of these rest spots than just the images: each resting screen is carefully composed to tell some kind of story about the zone it’s in. This is important for later - the borders of the screen become the frame, so everything onscreen is like a living painting that makes some kind of claim about the world it’s in.
Through this, each resting point becomes a discrete location, an entire 'snapshot’, a memory that you can hold and weave your moods into like plants through cracked stone.
Hollow Knight’s Rest Spots Are Rejuvenating
Even if these screenshots were gifs, you’d be missing some of their beauty. Part of the soulfulness in rest spots come from contrast to other locations, which are usually dangerous in some way. Moving from any location to another necessitates navigating around varying hazards, and even when it’s easy or ‘mindless’ to move around a part of the map, there’s always something you can theoretically mess up: getting hit by an enemy, missing a platform and having to start again, going the wrong way and having to backtrack, etc. These are all problems to gently solve when playing the game at any level. Except for rest spots, which is part of why they’re so relaxing.
Additionally, rest spots ask the absolute minimum of you: there are no enemies, you’re actively healed to full every time you sit down, you’re free to rearrange your charms, and the game is saved. It’s also a checkpoint, so even if you die as soon as you step outside, it’s no problem since you won’t be set back particularly far.
Overall: it’s a palpable feeling of safety and calm, and in that calm you come to really appreciate the ability to sit down and inhale for a second.
You Can Enjoy Sitting In Real Life Too
While real life can’t give you the same guarantee of full health and setting a checkpoint, relative to the rest of the world, it turns out that you can get similar amounts of enjoyment anyway.
If you find a good safe place to do so, try sitting down and doing the following.
Take note of everything in your surroundings, as if you’re inside a painting.
What imagery is happening in your surroundings? (the sun is between two buildings; there are many birds on one roof, etc)
What story do your surroundings tell? (this place is strangely silent given the location; with the picnics here, this is a place where love often grows; you’ve been going to this bus stop for 5+ years and you / the skyline’s changed so much; etc)
Let yourself slow down.
Gently adjust your posture and distribute your weight to be comfortably energy-neutral.
When you’re about to get up, count to five first. It’s hard to explain why or how this is useful, but it magically expands five seconds into a feeling much longer than that.
Take note of something to remember until the next time you sit on a bench.
It’s a little like setting a checkpoint in Hollow Knight; you’ve successfully taken an otherwise forgotten part of your life (commuting) and made +1 memory within it.
I acknowledge this is one of my more esoteric blog posts! But if it helped me find more joy in life, then perhaps it can help you too. At the worst, you’ll have lost 20 seconds of your time, which honestly could have gone to worse things than sitting down and looking at your surroundings.