This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I’ve kept putting it off, coming up with excuse after excuse as to why I couldn’t do it. Well, I finally got tired of my own excuses, and after some encouragement from a friend, I started to write this blog.
I feel that a written blog is the best way to convey my thoughts on this matter, as opposed to a video, because (1) it’s easier to organize my thoughts, and (2) I have zero editing skills. I’m not opposed to having a group discussion or a public forum on the matter, but that’s getting ahead of myself. So, I’m going to open up this blog by asking a question…
What did you dream about last night?
Don’t worry if you have some difficulty answering that question. The average human being will forget about ninety percent of their dreams within the first minute of waking up. As someone who plays a lot of video games, I tend to dream about them most of the time. I can remember some awesome dreams I had where I felt like I was in a video game. Those are the ones I have the most fun with.
For example, I had this one dream where I was competing in Mario Kart, with my bed as the race car, and a Super NES controller as my steering wheel. During the race, Wario was trying to make me eat pancakes. I told him I didn’t want any pancakes, so he just exploded. Before the race finished, I found myself in Hyrule, and Link needed my help cutting the grass. I think I beat the shit out of him.
I always secretly wondered if all these video games I play have any effect on my dreams, considering the many video game related dreams I’ve had. Thankfully, I am not the only one who has wondered about this, as well…
Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at MacEwan University in Alberta, has done extensive research on the subject, finding that people who play a lot of video games were more likely to experience lucid dreams than people who didn’t. Lucid dreaming occurs when the dreamer is aware that he/she is dreaming, and can influence some aspect of the dream itself.
Even though I can recall experiencing lucid dreams, I usually let the dream take me wherever it goes, influencing as little as possible. I tend to have a lot more fun with my dreams, that way. It’s weird, I know.
Jayne’s research also suggests that these game enthusiasts are not negatively affected by dreams that present frightening or threatening situations, such as nightmares. Instead, they prefer to take control of said situations – sometimes even enjoying them. For a person who plays video games, the challenge of overcoming a nightmare is no different than overcoming an obstacle in a video game.
This may explain why I haven’t had a nightmare in years. I do, occasionally, have some dreams that weird me out, but that’s about it. (The weirdest dream I can remember involved two barrels, a yodeler, and a tidal wave of seagull poop.)
There is also research to suggest that being able to deal with bad dreams in this manner may actually be beneficial to real life situations. According to Swedish psychologist Antti Revonsuo, nightmares are “an evolutionary mechanism meant to train us to deal with threats in a safe environment before we encounter them in real life.” If we are to assume this to be true, and if playing video games can help limit the negative feelings associated with bad dreams, then perhaps we can feel more confident in handling threatening situations in our daily lives.
To clarify that last statement – I’m not saying that you will be able to take down two guys trying to rob a gas station. What I am saying is that, given an unsafe situation, you may have a quicker reaction time in determining the best course of dealing with said situation.
There is a drawback to this research, though: It relies on self-reporting from the dreamers themselves. However, if we assume the research genuinely reflects the experiences of these dreamers, it’s also possible that gaming systems which offer more immersive experiences (like the Oculus Rift) may have a greater effect on their dreams.
I have had many dreams relating to video games. I am positive that everyone reading this has had their fair share, as well. Given that there has been research into the possibility of video games affecting our dreams, I feel that this should be discussed within the community. If nothing else, it’s a fascinating conversational topic.
If anyone else wishes to write a blog about video games and how they affect our dreams, I encourage you to do so, even if you disagree with me. That’s the risk I’m willing to take. It’s also one of the reasons I wrote this article in the first place…I want people to talk about this.