Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gaming and dreaming

I tend to dream, or probably more accurately remember my dreams more often than most people. It's not unheard of for me to remember 3-4 dreams from one night. I can also force myself to dream about something that I want to dream about, by thinking about it as I'm falling asleep. At one time I did keep a dream journal, and perhaps because of all of this I've become really good at interpreting dreams. I've interpreted dreams for family, friends, and even a white pony tailed warrior tank from time to time.

I have also had occasional experiences with lucid dreams, where I am fully aware that I'm dreaming. Why all this dream talk? Well, I came across this very interesting article looking at gamers and dreaming. The study that found that playing video games before bedtime may give people an unusual level of awareness and control in their dreams. The researcher, Jayne Gackenbach said:

"Gamers are used to controlling their game environments, so that can translate into dreams."

Gackenbach found parallels between lucid dreamers and gamers in that both groups had better spatial skills and were able to achieve higher levels of concentration and focus. She made a very interesting point in saying that both lucid dreams and video games are forms of alternate realities, though one is the result of a biological process and the other technological.

Gackenbach found that frequent gamers were more likely to have lucid dreams than non-gamers. Furthermore, the gamers showed dream control, or the power to actively influence their dream worlds. A second study showed that while gamers did have some level of control over their dream worlds, the control was limited to their dream selves, as if controlling a video game character.

Now in terms of nightmares, this researcher found that gamers wielded this control to fighting nightmares as well:

"What happens with gamers is that something inexplicable happens. They don't run away, they turn and fight back. They're more aggressive than the norms."

What she found was that a scary nightmare scenario was more likely to be turned into something "fun" for a gamer. Gackenbach is looking to use this sort of information to see if she can apply it to victims of post-traumatic stress disorder, a symptom of which is often terrifying dreams. Perhaps video games can help control PTSD?

I think that I tend to not remember my dreams as much if I am playing WoW right up until I go to sleep. If I give myself a bit more time to decompress, I remember more dreams. And I can't remember the last time I had a real, genuine nightmare, but very interesting to think that my experience with gaming may help me control them more.

I wonder if my dreams are any different after a night of 5v5 arena action vs raiding vs generally just putzing around?


  1. Veeery interesting. I know I have some control over my dreams, but I hadn't considered it a by-product of gaming, in spite of evidence given to me in my own dreams: like action buttons to enable certain powers... like flight, back when I was playing City of Heroes.

    I have been able to fly in my dreams since high school, when a friend told me she could fly in hers; a couple weeks later, I managed it, too. It was a "swimming" like effect, reminiscent of swimming underwater in so many games.

    I can also shapeshift in my dreams, most often into a wolf (which doesn't directly correlate to a game I've played)... haven't been a tree yet, though ;)

  2. The endless mobs spawning behind me and attacking my crying healer are NOT a fun scenario! NO! Please stop attacking my healer, and why is my taunt missing so much and I seem to be slowed and go god it's as if we are endlessly wiping without dying.

  3. You know...I don't think that I remember a lot of my dreams. However, I sometimes do have dreams that wake me up, at it's always to the sensation of falling. Always.

    However, I tend to sleep really poorly and frequently wake up any number of times in the middle of the night. To the point that I've considered some sleep studies to try and resolve it.

    Perhaps my poor sleep effects my dreams, or lack thereof?

    Although...apparently I DO talk in my sleep, I must be dreaming then, no? I have been advised that one night to kept hollering at Brade to "Use the fireball!". Beats me what was on my mind! =)

  4. Roasting marshmallows with your guildie mages, imo, Beru!

  5. Me too.. me too...
    I bore people to tears with my dreams, I've never tried interpreting though :)
    I have also shared a dream with someone seeing his holiday through his eyes! (somewhere I had never been and didn't recognise and happened to mention because he and another friend were in it)
    I know people who say they fly effortlessly but it's hard work when I do it.
    My parents found me once at the top of the stairs with the door open shouting *wait for me* (I was asleep)
    and I do the serial dreaming too - continuing one night with a bit of overlap from the previous.

    The connection to gaming is very interesting.. but maybe gamers just have good imagination, with lots coming from pen n paper backgrounds?

    Sorry for long comment, I find this fascinating :)

  6. A couple years ago my husband and I got on the subject of dreams, and he was shocked to find out that nearly all my dreams were lucid, and that I remembered them. As I hadn't realized it was uncommon, he hadn't realized people could control dreams without training! (Scientific research and whatnot)

    Great article, now I'm just waiting for him to connect the dots that I control my dreams and maybe it is related to why I am actually better at WoW and RPGs in general than him... don't know if its true, but that'll make for a fun discussion tonight!

  7. Hee, I've had 2 intense WoW-related dreams that I can recall... the first was a couple of years ago... it featured Kayeri in the Black Temple... her group is exitting through a mage portal, but something goes wrong, and all of a sudden she's facing Illidan and his council, all alone...

    I woke thinking, "Crap, how do I get her OUT of there?" ::chuckle::

    The second was just a couple of months ago... I had just read Gwynhwyfar(sp?), the White Spirit, by Mercedes Lackey... Well, my dreaming mind took the last section, "Queen", dropped it into WoW, and featured my warlock being told she has to marry the King of Stormwind for the good of the kingdom, but neither he nor she is really enthused about the idea... ::chuckling more::

    So yes, your dreaming mind can do STRANGE things to your toons.... :)

  8. @Kae: OMG lawl about seeing action bars and shapeshifting in your dreams. I bet you the flying/swimming effect is very similar to being in the portals for Dreamwalker!

    @Klep: Aw, I think its cute that your nightmare is your healer being attacked. :)

    @Beru: Well they say that everyone dreams, but that a lot of people don't remember them. I do think we can train ourselves to try to remember them more.

    And I think Kae is right on her theory of why you were saying use the fireball!

    @Issy: Oh, I definitely find the subject of dreams and our subconscious fascinating as well. And that is incredible you "shared" a dream with someone else!!!

    @Glacey: Wow, nearly all your dreams are lucid! I really found the comment the researcher made about both gaming and dreams being forms of an alternate reality very fascinating. Yeah, is there a connection with being a lucid dreamer and a strong gamer? Hmmm...

    @Kayeri: lol! I actually don't dream about WoW as much as I think I would. I do think this game and the events within it can expand our imaginations, which could carry over into our dreams.

    With your Illidan dream... it may have been a nightmare for someone else, but perhaps for you as a dreamer, your first instinct was to try to solve the situation instead of just freaking out. Sorta like what the researcher said around how gamers can better control nightmares?

  9. I dreamt I was in Candyland, and I surrounded by Chocolate Bars, and Marshmallows. I was so hungry I ate a Marshmallow.

    Next morning I didn't have a pillow

  10. @River: lol.

    I love that I can always count on you and Klep, my fellow Chicago bloggers, to come up with comments that crack me up.