How do games shape your dreams?

Have you ever found yourself in a particularly dangerous condition, perhaps surrounded by enemy soldiers - with mortars flying everywhere - in a situation that demands quick action? Or perhaps you've been transported to a fantastic-colored Middle Ages, chased by a dragon as an old stone bridge crumbles beneath your feet.

This looks like a game, of course. But it could also be a dream, no? The most curious thing, however, is that, according to some researchers, the difference between the two situations is not that great - insofar as both refer to 'alternative realities'.

Moreover, which is equally curious, inveterate video game players tend to have a somewhat different dream life when compared to people who are little or absolutely unaffected by electronic entertainment. According to psychologist Jayne Gachenbach, for example, hardcore gamers often develop more bizarre dreams - full of monstrosities and absurd situations.

But not only that. Grant MacEwan, a researcher at Canadian University, also found that such bizarre dreams are often reflected in a more creative (waking) waking life - as the “dragon slayer” may see everyday life as another scenario to be overcome. .

"The biggest parallel between games and dreams is that in both cases you have to deal with a different reality, whether it's the biologically or technologically built environment around you, " Gachenbach said in an interview with The Verge. “It's interesting to think about how these alternate realities translate into conscious life when you're actually reacting to real-world impressions.” That if you're really hardcore is true.

Hardcore Dreams

The findings mentioned came from a multiyear survey. As revealed in an interview with The Verge, Gackenbach came up with the idea of ​​probing the nightlife of gamers after his son, Teace (with whom he co-wrote a gaming book later), having discovered the pleasures of the good Super Nintendo in the early 1990s. nineteen ninety.

However, it is convenient to characterize what was considered by the researcher as “hardcore gambling”. Basically, you are an inveterate player who plays "more than two hours a day" several days a week, preferably from an early age. According to this criterion, the psychologist eventually conducted an experiment with several volunteers, and then came to several conclusions.

In general, constant gambling seems to affect the way imagery is formed during dreams. And it can appear in a good night's sleep in many ways.

Lucid dreams and spatial perception

In a recent issue of Dreaming magazine, Gackenbach published a rather curious hypothesis. She and other university colleagues have found a considerable link between hardcore gambling and the frequency of so-called “lucid dreaming” - those she remembers in greater detail and most of all if she has the feeling that she can “control” the way things are done. develop.

The survey was conducted in 2006, with 125 participants, including players and non-players. But the frequency of lucid dreaming also revealed another particularity. Both the spatial organization and the ability to stay focused turned out to be much more pronounced among inveterate game players.

Research conducted by psychologists Peter Frensch and Lynn Okagaki showed that volunteers who played Tetris for 30 minutes before a spatial perception test fared considerably better than those who had not.

1st or 3rd person dreams

Here is another curious feature: inveterate players tend to carry into their dreams the perspectives they become accustomed to during matches - usually in 1st person (where the camera represents the eyes of the player) or 3rd person (with the camera in position). shoulders or running parallel to the character).

"Players already know what it's like to be in control of an alternate reality, " Gackenbach told the vehicle. “So it is reasonable for them to realize, 'Hey! I'm in a dream ', and also that they can handle the situation. ”What's more, some players actually claim to be able to“ switch between cameras ”during dreams.

Nightmares don't scare me!

For most people, the occurrence of a particularly unpleasant dream is more than enough reason to interrupt sleep - usually agitated and drenched with sweat. Well, but it seems that passionate players also have more "fiber" at those times.

Of course, this is not exactly that. In fact, as Gackenbach has revealed, regular players are usually more used to dealing with adverse situations - even finding pleasure in them! As a result, a fire-breathing monster may be more an invitation to wield the sword than to run off from Lash.

A curiosity, however, is that the fact was observed predominantly in male players. According to the psychologist, this is possibly a relationship with the particular way women socialize. Moreover, it may also be about the equally unique way in which the social “microcosm” is arranged among male players.

Tetris effect

The term “Tetris effect” was first used in 1994 in an article by Jeffrey Goldsmith entitled “This is your brain with Tetris”. Originally, it was the curious effects that Tetris's inveterate gambling — that ubiquitous little game of falling blocks across the screen — could generate in players' minds, though the idea can easily be applied to virtually any electronic entertainment.

Reproduction / Wikimedia Commons

“No home was sweet enough in 1990 without a Game Boy, ” wrote Goldsmith. He continues:

“That year, I went to spend a week with a friend in Tokyo, and Tetris ended up enslaving my brain. At night geometric shapes emerged from the darkness as I lay on my borrowed tatami mat. During the day I would sit on the couch and play Tetris furiously. During the rare ride, I would fit cars, trees and people visually (...). ”

For the author, it is a “biochemical effect”, a “reductionist metaphor” for curiosity, invention and creative urgency. “Fitting in forms is organizing, building, making choices, arranging and understanding.”

Dreams and trauma prevention

And yes, this unique effect can also be experienced during dreams. There are reports of players repeatedly dreaming of tetraminos - figures made of four identical squares - falling in front of their eyes. But some conclusions make it even more curious.

A study published in Oxford in 2009 suggests that playing Tetris - and related games - helps prevent the formation of traumatic memories. According to the researchers, if a “game-based treatment” is applied shortly after a potentially traumatic event, mindfulness of shapes, fittings, and tactics helps prevent the mind from reciting traumatic images, the so-called flashbacks.

A training for the real world

It seems reasonable to bet, therefore, that the way games affect dreams is also, to a large extent, the way they affect a player's entire behavior. As Gackenbach recalls, however, there is still the obvious limitation that has always permeated the whole study of dream life: one cannot directly visualize a dream, and one must be content with reports of volunteers.

In any case, it seems to be a consensus among several researchers that maintaining alternative realities - whether in games or in dreams - serves as a kind of training for waking life. That way, you don't have to be scared the next time you dream of monsters or polygonal pieces falling off the ceiling. It is just your brain organizing and enjoying your experiences.