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Video Gamers Have Power Over Their Dreams 308

Ponca City, We love you writes "Live Science reports that researchers say playing video games before bedtime may give gamers an unusual level of awareness and control in their dreams, which could provide an edge when fighting nightmares or even mental trauma. 'If you're spending hours a day in a virtual reality, if nothing else it's practice,' says Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at Grant MacEwan University in Canada, who says that hardcore gamers represent the leading edge of immersion in virtual worlds that increasingly has come to define a large part of contemporary entertainment and communication. 'Gamers are used to controlling their game environments, so that can translate into dreams.' One intriguing theory holds that dreams are a sort of threat simulation where nightmares help organisms hone their skills in a protective environment, and ideally prepare organisms for a real-life situation. To test that theory, Gackenbach conducted a study using independent assessments that coded threat levels in after-dream reports and found that gamers experienced less or even reversed threat simulation (in which the dreamer became the threatening presence), with fewer aggression dreams overall. In other words, a scary nightmare scenario turned into something 'fun' for a gamer."
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Video Gamers Have Power Over Their Dreams

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  • Pfft. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Z34107 ( 925136 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:52PM (#32353904)

    Have you ever had a dream that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?

    Other than testing the number of respawns.

    • Re:Pfft. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anne_Nonymous ( 313852 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:54PM (#32353926) Homepage Journal

      >> Other than testing the number of respawns.

      Praise Buddha for respawns!

      • by rts008 ( 812749 )

        As a Buddhist, I feel I HAVE to reply to your comment.

        HaHaHaheeHeeHoHoHo! ROFL

      • Re:Pfft. (Score:5, Funny)

        by indre1 ( 1422435 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:12PM (#32354150)
        I hate these long respawn times - you're having a great game and suddenly - woosh, it's gone, connection dropped! It takes forever to calm down and reconnect to the realm of dreams. Even when you eventually manage to, there are no dedicated servers and the maps are random, so you rarely end up playing the same good map that you got disconnected from...
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ITFishGuy ( 1820302 )
          Actually, I think it's funny someone did research on this. I was doing this before video games were around. There was this movie either in the 70's or 80's where a kid was being haunted by a real guy in an experiment with dreams. By the end of the movie the kid ends up turning the tables on the aggressor, who in the dreams was a "snakeman" that obviously scared the $#!@ out of the kid. Anyway, after that movie some time down the road in my life I started doing sort of the same thing. Falling in a dream
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Qzukk ( 229616 )

      Other than testing the number of respawns.

      Well, you can always scream for tech support. (wait, wrong movie...)

    • Re:Pfft. (Score:5, Funny)

      by hibiki_r ( 649814 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:02PM (#32354020)

      If Lawrence Fishburne is nearby wearing a trench coat, I'd close my eyes, cover my ears with my fingers, and chant: "This is a dream, the sequels don't exist" over and over like a mantra.

      • Re:Pfft. (Score:4, Funny)

        by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:17PM (#32354214) Homepage

        If Lawrence Fishburne is there wearing a trenchcoat, telling me he's not sure if I'm ready to see what he wants to show me, and trying to get me to take colorful pills, I'm going to be praying it is a Matrix-sequel dream.

        • by MRe_nl ( 306212 )

          If Lawrence Fishburne is there wearing a trench-coat, telling me he's not sure if I'm ready to see what he wants to show me, and trying to get me to take colorful pills, I'm going to look around for Gina Torres, after taking the pills.

    • Re:Pfft. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by N0Man74 ( 1620447 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:21PM (#32354262)

      I've had dreams where I wasn't sure. However, if it happens to occur to you while in a dream, there are actually certain exercises that one can do within a dream to attempt to test if you are in a dream or not.

      Usually light switches don't really work in dreams. It's hard to read in dreams, letters tend to change or look non-nonsensical; reading something and then looking away for a moment and then rereading it will usually result in the words changing completely. Looking at clocks or watches tends to be much like trying to read. Often music and songs that you hear will change from the normal version.

      There are many weird quirks in dreams that really give them away, if one has the presence of mind to actually check them, however thinking to check is the tricky part.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by beakerMeep ( 716990 )
        From what I have heard, part of learning how to lucid dream is to train yourself to check those things while you're awake. Such as testing a light switch. It may look silly, but if it becomes habit, then you can hopefully (theoretically) do it out of habit when you're dreaming, and thus realize you are dreaming. I havent tried this myself though.
        • Re:Pfft. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by bronney ( 638318 ) on Thursday May 27, 2010 @12:10AM (#32357800) Homepage

          After dreaming for 30 odd years, there're a few things that works every time:

          1. light switch. I am those anal freak and hate having a light on when the room is not in use. So even when I am awake I switch lights a lot. I flip switches when I am dreaming also but in the dreams, a on will make the light flicker, just like in Doom. That's when I know I am dreaming and it's all flying from there. I like to fly.

          2. ghosts and monsters. When I was a kid, these always scares me but now that I am pretty sure there's no ghosts, whenever I see one in a dream I usually try to have sex with "it". Then fly some more.

          3. moving my glasses. I wore glasses since I was 10, and every time I "fixed" (adjust) it on my nose, the view changes a little. You'll know what I mean if you wear one. In the dream, the view doesn't change. In fact, I've had dreams where I had no glasses and still see perfectly clear.

          4. flying. I know I can't fly. I try it in real life some time and I don't take off.

          You should read more lucid tips on the net, it's wickedly fun. Beats Duke Nukem Forever.... wait..

      • Re:Pfft. (Score:5, Funny)

        by CosmeticLobotamy ( 155360 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @07:29PM (#32355058)

        I usually just find a dream-bathroom and pee. If my thighs suddenly get really warm, it's a dream. And my girlfriend is very angry.

        • Re:Pfft. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @07:54PM (#32355362)
          I was a bed wetter (well, we all were, it was just a question of when we stopped). I would dream I was peeing, then the bed would be wet. I eventually got over it by learning to control my dreams and waking myself up (or changing my dreams and such) whenever I wanted. The problem was that I haven't slept the same since. Sometimes I'd trade being a bed wetter for the coma-like sleep I had before. Before that, I slept through anything, including falling out of bed (even falling out of bed from the top bunk) and thunderstorms that would set of car alarms. Now I can't.
          • Re:Pfft. (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Roogna ( 9643 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:28PM (#32356486)

            I had a similar issue when I was a child. A recurring nightmare though instead of wetting the bed. I'd know I was dreaming, but I wouldn't be able to wake up. I finally taught myself to instead change the dream however I liked, and in the process that taught me how to wake up. Since then though I've had the same trouble, insomnia and when I do get to sleep invariably the slightest thing will wake me up. There's been more than once I've thought I'd rather just have the stupid dream again, LOL

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by dumuzi ( 1497471 )
        In my lucid dreams I can't feel water in my mouth while drinking. Now I have a drink every time I get out of bed, if I don't feel the water in my mouth I know I am dreaming and I can take over my dream from there. Unfortunately, so far, I don't seem to be able to allow myself to break the laws of physics in my dreams, I can't fly or any other cool superhuman stuff that I want to do in my dreams. They tend to be terribly life like (boring). I also have difficulty breaking my own moral compass in my dreams, w
    • Didn't Doctor Who just do an episode on that?
    • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )

      That would explain those recurring dreams of a disfigured Jack Thompson wearing a fedora, striped sweater, and finger knives. He just doesn't want us to be prepared.

    • load times
  • Emergency *drill* (Score:3, Interesting)

    by anti-NAT ( 709310 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:53PM (#32353912) Homepage

    Not all that surprising really. We rehearse coping with dangerous situations all the time (including public speaking ;-) ), so that when they actually happen we'll be better prepared to handle them.


    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by digitig ( 1056110 )

      We rehearse coping with dangerous situations all the time (including public speaking ;-) )

      Sure, but naked?

  • by Rooked_One ( 591287 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:54PM (#32353916) Journal
    I learned to fly... it makes nightmares non-existent as I know i'm sleeping, and just "neo" away from whatever is bothering me... Pretty fun stuff - this will sound utterly retarded, but I once flew so fast and so far that I broke through space and met two odd green creatures who were looking down at the universe within a globe. I don't remember our conversation. Doh.

    But the key is to become aware that you are dreaming, and that you *can* do anything... It eliminates nightmares.
    • I found the easiest way to become aware you are dreaming is to walk somewhere, or flick a light switch. If it takes you only a few moments to go down the block or across the city, or the lightswitch behaves oddly, you are dreaming.

      • In my case, when I'm walking and it feels like each of my legs weighs as much as a Mini Cooper so I can't hardly walk, I know I'm dreaming. I actually remember the first time I realized, "Hey, this isn't right! Wait, I've had this dream before..."
    • I used to do that when I was younger, but since I've been a grown up I haven't had any flying dreams...

      I could never fly very fast, but I could keep myself up in the air long enough to stay away from whoever or whatever was giving me problem. I basically jumped up and started swimming through the air. Sometimes I'd have a rest up a tree.

      • Strange! I have almost the exact same experience in my flying dreams. Getting into the air is like jumping, though sometimes I have trouble doing it at first. Once I am in the air I swim to stay up. However, at times I am able to realize that the jumping and swimming is unnecessary. Then all I have to do is think about it and I can take off with no effort at all.

        Most of my flying dreams have another recurring theme in that I talk to people I know while flying and ask them why they can't fly too.

    • :D I had a thoery of life, the universe and everything in my head when I woke up one morning. It looked like a guppy ball... gravity, light etc (and some bizzare ones like love), 3 connections to each node.

        I knew I had to write it down before my conciousness wipes it out of my head as I wake up.

      But to do this, I had to find a pen. And that meant looking. So I reached to the sideboard without looking for a pen...

      and knocked it off.

  • Not in my experience (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:54PM (#32353920) Homepage

    Usually I just end up dreaming about whatever game I was playing. That's hardly "control."

    • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:02PM (#32354028)

      You're not a true gamer until you dream of tetris blocks falling on a regular basis.

      • I've never dreamed of Tetris blocks, but I have dreamed of arrows and boulders, which constituted the major hazards of a puzzle game that I used to play.

        • I dreamed that the floor of my backyard had disappeared, and in it's place were those giant "bottomless" mushrooms from Mario 64.

      • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )
        I've been through a period of that. Also, a period of dreaming about Doom, a period of dreaming about Diablo, and a period of dreaming about Magic: The Gathering. Some of my best dreams were going into an attic and finding hundreds of ancient and valuable M:TG playing cards. Probably getting that one halfway scrambled with stories of old baseball cards, I can only guess.

        I've also had dreams about a stick-figure game I play called Kingdom of Loathing, up to and including dreams where I meet and have conve
      • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @07:11PM (#32354838) Journal

        Or worse. Being surrounded by brown 'R's and yellow 'c's.

      • I've never had Tetris dreams, but after spending 80 hours over spring break doing VLSI (what was I thinking), I did dream about being attacked by colorful rectangular geometry [] and having to make it all fit together to make it stop. Does that count?

    • by sznupi ( 719324 )

      More generally, dreams seem to have, quite often, much in common (in various weird ways...) with the thing on which we were fixated before going to sleep - and it's hard to find many examples (except for one obvious one) of people being so totally fixated on something, just before their sleep, as gamers / late night gaming zombies.

      So it doesn't seem weird at all that they will often basically continue; hence "safe" dreams & being the aggresor (around what most games revolve)

    • After playing crappy console ports my dreams had poor load times, choppy frame rate and would frequently crash.
  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:54PM (#32353928)
    I don't know about games, but last night I did an in-dream Wikipedia search on a piece of botany I encountered in a dream. It was pretty freaking weird. Very realistic too, as the wikipedia entry was quite inaccurate.
    • by sznupi ( 719324 )

      Should I be scared if things like that sometimes turn out accurate, but..."damn, I shouldn't ought to know that!"?

  • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:55PM (#32353940) Homepage Journal

    OK, so this is going to be very corny in a karate kid / Bruce Lee "Enter the Dragon" sort of way, but my nightmares of running away from aggressors while my legs turned to molasses got much better after a few years of studying martial arts. They'd still catch up with me, but then I'd have some things to give to them in return and I'd wake up feeling good rather than miserable.

    I probably don't play the right video games, but the dreams induced by L4D are mostly tedious rather than scary. Except when I spawn as the infected. Then I'm absolutely terrified.

  • by rduke15 ( 721841 ) <> on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:57PM (#32353950)

    As a teenager, I used to try controlling my dreams, and it actually sort of worked. I was sometimes able, in my dream, to realize it's a dream and decide about stuff happening in it, or decide waking up. I can't quite remember details now, but I do remember I was fascinated with all that was possible.

    Video games didn't exist at the time.

    I think this has nothing to do with video games, and everything to do with age and the mental ability and desire to experiment with stuff like that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Droce ( 1736948 )
      You're not very good with logic are you, mate? They say gaming helps, plenty of people can do without it. I have lucid dreams all the time and I've been gaming for 10 years. Not everyone who can control dreams play games, but a disproportional amount of people who play games can control their dreams, according to the article.
    • by Tolkien ( 664315 )

      Given the opportunity, I like to take advantage of my dreams.

      You know that show where all the main characters have assorted super powers? The name escapes me, but that chinese dude can stop time and basically be anywhere he wants in the blink of an eye, even doing stuff while time is stopped. I like to take that to the very naughty extreme.. All those women in the streets and nobody to stop you from taking a peek or copping a feel. Hell, even running around heavily trafficked streets completely in the buff

    • Video games didn't exist at the time.

      Wow, you're old. [] Go back to sleep and control some more dreams, grandpa.

  • by N0Man74 ( 1620447 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @05:58PM (#32353960)

    I admit that gaming and gaming themes have many times infiltrated my dreams. I remember a couple years ago I had an odd dream where there were zombies or something in them, and in the dream I was able to fight them off using powers similar to those of Paladins in games.

    However, was I better prepared to handle this strange dream because of the influence of gaming, or did I dream about zombies in the first place because of games and horror films?

    Secondly, if dreams are like scenarios that our brain plays out to practice dealing with threats, does that mean that those who immerse themselves in worlds of fantasy in science fiction entertainment (either in the form of television, movies, or games) to the point that they seep into their dreams end up training their brain to practice running through scenarios that are in reality a waste of the brain's time to consider?

    Well... a waste up until the zombie apocalypse actually occurs, of course.

    • by ChinggisK ( 1133009 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @07:29PM (#32355068)

      I was able to fight them off using powers similar to those of Paladins in games.

      Bubble->Hearth, eh?

    • Secondly, if dreams are like scenarios that our brain plays out to practice dealing with threats, does that mean that those who immerse themselves in worlds of fantasy in science fiction entertainment (either in the form of television, movies, or games) to the point that they seep into their dreams end up training their brain to practice running through scenarios that are in reality a waste of the brain's time to consider?

      Well... a waste up until the zombie apocalypse actually occurs, of course.

      My initial guess would be no, they are not a waste of time. I used to play Everquest quite a lot, and I did have dreams about it. However, what I noticed was that the dreams still involved practical problem solving, or basic fear/survival dreams, or leadership dreams, etc..

      Despite the content being fantasy, the human/human interactions and social cooperation elements were based on what you'd find in other situations in the real world.

      The brain doesn't really work on generating exact solutions for all prob

  • by clinko ( 232501 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:06PM (#32354066) Journal

    Dream world of the past:
    Unicorns & Fairies

    Dream world of the future (or Present):
    Unlimited Minerals & Vespene Gas

  • by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:07PM (#32354074) Homepage
    Based on my experience dabbling with online FPS play, most of the gamers would sooner die that admit they 'felt threatened' by anything other than their Moms. And usually they will express such bravado while throwing in a few random epithets for good measure.

    I wonder if the researchers had dream reports like 'Whatever dumbass. Only fags are afraid of dreams you noob. Don't be such a bitch you fag.'
    • Those researchers have a thankless job. They're always getting called "spectators" and blamed for the "fucking goddamn lag".
  • Yup. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:08PM (#32354092)

    Been a lucid dreamer [] ever since I started playing video games, around 20 years. It changes the nature of nightmares - when dreams are a story you're telling yourself, there's a certain point where you can just go "OK this is too far, it's my turn." The nature of nightmares then becomes indefinite fears, overcoming anxious situations gracefully (or not), and fear of the consequence of one's own actions, as these are fears one cannot just turn the tables on, even if one knows they are fake.

    I find this alteration of nightmares is actually much better than the usual boogeyman/hunted dreams in adapting one for modern life. Facing anxiety is a much more important limitation than just getting hurt or hiding from a malicious force - desensitizing yourself to indefinite fears is much more adaptive than desensitizing yourself to monsters or gore.

    Also, the expectation of 'fun' from exploration of the unknown is a much better expectation for modern things than it used to be. It really opens up one to learn more than a fear-based experience would be. It's part of why I love to see games being developed - the expansion of people's expectations, the expansion of experience in more people's minds. Books have offered a lot of that - but the exploration has always been new ideas exposed, as opposed to the true sense of open discovery.

    Games aren't all good, of course, but I think this is a widely ignored benefit to the mindset that games allow to exist.

    Ryan Fenton

    • I used to lucid dream all the time, till I tried to manifest something so scary I couldn't control it one night. I only get to lucid dream about once every two weeks now, but that also might be attributed to my lack of gaming, as I've made a severe drop in the amount I'd play.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ACS Solver ( 1068112 )

      I've had lucid dreams even before reading about the concept. I didn't realize initially that it's a phenomenon unknown too many people, I really thought it's common. Anecdotally, yes, I'd agree that I tend to experience more lucid dreams in periods when I'm playing some first-person games.

      Something I want to ask though is, are nightmares that common in most people? I see lucid dreaming being mentioned as "nightmare relief" and whatnot. That stuff is rare for me. I have a "bad dream" - which is when I have a

    • At least until dreams stop giving you conventional nightmares, like unskippable cutscenes, psychological trauma, herds of lolcats...

  • So that settles the debate: simulated violence is good for you.

    Obviously that applies at least as much to sex. Right?

    • You wouldn't believe how good an Orgasm can be when you control it from your subconscious. It's unlike anything else ever experienced.

  • by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:11PM (#32354144)

    "dreams are a sort of threat simulation where nightmares help organisms hone their skills"

    When I was in college, I used to dream in c++. God damn segfaults got me every time.

  • well this is strange then, I don't remember playing strip-poker.

  • by Wowlapalooza ( 1339989 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @06:14PM (#32354180)

    As a gamer, I've discovered that not only can I control my dreams, but I've actually found several cheat codes that have allowed me to fulfill those dreams in real life. Example: I can cast fireballs from my fingertips in real life, so don't piss me off, ok?

    Ob. Pet Peeve: (mis)characterizing all computer games with a rich video element as "videogames". Is WoW, for example, really a "video" game? Is the video the main point of playing the game, the thing that keeps people grinding away at for 30 hours a week or more, for years of their lives? I don't think so. The video component of the game isn't even close to being photorealistic, nor does it try to be...

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      What part of "video games" do you take to mean "photorealistic"? It's a medium, not a style.

    • > Is WoW, for example, really a "video" game?

      No, because it has no clearly defined "win" nor "lose" state; hence a toy. MMORPGs are the fast-food junk-candy dumbed-down version of real games.

      I've shipped games on DS, PS1, PS2, PC, Wii. What have you "gone gold" on?

  • E.G. Last Night (Score:2, Interesting)

    I had something very much like this happen to me last night. Before going to sleep I had been playing World of Goo as well a dose of the latest Pokemon game (MANCHILD ALERT). I remember my dream last night had something to do with me blowing out the tires on my new car and basically making a wreck of the whole machine. What I ALSO remember is explicitly telling myself, mid-dream, that "Oh well, at least it's just a dream. But it sucks that I have to deal with this wreck until I wake up."

    Direct causation? No

    • by Tolkien ( 664315 )

      Note to Riddler: Next time, imagine a naked female mechanic magically fixing your truck instantaneously. Invite her back to your place and order a pizza, whereby the pizza-delivery girl shows up at your door step....

  • "Live Science reports that researchers say that playing video games before bedtime may give gamers an unusual level of awareness and control in their dreams which could provide an edge when fighting nightmares or even mental trauma."

    yeah... and it also provides the ability to get laid!! =D

  • While video games are good at allowing people fight off nightmares, is there any correlation between playing video games just before bed and having nightmares? Also, makes you wonder, how does this state of awareness in the dream world affect your actual sleep. I would think it would make REM and a good night's rest more difficult to achieve. But of course that's just a thought.
    • Well, theoretically, if you could control your dream, you'd be able to hold on to it longer, so while the effects may or may not be diminished by the altered state of awareness, you'd get greater benefit from the extended period.

      And as for a correlation between playing video games and having nightmares, probably not. The more I've played video games, the *fewer* nightmares I've had. So, I'd say it's more likely that just like most things in psychology, the effects depend on the exact individual.

  • This article screams out for an xkcd strip!

  • I was taking control of my dreams long before I ever saw a video game. I don't think I was much older than four or five the first time I did it. While having a nightmare, I realized I was dreaming and said "No! I'm going to wake up now!" And I did. This wasn't a difficult skill to master and I think most people should be capable of it. Video games might provide a context for your dreams that make them easier to recognize as dreams, but I don't think playing them is what makes someone able to take control ov
  • Holy Shit! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by twidarkling ( 1537077 ) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @08:25PM (#32355752)

    I participated in that study! I volunteered for an interview/question period. I was even co-interviewed with Jane by a reporter. That was about... must have been about 3 years ago, since it was after my first year at MacEwan, but before my placement. It's kind of mindblowing to me that she's now publishing results and moving to a new level with the study.

  • Live Science reports that researchers say that playing video games before bedtime may give gamers an unusual level of awareness and control in their dreams which could provide an edge when fighting nightmares or even mental trauma.

    It's a good thing my throat was filled with only reefer smoke as I read that, instead of that big ass glass of chocolate milk, cause you'd have owed me a monitor AND a Model M.

  • While I have been a lucid dreamer since age four, I never expected the depth I got out of it during my teen years.

    I had a girl named Katie living inside my dreams. Generic cute-girl name aside, she was certainly unique, being rather unlike myself. My waking life was for working on my craft while my dream life was for play. And oh hell did we ever play.

    The surprising thing was how authentic the simulation turned out to be.

    Time dilation is a wonderful thing when you can make a half-hour REM cycle seem like

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker