Joseph Campbell believes that an engagement with the hero archetype is an essential part of our existence and that “if we happen not to be heroes in the grand sense of redeeming society we have to take that journey ourselves, spiritually, psychologically inside us,” (Campbell & Moyers, 1993, p. track 4).
The main theme of most role playing (& first person shooter) games takes the form of the Hero’s Journey and there is even a video game with that title! Players take on the role of a hero/anti-hero and venture from safe grounds into unknown or dangerous territories to engage monstrous resistance and complete quests. After gaining experience and fortune, the players return to the safe lands with the new knowledge, wisdom and spoils of their adventure. These game environments are rich in archetypal imagery and storylines that facilitate a reenactment of the Hero’s Journey, and unlike TV, cinema or literature, the user is the main character choosing his/her own path through the adventure. Molina, 2009
It can be argued, as per Jung,that the need to engage in our internal mythologies or archetypes may be greater in modern societies, since there is a lost common ground. Early days of humanity actively lived their archetypes through shared ritual, dreams and spiritualities.
In modern times, there may be a vacuum for this which is being addressed in part by gaming. This game trailer brings home the mythological qualities so often found in todays video games.
When combined with enhanced mythic-archetypal content, which is a common development with more long term stabilized lucidity, this gives many lucid dreams a striking similarity to accounts of shamanistic vision-trance and the “big” or sacred dreams of tribal societies. These were crucial in confirming a directly felt sense of a shared or collective social reality (Hunt, 1989).
That gaming is more popular in Asian societies (i.e., Korea, Japan, China) makes sense along these lines since these are already collectivist societies, so while modernizing and also losing their traditions, they have a more accurate attunement to the social bases of these traditions and so are more ready to engage them in new forms through gaming. Thus much gaming is done in “Bangs” (computer cafes) in Korea and as publicly attended competition.
But so too in the west the LAN (when groups of gamers bring their hardware together in one real world location to create a “local area network”) is a widely popular way to game, and indeed much gaming is social in that it is online and for groups to share simultaneously. Here is an example of two in my hometown. The first is Fragapalooza which attracts about 700 gamers from all over western Canada and the second is my basement!Thus games are actually already set up as a collective social field in which contact with the sense of the numinous and mythological are explicit and thus can be socially engaged.
Here are the Concepts to be Examined regarding theLucid Dream - Video Game Play connection:Dream Bizarreness Cognition in dreamsHall and Van de Castle Content analysis All three are discussed in a paper which is under editorial consideration (Gackenbach, Hunt & Dopko, 2010)
In our lab we have typically defined the Hard Core Gamer as one who:Plays video games on average several times a weekWhose Typical playing session is more than 2 hoursWho has Played 50 or more video games over your lifetimeAnd who has been playing video games since grade three or earlierAdditionally, we are increasingly considering point of view game preferences? The importance of this variable became very clear in research on mindfulness and gaming and is being presented in our poster at this conference.
Hunt notes that what we now call dream “bizarreness” was central to traditional “dream centered” tribal societies. For instance, a central Alberta Cree woman I worked with for years was identified by her tribe as their dreamer at age 3 due to her dream of a white wolf.
In one of our earliest studies we found more dead or imaginary characters appearing in dream reports of hard core gamers (21% vs 0%) using the Hall and VandeCastle content analysis system. We have replicated this finding several times.
Here is an example of a dream coded high in dead or imaginary characters. Push audio button
Because of this finding we undertook two studies examining gaming and dream bizarreness.In both dream content analysis for bizarreness was conducted using the system developed by Revonsuo and Salmivalli (1995). Itdistinguishes between types of bizarreness. In two studies hard core gamers were found to have more bizarre dreams and in one we controlled for day before media use as a possible explanation. Here we are examining the Lucid-Gaming Bizarreness Associations
In this factor analysis there are three types of variables: gaming, dream type, and dream bizarreness. Gaming is entered both as history of game play (sum of z-scores of frequency of play, length of play, number of games played and age begun playing) and as day before the dream game play. Dreamers were asked to identify if the dream was lucid, had a third person perspective (observer) and controlablity. Finally subscales from the Revonsuo and Salmivalli scale were entered. It can be seen that gaming was associated with and without lucidity-control but with lucidity-control you have bizarreness. Thus the notion of gaming as mythological re-enactment is supported at a deeply unconscious level.
As just seen in the bizarreness study, in several studies, with increasing methodological sophistication, Lucid/control dreams and gaming have been found to be associated. Here is an example – push audio button
In terms of Video game Play video games are technologically constructed alternative realitiesIn terms of Lucid/control dreamsDream worlds are biologically constructed alternative realitiesVideo gaming has been associated with improved spatial skillsLucid dreamers show better spatial skillsLow motion sickness needed to play a lotLucid dreamers have better vestibular systems thus they are not as susceptible to motion sicknessHigh attention and absorption is reported by players and researchersMeditation is highly associated with lucidity and can be viewed as training in developing one pointed attention/absorption
So the question becomes, is the association between lucid dreaming and video game play self selected? Well yes and no. To be a serious player you need to not suffer motion sicknessAlmost all children through to young adults play some form these days and indeed I’ve spoken to gamers who are susceptible to motion sickness and they say they prefer games that do not bring it on.For serious game play spatial skills are an advantageSpatial skills improve with play if not to the extent of those with a gaming historyMost games of serious players cater to boysGirl games are being developed and is a large growing market and the largest gaming market now is the casual gaming market which is dominated by middle aged women!Those who are able to get absorbed should do betterAttention/absorption improve with play but again not to the extent of those with a long history of play
Video gaming is one of the fastest growing entertainment industries with revenues arguably the same as or greater than the movie industry depending on how you count.Therefore gaming is too wide spread to reduce to purely self selection.There is something enticing about being in virtual worlds and there is increasing social pressure to play.
More to the point is that it is not only gaming that is positively associated with lucidity, as can be seen from this factor analysis which came out in Dreaming last year. Pix 2: All electronic media use was so associated but especially interactive media use and a history of game play.
As I just mentioned we are beginning to consider that point of view (or POV) may be an important component in trying to understand the dreams of gamers. This is a particularly dramatic example which asks the question “Is this detachment or practice from gaming?”PICTURE 1: This is a dream from a Male hard core gamer who had played from 4 to 7 hours the day before this dream and had watched several violent cartoonsThe games he played were first person shooters includingHalf-Life 2 and Halo 3.What is interesting about the first person POV games is that they do NOT always allow a third person perspective.BUT the real self is actually in third person while playing a first person shooter and thus hours of being in that perspective may have helped to mediate this dream. Here is his DREAM:I was in a desert. I looked bad, dusty. I saw my tiny silhouette against a large sun, meaning I was watching myself, in 3rd person. While I looked bad I didn't feel bad. I was indifferent to the "my" feelings. I came upon a carnival, but it gets sketchy at that point. Eventually I'm driving a car, again not at a real POV (point of view), but following behind the car. It didn't matter to me that I was crashing into other cars or walls. My car caught fire, I saw it melt from within. I died not trying to escape. (Subject #27)
This gamer reported an interesting detachment from the dream events:As the car was burning I opened the door and leaned out to leave but made the decision to stay inside instead because I was curious to see what I would look like burning alive. While I felt the heat, smelt the smoke, I didn't feel any pain. I felt detached from the feelings, but recognized that they were my own. He also reported that it wasnot a nightmare, he was not scared, but the dream was violentFinally he reported that the dream was NOT lucid and that he had no control over it but I wonder?This is noteworthy because it echoes the descriptions of witnessing dreams that previous research has found among meditators with the same observing but uninvolved emotional reaction.
When asked “did you feel any emotions during the experiences?” he commented:Sort of. I knew what the person I saw as myself felt, but didn't share those feelings. Throughout the emotions of disgust, loneliness, or excitement were all ones I thought best fit the "character" of myself based on the situation.Then he was asked “Did you think about what you were doing?” and he wrote:I was constantly thinking about my every move, making sure that whatever I did was in my best interest. If anything was off-putting (the carnival owner, the desert) I simply moved on.Then he replied to this question “Did you think about what was happening around you?” by saying:I was constantly analyzing my surroundings...At the city where I drove my car, I noticed the simplicity of the environment, which seemed to be constructed out of simple polygons. Obviously that was a video game environment, much like Grand Theft Auto.
That subject was part of a study where we administered the Meta-cognitive, Affective, Cognitive Experience Questionnaire (MACE). It was developed/adapted by Tracey Kahan (1996). The MACE focuses on cognitive elements to the dream and their relationship to waking. The question we are asking is: When gaming is associated with lucidity, what other metacognitive elements in the dream are present?This data was taken from Gackenbach & Kuruvilla (2008) but has not been previously reported upon.
This is a principle component factor analysis loading history of gaming (frequency, length, number of games, and age began playing) converted to z-scores and added. Also loaded was the number of hours gaming on the day before the dream. Three self report dream type questions and finally the items from the MACE were entered.Here you see that gaming is associated with the three dream type variables of interest herein and with internal commentary, reflecting upon ones own thoughts and feelings and NOT being thwarted in their intention in the dream.
This young man was identified as a high end gamer played 3 to 5 hours of two games the day before the dream. Pix 1: Guitar Hero and Pix 2: Halo (both 1st person POV) Pix 3: He also watchedpaint ball videos on You Tube the previous day. He dreamt:I had a dream that I was playing paintball with my brother (he is shorter than me at 5'9 and was dressed in his paintball gear) It was a very pleasant dream. Pix 4: My brother and I had to play a team of paintballers that was like a thousand of them on the two of us. They couldn't seem to hit us though. We shot all on them. Pix 5: I felt really happy and victorious. (Subject #39).He identified this dream as lucid and that he had control of the dream egoOn the MACE 1. he said he commented to himself, “I said "Holy Shit this isn't good”2. he did not experience any difficulty accomplishing the task
MACE ConclusionsIt appears that gaming can add a dimension to the lucid dream such that its full potential for focused problem solving is possible. It may be that lucid dreams of gamers are more like waking cognition than other dreams.
In order to further delve into the lucidity/gamer relationship let’s now turn our attention to a content analysis of Lucid vsNonlucid Dreams of Gamers from 4 Previous Studies. We used the Hall & Van de Castle Content Analysis system. While not as many female as male dreams nor as many lucid as nonlucid dreams still there is enough to consider if there are differences WITHIN GAMERS between their lucid and their nonlucid dreams.
Using Schneider and Domhoff’s SAT spreadsheet, we found that lucid dreams for gamers were more aggressive than their nonlucid dreams. The settings were less familiar. There was less self negativity with more general success and dreamer involved success. Finally there was more sexual elements in these gamers dreams. In short, these are the differences one would expect with lucid-control dreaming, in which lucid dreams deliberately tend toward an overall much more positive dream atmosphere. Although there was no differences in dream types in dream emotions that reached significance. The one apparent exception is the higher physical aggression in lucid than in non-lucid dreams of gamers. However, given the otherwise positive dream experience, it is likely that the gamers themselves view their often consciously deliberate aggression in these lucid dreams positively, much as they do in gaming.
Video Game Play and Lucid Dreaming as Socially Constructed Meditative Absorption Jayne Gackenbach & Harry Hunt Grant MacEwan University, Brock University Paper presented at Towards a Science of Consciousness, Tucson,AZ April, 2010
Lucid Dreams and Video Game Game Play: Concepts Examined Bizarreness Cognition in dreams Hall and Van de Castle Content analysis All three in paper under editorial consideration Gackenbach, Hunt & Dopko, 2010
Myth as Dream Bizarreness What we now call “bizarreness” was central to traditional “dream centered” tribal societies (Hunt, 1989).
Significant Differences from Male Norms More dead or imaginary characters appearing in dream reports (21% vs 0%). Why be human in a game? They have fewer powers than other types of creatures.
Dead or Imaginary Characters Subject 001- Dream 11 “I dreamt I was a character is Underworld 2, it was a werewolf character and then I became a 3rd person. It was the two main characters, it was the vampire girl and a hybrid werewolf character”
Gaming and Dream Bizarreness Dream content analysis for bizarreness was conducted using the system developed by Revonsuo and Salmivalli (1995). distinguishes between types of bizarreness. In two studies hard core gamers more bizarre dreams Lucid-Gaming Bizarreness Associations
Factor Analysis on Game Play, Lucid Related Dream & Bizarreness Variables Gaming with and without lucidity-control but with lucidity-control you have bizarreness
Lucid – Control Dreams & Gaming Subject #014: Lucidity triggered by an event Michael: Well, once Jean Grey (a marvel comic and video game character) got loose and started killing people, I was like this is really weird this is probably a dream and it was like right after that she showed up and I told myself that I need to wake up. I thought that something bad was supposed to happen and I didn’t want it to happen so I should wake up. Gackenbach, 2006, 2009a, b; & Kurvilla, 2008; Gackenbach, et al. (2009).
Parallels Video Gaming/Lucidity Video game Play video games technologically constructed alternative realities Video gaming has been associated with improved spatial skills Low motion sickness needed to play a lot High attention & absorption reported by players and researchers Lucid/control dreams Dream worldsbiologically constructed alternative realities Lucid dreamers show better spatial skills Lucid dreamers have better vestibular systems (not susceptible to motion sickness) Meditation is highly associated with lucidity and is training in developing one pointed attention/absorption
Is the Lucidity – Video Game Play Association Self Selection? Yes To be a serious player you need to not suffer motion sickness For serious game play spatial skills are an advantage Most games of serious players cater to boys Those who are able to get absorbed should do better No Almost all children through to young adults play some form these days Spatial skills improve with play Girl games are being developed and is a large growing market Attention/absorption improve with play
Bottom Line Gaming is too wide spread to reduce to purely self selection There is something enticing about being in virtual worlds There is increasing social pressure to play Percent growth in US 2006-2007
Last night, rested dreams, N = 152 Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis.
Drilling Down Further Explorations of the Lucid/control and Video Game Playing Association
The Importance of Point of ViewIs it detachment or practice from gaming?
Importance of Point of View (POV) Gamer reported an interesting detachment from the dream events: As the car was burning I opened the door and leaned out to leave but made the decision to stay inside instead because I was curious to see what I would look like burning alive. While I felt the heat, smelt the smoke, I didn't feel any pain. I felt detached from the feelings, but recognized that they were my own. (Subject #28) He also reported not a nightmare, not scared, but it was violent NOT lucid and no control (I wonder?) This is noteworthy because it echoes the descriptions of witnessing dreams that previous research has found among meditators with the same observing but uninvolved emotional reaction (Mason et al., 1995; Gackenbach & Bosveld, 1989).
Importance of Point of View (POV) Emotions Sort of. I knew what the person I saw as myself felt, but didn't share those feelings. Throughout the emotions of disgust, loneliness, or excitement were all ones I thought best fit the "character" of myself based on the situation. Thinking about actions I was constantly thinking about my every move, making sure that whatever I did was in my best interest. If anything was off-putting (the carnival owner, the desert) I simply moved on. Thinking about surroundings I was constantly analyzing my surroundings... At the city where I drove my car, I noticed the simplicity of the environment, which seemed to be constructed out of simple polygons. Obviously that was a video game environment, much like Grand Theft Auto.
Meta-cognitive, Affective, Cognitive Experience Questionnaire (MACE) Developed/adapted by Kahan (1996) MACE focuses on cognitive elements to the dream and their relationship to waking Question: When gaming is associated with lucidity what other metacognitive elements in the dream are present? From Gackenbach & Kuruvilla (2008)
MACE Conclusions It appears that gaming can add a dimension to the lucid dream such that its full potential for focused problem solving is possible. It may be that lucid dreams of gamers are more like waking cognition than other dreams.
Hall & Van de Castle Content Analysis of Lucid vsNonlucid Dreams of Gamers from 4 Previous Studies
Gamer – Lucidity Conclusions Bizarreness Gaming & lucidity/control associated with dream bizarreness and supports the mythic fulfilling function of gaming in consciousness Cognitive element Gaming & Lucidity associated with some metacognition enhancements HVDC content analysis lucid dreams of gamers tend toward an overall much more positive dream atmosphere.
Implications Can video game play be viewed as a type of meditation with some of the same outcomes? Gackenbach, J.I. (2008). Video game play and consciousness development: A transpersonal perspective. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 40(1), 60-87. Lucidity is very often experienced in various meditators and indeed is valued by them The comparison of lucid dreams as a function of gaming suggests that gaming improves the already largely positive lucid dreaming effects