Virtual Worlds And Dreamscapes

I tend to have pretty intense dreams. Somewhat arrogantly, I attributed this to being a writer. “Well, of course my dreams are intense and vivid,” I’d think smugly to myself. “Mine is a fertile and creative mind, capable of spinning entire worlds into existence.”

I might be a bit premature in patting myself on the back for my wonderful, creative mind; it turns out my vivid dreaming might just be due to the fact that I play a lot of video games:

In her most recent paper, published in the latest issue of Dreaming, Gackenbach and her colleagues further solidified a key earlier finding: that so-called “hardcore” gamers were more likely than their peers to experience lucid dreams. Gackenbach first reached that conclusion in 2006, after noting that gamers and lucid dreamers both displayed traits like intense focus and superior spatial awareness in their waking lives. Indeed, when she surveyed 125 gamers and non-gamers on the frequency with which they experienced lucid dreams, Gackenbach found a strong association between the two.

Gackenback defines “hardcore gamers” as having “regular playing sessions of more than 2 hours, several times a week, since before the third grade.” Yeah, that’d be me. I do have lucid dreams fairly often, maybe on average of 2-3 per month.

Here’s the other thing from this study that really tracks well to my own experience:

And Gackenbach’s findings don’t stop at lucid dreaming. She’s also noted in other studies that some heavy gamers seem to be non-plussed by dreams that would qualify as nightmares — namely, those that present frightening or threatening situations. In fact, gamers seem to readily take control over (and even enjoy) such unpleasant nighttime illusions. In other words, while a non-gaming person might wake up in a cold sweat, a gamer would simply carry on with their slumber.

It’s actually a bit of a relief to learn that this might explain the frequency of dreams that would qualify as nightmares as well as my typically blasé reaction to them. Again, this was long something I attributed to creativity, but if it’s due to my predilection for virtual worlds, that’s cool with me.

One thing I’m especially curious is to see what effect the upcoming Oculus Rift has on the ability for games to influence dreams. I’ve played a few tech demos on an Oculus Rift dev kit. Dread Halls was my favorite. Even though the graphics were fairly dated, it was a terrifying experience and I legitimately screamed when I saw my first monster.

The strangest part is that I now have fully formed memories of being in a place that I know doesn’t exist. I can remember moving down the hallway and peeking around the corner to check for monsters. I can remember running. It’s very much like remembering a place that exists only in a dream, except that my recollection is flawless.

I can’t wait to see what prolonged exposure does to my dreams.

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