I often talk about my research into gaming and dreams in all of my classes and from time to time I get a discussion post from a student that seems to really capture the essence of our research. This one from Chase Stubbs in my Psychology of Consciousness class is the most recent example. He writes;
I have been a gamer for almost as long as I can remember but I had no idea that the amount of time I spent playing video games would have an effect on my dreams. Even after we discussed the effects videogame play can have on dreams in class I didn’t think much on it, as I don’t usually remember much of my dreams. However, shortly after the discussion on videogame play and dreams I had a vivid dream that fit most of the characteristics of gamer’s dreams we had discussed in class.
To put the dream in context I had been watched the first Resident Evil movie the week before I had the dream, and had played a bit of Destiny that night. Both of those stimuli were strongly represented in my dream. As the dream began I was walking down a corridor, which was reminiscent of a part of a map in destiny, with a rifle in my hands and a few people around me. I wasn’t seeing through my own eyes though I was above and behind the Me that was in the dream, the same as many third person shooters. In class we had discussed how the third person perspective is something more often seen in high level gamers. As we emerged from the hall way we walked into a large room with several doors leading in.
When my group got to the middle of the room zombies started pouring out of the dark doorways at us, not unlike when enemies spawn from openings in Destiny. At this point in the dream I probably should have been pretty afraid, massive waves of creepy zombies coming at you kind of scary. But there was no fear. Just preparedness, like when you are waiting for an enemy wave to attack in a video game. So my group and I proceeded to gun down zombies to prevent them from getting to us. This carried on for a little while, oddly I never needed to reload. Then as the number of zombies dwindled and it looked like we would be free a new challenge emerged.
A couple of lickers, the gross monster in resident evil 1 that has the long tongue and is killed on the train out of the hive, appeared out of nowhere. These things scared the crap out of me in the movie version, so coming face to face with one should have been terrifying. But like when the zombies appeared I didn’t feel any fear. I remember thinking crap not these guys, like you would in a tough boss fight in a game. This sense of confidence and control in a dram situation that should be fear inducing, and counted as a nightmare to most, is common in people who play lots of video games. It is probably the sense of control that I was feeling at the time that prevented it from being a scary event. Had I not felt like I could deal with the monsters it would have turned the experience from one of accepting resignation, well these guys suck but if we have to kill them we have to kill them, to one of terror where I would be running in blind panic. The dream ended as I was trying to kill the lickers.
This is an interesting demonstration of how the stimuli I had experienced that week were represented in my dreams. And how, probably, as a result of my hobby, video games, a terrifying event was turned into an almost exhilarating one. Looking back on it this dream occurred in the middle of a slew of minor assignments and midterms, which I was largely prepared for. It is interesting to think of this particular dream as a metaphor for all of the challenges I was facing at the time. With the zombies representing all the lesser obstacles I had to overcome, minor assignments, and the lickers as the bigger ones like midterms and an essay. And the confidence I felt in dispatching the monsters being a metaphor for the confidence I felt in my performance on the assignments, essays, midterms I had finished. And the dream ending without me killing the lickers as a metaphor for the other monsters I hadn’t overcome yet, the midterms that were still to come. Sorry for rambling on a bit at the end but writing out the details and situating it in time really made that dream make a lot more sense.