Video Game Play and Lucid Dreaming as Socially Constructed Meditative Absorption
Jayne Gackenbach and Harry T. Hunt
Grant MacEwan University, Brock University
Absorption, fantasy play, lucid dreaming, and dream bizarreness/metaphority are psychological constructs. Their relation to gaming (Gackenbach, 2006; 2009; Gackenbach et al., in press) raises a more general level of analysis. We consider the placement of gaming in the social nature of consciousness as explanatory vehicle. Often the collective societal nature of higher states of consciousness, and absorptive states generally, is missed by westerners, given our values of heightened autonomy and extreme individualism, whereas in fact similar states in traditional tribal societies, guided by their explicit mythological systems, are what held these societies together in the sense of Durkeim’s collectivity of consciousness (Hunt, 1995; Turner & Whitehead, 2008). We propose that gaming serves some of the same societal function in today’s youth as explicit mythological systems have in indigenous cultures. For us, unwittingly as a rule, these states experienced in gaming are a spontaneous reengagement with that level of collectivity from a place of our individual conscious isolation in highly differentiated and pluralistic modern culture.
In this paper we explore research which has shown that video game players report more lucid dreams than those who rarely game (Gackenbach, 2006; 2009) which appears to be mitigated by a type of meditative absorption. The lucid dream/video game connection is examined from three perspectives: lucidity as meta-cognition, lucidity and dream bizarreness, and lucid-nonlucid differences in general dream content for hard core gamers. It appears that gaming adds a dimension to the lucid dreams of gamers such that their full potential for focused problem solving is expressed very much like the strategies of video gaming. The enhanced bizarreness of lucid-gamer associated dreams may also serve as a trigger for the emergence of their increased lucidity. The exotic-mythic element of the lucid bizarre dreams of gamers (Gackenbach et al, in press) is similar to previous research on the archetypal content in dreams (Hunt, 1989). Finally, by comparing the lucid versus non-lucid dreams of gamers, it was concluded that lucidity in gamer’s dreams emphasized the already generally positive dream experience of being lucid in sleep, including the enhanced aggression which facilitated the sense of empowerment also typical in video game playing. Not only is there more lucidity in gamer’s dreams, but that lucidity seems to be further enhanced by the gaming experience.
To be absorbed in consciousness, be it in lucid dreams, intense fantasy or meditation is also to be absorbed in the social field more deeply than is available in ordinary consciousness. Since consciousness itself is collective already, and the high absorber is entering the level provided in traditional times by externalized ritual and myth, gaming offers those in contemporary western individualistic society much the same function. Specifically it is an externalized absorptive consciousness with provided patterns that are accordingly socially structured, simultaneously shared, and so offering some of the support of tribal societies, which individual high absorbers in the west have lost in their only ostensibly “private” lucid dreams and meditations.