A recent study suggests that video game players could have the power to alter their nightmares, turning the tide on the things that go bump in our subconscious minds. We are the Dream Warriors.
Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at Grant MacEwan University in Canada, thinks that gamers might have the power to alter their dreams.
Gackenbach's main area of study used to be lucid dreams - dreams where the dreamer watches from outside of their own body. 3rd-person dreams, if you will.
Her studies veered towards video games in the 90's, after she watched her son repeatedly kiss the box of a new Nintendo console on the way home from the store. Something that makes perfect sense to any gamer seemed strange to an outsider, and so she shifted her studies to incorporate gaming, perhaps as a way to cope with her son kissing cardboard boxes.
As she studied past research on video games, Gackenbach began to see parallels between lucid dreamers and gamers. Both groups have better spatial skills, for instance, and are better at coping with motion sickness. Both are able to achieve high levels of concentration and focus.
Both lucid dreams and video games are forms of alternate realities, though one is the result of a biological process and the other technological.
"If you're spending hours a day in a virtual reality, if nothing else it's practice," said Gackenbach... "Gamers are used to controlling their game environments, so that can translate into dreams."
Gackenbach further explored the relationship between lucid dreams and video games in a series of two studies published in 2006. The first surveyed a group of hardcore gamers and a group of non-gamers, with results suggesting that frequent gamers were more likely to have lucid dreams than non-gamers. Furthermore, the dreaming gamers evidenced dream control, the power to actively influence their dream worlds.
The power to control dreams!
The second study, conducted to narrow down information from the first, showed that while gamers did have control over their dream worlds, the control was limited to their dream selves, as if controlling a video game character.
They also tend to flip between first and third-person view.
If gamers could control dreams, what about nightmares?
Gackenbach explored that question with a new study in 2008. Using a group of 35 males and 63 females, she studied threat levels gleaned from after-dream reports. The results indicated that not only gamers experienced lower threat levels in their dreams, they also experienced reverse threat simulation, where the dreamer turns the tide of the nightmare, becoming an even bigger threat.
"What happens with gamers is that something inexplicable happens," Gackenbach explained. "They don't run away, they turn and fight back. They're more aggressive than the norms."
In our dreams we are fearless. In our dreams we are also particularly brutal, unafraid to bring a little bit of the old ultra-violence to bear against the nightmare nasties.
"If you look at the actual overall amount of aggression, gamers have less aggression in dreams," Gackenbach said. "But when they're aggressive, oh boy, they go off the top."
See? We're totally dream warriors.
Gackenbach hopes to use the information she's gleaned from studying gamers' reactions to nightmares to see if she can apply it to victims of post-traumatic stress disorder, a symptom of which is usually terrifying dreams. Could video games help control PTSD? That's what she aims to find out.
She's also studying the effect violent games have on dreams, based on ratings given by the ESRB.
Whatever her results show, I'm sure the video game dream warriors will be able to handle whatever their subconscious doles out.