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The Relationship of Video Game Play to Dreams and Other Related Consciousness Forms. Jayne Gackenbach Grant MacEwan College & Saybrook Graduate School Powerpoint presentation posted online at My Interest in Video Games. My son’s 20 th birthday party.

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the relationship of video game play to dreams and other related consciousness forms

The Relationship of Video Game Play to Dreams and Other Related Consciousness Forms

Jayne Gackenbach

Grant MacEwan College

& Saybrook Graduate School

Powerpoint presentation posted online at

my interest in video games

My Interest in Video Games

My son’s 20th birthday party

video games industry
Video Games Industry
  • Larger than the movie industry


  • 8 to 14 year olds
    • 60+% played over an hour a day
    • largest playing group is mid-teens to mid-twenties


Grant MacEwan College, Nov. 2004

video game play downside
Video Game Play Downside


Self selection factors like personality

Situational factors like poverty

Distinction between fantasy and reality

Self reflection

Anderson & Dill (2000)

video game play cognitive upside
Video Game Play Cognitive Upside
  • choice reaction time
  • spatial relations ability
  • spatial visualization
  • perceptual speed
  • scientific problem solving skills
  • intelligence
  • reason inductively and deductively
  • reason metacognitively
  • reflective decision making

Hendersen, 2005

technology and cognition
Technology and Cognition
  • Broadly conceptualize technology
    • “building of artifacts or procedures — tools- to help people accomplish their goals”
  • Long influence on human development.
  • What’s commonplace to one generation were created through a great intellectual struggle by the previous generation.
  • Tool use is both amplifier of human action and transformative of human mind.
  • Video gaming
    • “Actively navigate through representational space”
    • To date media exposure has been largely a passive, observer experience

Sternberg and Preiss (2005). Intelligence and Technology: The Impact of Tools on the Nature and Development of Human Abilities

video game play consciousness
Video Game Play & Consciousness
  • Topics to be covered:
    • Attention
    • Presence
    • Psychological Absorption
    • Flow
    • Five Research Studies (1998-2006)
      • Dreams
      • Consciousness
  • Attentional resources measured by Flanker compatibility task.
  • Participants were asked to decide whether a square or a diamond appeared within one of the six rings (target task)
  • Difference in target processing speed between compatible and incompatible trials. This difference, also called the ‘compatibility effect’
  • Measures the attentional resources available to the participant.
  • Video Game Players (VGPs) show compatibility effects at task difficulties for which attentional resources are usually exhausted in None Video Game Players (NVGPs)

Green & Bavelier, 2003


attention improvements with training on video games
the group trained on an action video game improved significantly more from

their pre-test scores than did the control group trained on a non-action video game

Attention Improvements with Training on Video Games
  • Story vs. No Story in first person shooters
  • When story present, game players felt greater identification, sense of presence, and physiological arousal.

Schneider, Lang, Shin, & Bradley, 2004

Halo 2

This Spartan Life

In game real time interviews

Production staff has to lay down cover fire for host during interviews.

psychological absorption
Psychological Absorption
  • Similar to presence
  • Capacity for absorption can be thought of as a capacity for total attentional involvement
  • Rapid absorption into games was rated as highly important by gamers (Wood, Griffiths, Chappell, and Davies, 2004)
  • Some subjects reported experiences during video game play indicative of altered states of consciousness (e.g., drifting, flying or changes in visual or auditory perception) (Glicksohn and Avnon, 1997)
  • Csikszentmihalyi (1988)
    • experience of optimal fulfillment and engagement
    • happiness
    • continual challenge to go beyond oneself as part of something greater than one's own self-interest
  • Positive relationship between video game play and the experience of flow (Voiskounsky, Mitina, and Avetisova, 2004; Chou and Ting, 2003; and Choi and Kim, 2004)
reality virtual and otherwise
Reality: Virtual and Otherwise
  • Waking reality is a mental construction
  • Virtual reality is a mediated construction
  • Dream and altered state realities are alternative constructions
video game incorporation into sleep
Video Game Incorporation into Sleep
  • A-Percentage of reports collected before sleep onset (wake) and after sleep onset (sleep) that contained either images of Tetris (solid bars) or thought of Tetris without images (open bars).
  • B-Percentage of reports collected after sleep onset that contained either images of Tetris (solid circles) or thoughts of Tetris without images (open circles).

Stickgold, Malia, Maguire, Roddenberry, & O’Connor, 2000

video games dreams research
Video Games & Dreams Research
  • Recognize fragments or characters from the video games in the material of children’s dreams & thus video games used in child therapy (Bertolini & Nissim, 2002)
summary of hypothesis
Summary of Hypothesis
  • Understanding of our sense of self in the world is a construction of input variables while awake
  • Dreaming is another such construction with a somewhat different set of input variables than those experienced while awake.
  • Virtual reality (VR) offers yet another set of input variables similar to waking in that the person is awake yet similar to dreaming in that it is “not real” but constructed – but constructed in this case by technology
  • One of the areas where we see extensive practice in VR is video game playing
  • It may well be that practice in VR would translate into more accurate state recognition in dreams as well as control of dreams and other related experiences?
consciousness tucson 1998
& Consciousness: Tucson 1998
  • Frequency of nightmares, night terrors, and mystical experiences, playing with others, playing fewer games, and nausea reactions seem to reflect a negative state
  • lucid dreaming frequency, plays days / week, length of play session, number of games, and nausea sensations seem to reflect a positive state
  • Based on 90 subjects

Gackenbach & Preston, 1998

2004 in class data collection demographics
2004 In Class Data Collection: Demographics
  • 377 students at Grant MacEwan College
  • 15 groups of 10 to 40 from November 19th to the 26th of 2004
  • 119 were male and 234 were female, 24 did not indicate their gender
  • 88% were 19to 25 years of age
  • 97% were students in psychology or sociology classes

Gackenbach, in press

video game player groups
Video Game Player Groups
  • Identified by four video game questions
    • frequency of play
    • length of play
    • age begun play (younger start given higher score)
    • number of types of games played
  • Video game sum scores were split into three groups of players; high, medium and low/no history of video game play
ancova on dream variables
ANCOVA on Dream Variables
  • Independent
    • Video Game Groups (low, medium, high)
  • Covariates (high video game players less)
    • motion sickness sum F(2, 312)= 4.895; p = .008
    • dream recall frequency F(2,327)= 2.977, p = .052
    • High video game players had less motion sickness and dream recall
      • Research shows that individuals who report more motion sickness symptoms in VR report less presence than those who report fewer symptoms (Witmer & Singer, 1998).
control dreaming
Control Dreaming



2= rarely

F(4,299)=3.610, p=.007).

lucid dreaming
Lucid Dreaming



2= rarely

F(4,299)=7.857, p<.0001

observer dreams
Observer Dreams



2= rarely

F(4,299)=3.39, p=.010

video game players quotes
Video Game Players Quotes
  • "I don't always remember my dreams when I wake up," … "When I do, though, they're extremely lucid."
  • "I've had lots of dreams where I've seen it in first and third person," … "It's like, 'Oh, wow, now I'm a player in Halo.' “
  • "You almost zone out," … "Your mind just goes on autopilot and you just become one with the system ... . Sometimes, you can't believe the moves you're making."

McLean, 2005


2004 Online Data Collection

  • “Psychological Research on the Net”
  • 351 completed questionnaire
    • demographic information
    • video game habits
    • dream/sleep experiences
    • consciousness habits and experiences
    • Self-Transcendence subscale

Gackenbach, in press


Dream ANCOVA’s

  • Nonsignificant dream variables
    • lucid dreams
    • observer dreams
    • control dreams
    • archetypal dreams
    • REM paralysis
  • Marginally significant dream variables
    • nightmares, (F(5,245)=2.119, p=.064)
    • night terrors, (F(5,245)=1.907, p=.094)
    • high video game players had fewer than the other two groups.

Ceiling Effect Confirmed

video game groups = sum of z scores of frequency of play, length of play, age begun play, number of types of games

2005 new online data preliminary analysis
2005 New Online Data (preliminary analysis)
  • Independent variable = upper (frequent) and lower (infrequent) thirds of sum of video game variables (i.e., frequency play, length play, length last play, number games played, years playing) converted to z scores
    • Covariates dream recall and motion sickness sum
    • Positive: (in general frequent more than infrequent)
      • Lucid (frequent>infrequent)
      • Observe (frequent>infrequent)
      • Control – ns
      • Video game (frequent>infrequent)
      • spiritual dreams – ns
    • Negative: (in general but marginal frequent LESS than infrequent)
      • nightmares – ns
      • night terrors – approaches (frequent < infrequent)
      • REM paralysis - ns

Gackenbach & Reiter, 2005

2006 gamer interviews n 30
2006 Gamer Interviews (n=30)
  • Play video games on average several times a week
  • Typical playing session more than 2 hours
  • Been playing video games since before grade three
  • Played 50 or more video games over your lifetime

Gackenbach, 2006

2006 gamer interviews
2006 Gamer Interviews
  • Lucid Dreams - Common
    • Don’t find it remarkable
    • Don’t think to do anything with it when in the dream
  • Controlling Dreams - Never
    • Just their dream self
  • Observing Dreams - Common
    • Flip in and out of first and third person
    • Not the calm detachment of witnessing
2004 in class mystical items f 3 280 3 8 p 011
2004 In Class Mystical ItemsF(3,280)=3.8, p=.011

Other Consciousness Variables

Absorption F(3,280)=.733, ns

2004 online data
2004 Online Data

20 selected items from Self-Transcendence subscale of the Temperment and Character Inventory

Motion sickness and meditation as covariates

No video game playing group differences

absolute values of mystical absorption item subscales
Absolute Values of Mystical & Absorption Item Subscales


Strongly Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly

Disagree Agree

In class data

Absorption – no group differences

For online data absorption items significantly higher than mystical items

Moderate Video Game Players

Low Video Game Players

High Video Game Players

2005 preliminary flow during video game play
2005 Preliminary Flow During Video Game Play
  • Control for motion sickness sum
    • addiction – ns
    • salience – approaches (frequent>infrequent)
    • concentration – approached (frequent>infrequent)
    • playfulness – ns
    • time distortion (frequent>infrequent)
    • telepresence – ns
    • exploration (frequent>infrequent)
    • flow sum (includes addiction) – approaches (frequent>infrequent)
    • flow sum without addicition – approaches but stronger (frequent>infrequent)
2006 gamer interviews38
2006 Gamer Interviews
  • Consciousness Experiences
    • Very high on absorption
      • Loss of time
      • Don’t realize anyone else there
    • Rare motion sickness
    • Identify with game character (most are role playing gamers)
    • Some still playing the game when leave the game environment
hunt s separate paths of development of consciousness model
Hunt’s Separate Paths of Development of Consciousness Model



Mystical Experiences

Fantasy Proneness

Mental Illness (some forms)

Lucid Dreaming

Absorption or Openness to Experience

All correlate at lower levels but then break out as separate skills, experiences or states of being at higher levels

Hunt (2005)


Mystical Experiences

Witnessing Dreaming

Lucid Dreaming

Fantasy Proneness

Absorption or Openness to Experience



Mental Illness (some forms)

Hierarchical Model

with either model
With either model

Technologies that facilitate movement out of the correlational bundle or up (down?) the pyramid:

  • dream recall/valuing
  • meditation
  • self awareness
  • various focused activities including
      • video game play
bottom line
Bottom Line





Presentation at


Anderson, Craig A.; Dill, Karen E. (2000). Video games and aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior in the laboratory and in life. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 78(4), 772-790.

Bertolini, Roberto; Nissim, Simona; (2002). Video games and children's imagination. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 28(3), 305-325.

Choi, D. & Kim, J. (2004). Why people continue to play online games: In search of critical design factors to increase customer loyalty to online contents. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7(1), 11-24.

Chou, T.J. & Ting, C.C. (2003). The role of flow experience in cyber-game addiction. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 6(6), 663-675.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. & Csikszentmihalyi, I. (Eds.) (1988). Optimal experience: Studies of Flow in Consciousness. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Ermi, L. & Mayra, F. (2005, June). Fundamental components of the gameplay experience: Analysing immersion. Paper presented at the biannual conference of the Digital Game Researcher Association, Vancouver, BC.

Gackenbach, J.I. (in press). Video game play and lucid dreams: implications for the development of consciousness. Dreaming.

Gackenbach, J.I. (2006). Unpublished data.

Gackenbach, J.I. & Preston, J. (1998, April). Video Game Play and the Development of Consciousness. Poster presented at the third biannual meeting of the Science of Consciousness, University of Arizona, Arizona.

Gackenbach, J.I. & Reiter, S. (2005) unpublished data.

Glicksohn, Joseph & Avnon, Michal (1997-98). Explorations in virtual reality: Absorption, cognition and altered state of consciousness. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 17(2), 141-151.


Green, C.S. & Baveller, D. (2003). Action video game modifies visual selective attention. Nature, 423, 534-537.

Henderson , Lyn (2005). Video games: A significant cognitive artifact of contemporary youth culture. Paper presented at the biannual meeting of Digital Game Researcher Association, Vancouver, BC, June, 2005.

Hunt, H. (2005, August). Personal communication.

McLean, Archie (2005, Feb. 12). Sweet dreams for gamers: Video games prompt more lucid dreams, says Grant MacEwan prof. Edmonton Journal, Retrieved Feb 12, 2005 from

Schneider, E., Lang, A., Shin, M. & Bradley, S. (2004). Death with a story how story impacts emotional, motivational, and physiological responses to first-person shooter video games. Human Communication Research, 30(3), 361-375.

Sternberg, R.J. & Preiss, D.D. (2005). Intelligence and Technology: The Impact of Tools on the Nature and Development of Human Abilities. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Stickgold R, Malia A, Maguire D, Roddenberry D, O'Connor M. (2000). Replaying the game: Hypnagogic images in normals and amnesics. Science, 290(5490), 350-353.

Voiskounsky, A.E., Mitina, O. V. & Avetisova, A. A. (2004). Playing online games: Flow experience. PsychNology Journal, 2(3), 259 - 281

Witmer, M. & Singer, B. (1998). Measuring presence in virtual environments: a presence questionnaire. Presence, 7(3), 225-240.

Wood, R.T.A., Griffiths, M.D., Chappell, D., & Davies, M.N.O. (2004). The structural characteristics of video games: A psycho-structural analysis. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7(1), 1-10.