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Video Game Play as Nightmare Protection Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D. Grant MacEwan University & Athabasca University Thanks to Evelyn Ellerman, Christie Hall,

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Presentation on theme: "Video Game Play as Nightmare Protection Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D. Grant MacEwan University & Athabasca University Thanks to Evelyn Ellerman, Christie Hall,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Video Game Play as Nightmare Protection Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D. Grant MacEwan University & Athabasca University Thanks to Evelyn Ellerman, Christie Hall, Katherine Wisniewski, & Mary-Lynn Ferguson for their help on this project

2 Why are dreams important? Rich history across most cultures Royal road to the unconscious – Freud – While opened up dreams as important, he also pathologized them With discovery of REM sleep and the sleep laboratory, dreams entered science While not local only to REM, those that are most recalled and most often puzzled about are typically REM dreams

3 Dreams are Brain at Work While “Off-line” Like a computer which is not in use thus no input (i.e., keyboard, scan, etc) yet CPU still at work During sleep the brain is off line, no sensory input, but lots of processing of information ongoing

4 Why are dreams important? Function of dreams increasingly clear – Evolutionary threat/play (Revonsuo; Humphrey) – Emotional Regulation, especially negative emotions (Kramer; Nielsen; Zadra) – Memory integration & consolidation (Stickgold) – Problem-solving, creative inspiration (Barrett) – Metacognition (LaBerge; Kahan; Kahn) All this serves personal and interpersonal needs if shared and processed but need not be as dreams still do their ‘job’

5 Media saturated society – Video game play represents the most immersive and interactive media experience Isn’t it all just incorporation? – Yes gamers dream about games – And no, Why study gamers dreams? Gamers dreams may show fundamental structural differences in their dreams

6 Presence in Games and Dreams Dreams have been called the “gold standard” for presence (sense of being there) in VR and games (Revonsuo; Moller & Barbera) Never measured until now (Gackenbach & Rosie, 2010) – Presence sum scores from game and dream resulted in FEW DIFFERENCES between sense of being there while playing a video game and being there in a dream – High End Gamers

7 Gamer Generally Defined in Research Program Play video games on average several times a week Play video games on average several times a week Typical playing session more than 1 or 2 hours Typical playing session more than 1 or 2 hours Played 50 or more video games over your lifetime Played 50 or more video games over your lifetime Been playing video games since early grade school Been playing video games since early grade school Type of Game Preferred only considered in latest studies, seemed to make no difference 5 years ago

8 Dream Dimensions Examined Lucid and Control Dreams Bizarreness and Creativity Nightmares (Threat Simulation)

9 Control Dreaming 2= rarely 3= sometimes

10 Lucid Dreaming 2= rarely 3= sometimes

11 Gamer Sample Lucid/Control Dream Subject #014: Lucidity triggered by an event Well, once Jean Grey (a marvel comic and video game character) got loose and started killing people, I was like this is really weird this is probably a dream and it was like right after that she showed up and I told myself that I need to wake up. I thought that something bad was supposed to happen and I didn’t want it to happen so I should wake up. Gackenbach, 2006, 2009a, b; & Kurvilla, 2008; Gackenbach, et al. (2009).

12 Original Dream Content Analysis Hall &Van de Castle Coding System Frequency equals intensity High inter-rater reliability Well developed norms Categories pertinent to waking concerns Those that lead to further research were: characters, aggression and misfortune. 27 gamers 56 dreams male norms 27 gamers 56 dreams male norms

13 Key Differences from Male Norms More dead or imaginary characters appearing in dream reports (21% vs 0%). Fewer Misfortunes (7% vs 36%) Smaller number of dreams with aggression (32% vs 47%) Yet more intense aggression (namely physical aggression, 86% vs 50%) when it happened

14 Nightmares vs Bad Dreams Norms Dream Content NormsNightmares (N=170)Bad Dreams (N=276) Physical Aggression30.6% 15.8% Interpersonal Conflict18.8%35% Nightmares are more intensified versions of bad dreams The main distinction is that nightmares cause the dreamer to awaken (Zadra)

15 Threat Simulation Theory Dreaming is an adaptive process with an evolutionary foundation (Revonsuo, 2000). Dreaming allows us to simulate threatening situations in the safety of a virtual environment of dreams. Continued practice would allow an individual to better prepare for these possibly dangerous instances, were they to arise in the waking world Could waking practice (video game play) also serve the same evolutionary function?

16 Nightmares & Threat Simulation Online Questionnaires night before dreams only 98 participants/dreams Threatening content NOT associated with gaming but rather with TV/movies watched prior to sleep

17 Dreams of Gamers in the Military 377 individuals entered the survey First set of questions were screening: (Yes) – Play video games – In the military (1/3 lost) – 18 years or older – High School education Reply No to these questions (in last 6 months): – been diagnosed with a mental disorder – tried to commit suicide – perform risky behaviors without particular concern for your mortality – addicted to alcohol or drugs

18 Demographics (98 got through screening) 92% male Average age 32 years 80% some post secondary education 53% single 75% Caucasian 59% US military 76% enlisted 70% on active duty 60% Army 64% had been deployed

19 Video Game Group Definition Based on Frequency of Play (High=daily/weekly; Low=monthly/yearly/rarely) All questions significantly different as a function of gamer group video game groups*N Mean/label Std. Dev. How long is your typical playing session? High /2-4 hours Low /1-2 hours.831 How many different video games in any format have you played to date? High / games Low /20-50 games1.457 How old were you when you played your first video game? High /grade Low /grade * all significantly different

20 Current Favorite Game Genre GenreHigh End GamersLow End Gamers FPS23/39%10/48% MMORPG19/32%0/0% Other “hard core” Genre (i.e., strategy, simulation, adventure, fighting) 15/25%4/19% Driving/Sport2/3%1/5% Casual0/0%6/29% 96% 67%

21 Just Played a Video Game Prior to Filling Out the Survey Were you playing a video game in the six hours prior to filling out this questionnaire? High Gamers Low Gamers Yes 331 No 3019 Games Playing Most: World Of Warcraft tourchlight Red Dead Redemption Prototype Perpetuum Modern Warfare 2 mass effect Madden 2011 Games Playing Second Most: The Arena Starfleet Commander Star Trek Online Red Dead Redemtion NCAA Football 2011 marvel ultimate alliance 2 Mafia Wars Ink Ball Halo 3 fear 2 Combat Arms Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 Battlefield Bad Company 2 Baseball 2k10 Arma2 OA All points bulletin Age of Conan ACE2 Modern Warfare Mod =

22 Soldiers Comment About Games Played while Deployed comment on an article he had read about our research: – I would see many Soldiers, in combat, with PSPs or anything we could hook up to 220v electricity. When Soldiers weren't on patrol, we often had violent war games on our systems. It was weird. Like we didn't get enough violence.

23 Other Gamer Group Differences Demographic VariableHighLowx2x2 Sex 1.Male 2.Female P <.0001 Education 1.High school 2.Some post secondary other than college/univ 3.Some college/bachelors degree 4.Advanced Degree P<.001 Marital Statusns Race/ethnic backgroundns Military DemographicHighLowX2X2 Country of military service a.United States b.Canada c.Other ns Military pay grade a.Enlisted b.Officer c.Other d.Does not apply p<.04 Service componentns Branch of servicens Occupational category while in the military ns 58%86% 59%86%

24 Military Deployment/Combat There were no gamer group differences in – Were you, or are you, deployed while serving in the military? – Any combat experience – Witnessed others being wounded or killed – Discharged a weapon – Felt in great danger of being wounded – Was wounded – Felt in great danger of being killed

25 Review and Theoretical Conceptualization of the Nightmare Literature Levin and Nielsen (2007; 2009) point out in their model that nightmares occur due to: – affect load, that is situational events like interpersonal conflict, trauma, etc. (both long term and recent) – affect distress, dispositional traits which may be genetic or due to life history like attachments issues or unresolved trauma – interact to result in the experience of a nightmare.

26 To determine if gaming effects nightmares have to control for affect load and distress Covariates for those that reported dreams – Affect Distress: Emotional Reactivity and Numbing Scale (ERNS) (Gamer group differences) 5 subscale scores (positive, sad*, general, anger*, fear*) * low gamers were higher on these scales than high gamers – Affect Load (no Gamer group differences) Sum of Traumas from lifetime Sum of combat experiences Deployment

27 Three Dream Content Analysis Threat Simulation (Revonsuo & Valli, 2000) War Content (Wilmer, 1996) Lucid/Control Content (Gackenbach, et al., 2009)

28 Statistical Analysis Gamer Group (high/low) x Dream Type (recent/military) ANCOVA’s with 5 emotionality (ERNS) subscales and 3 trauma experience covariates on: – Threat Simulation Scales – War dream content Subscales – Lucidity/control Subscales

29 Nature of Threat (1= no harm, 2= nonagg harm, 3= agg harm) Military Dream Recent Dream HighLow

30 Low threat, military dream, high gamer I occasionally have dreams (maybe once ever one to two months) wherein I dream about re-enlisting in the military. It typically involves personal reflection on me wearing the uniform again. Sometimes I'm in a unit I was actually in, other times I'm in a new unit. Generally, the dreams aren't very stressful, other than feelings of...I guess regret over abandoning the current career path I'm on. (Subject #125)

31 high threat, military dream, low gamer I couldn't find my rifle and something was chasing me. I searched the entire forest until I did find my weapon. As i turned around to shoot what was hunting me - the trigger felt like it was a 1,000 lbs trigger pull. The rounds I was shooting were delayed and where not hitting where I was aiming. (Subject #21)

32 high threat, military dream, high gamer This was an actual incident that happened in 2003 but a dream I have very often. I am always going from being myself in the dream to watching it like a movie and it bounces like that trough out the dream. im on a knee outside of a building in the middle of a road watching a truck burn and Marines looking for cover or running for the entrance to the building gate. My friend is on a knee at the gate entrance pushing guys through the gate and into the building complex. He is wounded on the right side of his face.... There are men shooting at me from the end of the hall of pillars and i am trying to use the pillars as cover to get closer to them. Then i am outside in a different court yard and looking out at building roof tops as rounds hit the ground in front of me... Then i was back in the building with several prisoners and Marines we are trying to keep them still and yelling for them to stop talking there are 2 children there crying and yelling I remember getting the chills and then woke up. (Subject # 89)

33 In reaction to threat, does self participate? no yes Military Dream Recent Dream HighLow

34 Wilmer’s War Content describes the dreams of [316] Vietnam veterans about war Categories – Actual war dreams – Plausible war dreams – Ordinary Nightmares Coding Motif’s Under attack, War/battle, The dead, Firefights, Killing women and children*, Killing enemy, Killing Buddies, Captured, Somewhere in war/battle, Being wounded, Chase and running, Home, Being killed, Animals, Decapitation, Looming danger, Shot down, Atrocities/ mutilation, Return to war/battle

35 Sum of all Coding War Motifs Military Dream Recent Dream HighLow

36 High War Content; Military Dream, Low Gamer I was in a near a huge concrete bunker (like one I had seen in Iraq) and someone began firing a rifle at me from above. I couldn't see exactly where it was coming from, so I ran for cover. It followed me, though, and I was afraid it was going to catch up with me and kill me. But I felt like I was being slowed down, like I couldn't run as fast as I should have been able to. As I tried to find cover, I don't think I got hit, but it was very close a few times. Then I woke up. (Subject #76)

37 Types of Nightmares “Actual” catastrophic dreams: Characteristically these are terrifying vivid nightmares of the actual event “Variable” catastrophic dreams: Are plausible sequences of war event that could realistically have happened, but as far as we know did not actually happened ‘hallucinatory” catastrophic dreams: Are ordinary nightmares, but there is a constant relation to specific impactful event (e.g. War)

38 Category x dream type and x gamer group Wilmer: With therapy nightmare dream types moved from Actual to Ordinary

39 Plausible, Low Gamer, Military Dream My military dream occurs when im on deployment. i am securing an airport trying to get forgien nationalist out when a group of militia comes up and wants to get in. When they figure out they cant get by they get mad and be head a civilian and all i can do is watch. (Subject #210)

40 Lucid/Control Content No difference in gamer group or dream type High Gamer, recent dream: – my laptop and computer had been stolen, and I couldn't locate them. I talked to the police and did a search, but nothing came up. I was starting to feel panicky and scared about losing my computers and the data on them, and then I remember thinking "Wait, its ok, I'll just wake up since this is a dream"

41 Is this typical? I am currently in Iraq. I just read an article on video games and dream. I'm a huge videogamer, and I've always wondered why I never have nightmares... they all ways seem so fun to me!

42 But then there is this…… My name is ……, 30 army vet who has served in Iraq, I’m an avid gamer, meditate heavily and have experienced vivid dreaming most of my life, I do suffer mild PTSD and wonder if I can contribute in any way with this study.

43 Comments on Gaming in the Military from a soldier who games and counsels other soldiers I was involved with solving or counseling my soldiers on their stress, personal issues, family, peers, and even their level of professionalism. the soldiers that did game (both male and female) were quicker to task and also faster at pointing out things to make more efficient. – I had one soldier that played World of Warcraft with his fiance and it was during this period he is able to talk and connect with her, they were participating with each other which helped their relationship a great deal. I have so many soldiers that went over seas and became videogame players due to the work tempo and stress. Meaning that by the end of the tour there were more videogame players in many cases that was the only way they could 'escape' from each other and the worries of home. From what I've seen gaming just First Person Shooters didn't make my soldiers shoot better, it made them better at identifying potential dangers and where to look at for snipers.

44 Take Away Points Gaming may act as an inoculation against some of the negative experiences of nightmares – This could be a result of habituation or numbing due to exposure to violence in games Nightmares can re-traumatize the dreamer thus minimizing their effect is important. Dreams reflect a unconscious level so waking ego defence of Macho posturing does not intrude


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