Gamers are better at dreaming

2 min read

Nightmare on elm

You know that dream where you survive the zombie apocalypse, then die and become a zombie and start killing other people? Oh no wait, that was the vs game of L4D2 last night. Even if it was a dream, new research says that gamers are more likely to have lucid dreams – and we aren’t as afraid of nightmares.

Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at Canada’s Grant MacEwan University, has done extensive research into the impact of video games on dreaming. She draws an interesting parallel:

The major parallel between gaming and dreaming is that, in both instances, you’re in an alternate reality, whether a biological construct or a technological one. It’s interesting to think about how these alternate realities translate to waking consciousness, when you are actually reacting to inputs from the real world.

Gackenbach found that hardcore gamers were more likely to experience lucid dreams; for the uninitiated, this means that gamers are more likely to become aware they are dreaming and take control of the experience. These lucid dreamers are even able to toggle between first and third-person perspective in their dreams. Why is this important?

gamers and lucid dreamers both displayed traits like intense focus and superior spatial awareness in their waking lives

Well, we all knew that, right? Gaming improves reflexes, awareness and focus. So we are actually leveling up as human beings by playing games. Ding!

I love the part about nightmares, though. Apparently gamers, particularly male gamers, are able to take control and sometimes even enjoy unpleasant dreams. Rather than waking up in a cold sweat, gamers carry on sleeping. Putting this in perspective, nightmares are often seen as an evolutionary mechanism to train us to deal with threats before we encounter them in real life. Gackenbach argues that maybe games are removing the evolutionary need for nightmares and their emotional responses – we are already experiencing that training in game.

Finally, Gackenbach also noted that gamers tend to have more bizarre dreams, including impossible scenarios, than their non-gaming peers. Such off-the-wall dreams have already been linked to enhanced creative output in waking life. You guessed it – gaming also makes us more creative in the real world.

That’s all the excuse I need. So, the next time people argue with you that gaming doesn’t do anything, tell them about the increased focus and spatial awareness, defense against nightmares and more creativity. This really makes me wonder why gaming isn’t compulsory for everyone – it’s our best chance at evolving as a species. I know, that sounds crazy, but a girl can dream, right?

Last Updated: January 22, 2014

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. You can read more of my words over at, or just follow me on all the social networks to get the true range of my sarcasm and wit.

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