Friday, October 19, 2012

Video Gaming and Dreams

Researcher Jayne Gackenback at Grant MacEwan University has researched the effects of gaming on sleep mentation, or dreaming. She and her colleagues (2011) examined the dreams of soldiers who play video games, in particular, they were interested in nightmare. The previous literature has shown that high waking day emotion and distress are predictors of nightmare suffering. Interestingly, soldiers who were high in gaming exhibited less threat and war content in their military dreams than those who were low-end gamers. How would this help soldiers and could this possibly be tested with other groups who suffer nightmares?

63 comments:

  1. A lot of video games allow the gamer to take the stress that they are exhibiting and put that energy into the game that they are playing.

    If you were to sit back and watch a gamer play you would see intent concentration, aggressive handling on the remote control while the game is becoming too difficult, and lack of concentration and awareness of their current surrounding/environment.

    This would be the same for soldiers; the soldiers would focus all of their negative energy and thoughts that were caused by the war into the video game. Not only does the video game allow the soldier to escape from reality; it also allows the soldier to release their tension and thoughts, which allows the soldier's dreams to exhibit less threat and war content.

    I believe that it would definitely be worth testing groups who suffer from nightmares in correlation with gaming levels. It may help groups that are suffering from nightmares to release their terrors into the game. Moreover, the gamer has control over the game which may help the gamer learn how to gain control over their nightmares subconsciously.

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    1. I agree with your response. Gamers choosing the specific type of games they play may determine how they deal with their stress (whether they realize it or not). I believe individuals who are interested in joining a career with the military would also be drawn to games involving violence. Similarly as a hockey player would enjoy playing video games of hockey.

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    2. It would also be interesting to see which type of game the solders played. Such as playing an adventure game vs a game like call of duty, which simulates combat. If they are playing games that such as call of duty, then perhaps they learn to cope with the nightmares because they believe that the images in their dreams are caused by the game and not caused by real world events. Therefore, certain games can be used along with dream therapy to treat PTSD.

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    3. I agree with your idea that gaming allows for soldiers to relocate their emotions and feelings into the game that they are playing. I think it would be interesting to find out whether or not previous exposures to gaming as well as the type of games being played. I think that this could be expanded to other subjects that are suffering from frequent nightmares.

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  2. Video games can be a helpful aid when dealing with stress and anger. People who are used to having anger episodes would be able to use video games to take that anger and any frustration out.

    This could help soilders in the aspect of coming home from war. Their nightmares would come from the experiences that they wen't through while being at war. Using different video games can allow them to take out any left aggression that they are holding onto. By letting go of the anger they can then move on to cope with any other aspect that they are struggling with.

    I definitly feel that this could help other people who are experiencing nightmares. For example if a person is having nightmares about spiders it could be beneficial to play a game in which you have to destroy the spiders, or something along hte lines of that fear related game.

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    1. I also feel that video games can help with relieving any left-over negativity and ease the soldier's mind. However, I wonder if it can work for everyone; what if someone was generally aggressive? Would a game be helpful or detrimental?
      I also wonder if someone had PTSD would the video games help them be relieved of their fears or would the game inadvertently encourage these feelings to persist?

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    2. I agree in that video games may not be beneficial for everyone. In fact, I do think in some cases like PTSD some games can have damaging effects as appose to helpful ones. I would be interested to know what type of games were being used by the soldiers who found these positive effects.

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  3. Dreams and video games is an interesting subject. I've wondered if soldiers carry feelings that are any different towards the violence in games such as "call of duty", than individuals who haven't experienced what they've been through.

    Playing a video game means having a controller; controlling the events that happen on screen without any physical repercussion. There is no threat, as it is a 'version of war' where there is no fear of death. It is certain nothing can happen to them physically, and are able to interact with a sense of confidence while dealing with the high waking day emotion predictors. They are facing their fears in a different way, but dealing with the same context of 'war and violence'. It may help soldiers overcome fear and nightmares temporarily, which opens the door for future dream research as to what can assist more permanently.

    This could definitely be tested with other groups who have nightmares, and can even broaden from video games. Instead of testing gaming specifically on various groups of people, it might be effective to test the idea that discovery of waking life events and emotions, can help an individual find a way to cope with their troubles throughout the day. This can be specific to their needs, as the activity can be anything from recreational, or a change in routine.

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  4. I think video games are beneficial in helping people free themselves from regular life. Not just by entertaining them, but by letting people do things in video games that are impossible to do in reality. I also believe (like many have already stated) that video games can help with relieving stress. Pent up feelings can be washed away when a video game lets them release these feelings through various activities provided in the game. Soldiers who played video games probably felt less threats and had fewer nightmares because the games they played allowed them to free themselves of such thoughts. It might also be that the video game (such as a war-game) allowed them to relive any negative feelings they gained from battle, and then defeat these thoughts in a non-threatening manner.
    The games might also desensitize them from any negative experiences they may have had.
    Though, I do wonder, what type of video games dud they play? Would genre have any affect on them?
    Also, I do believe these can be useful in terms of group therapy, but the game must be chosen wisely in order to relate to the nightmares better (you don't want to give a war-game to someone who suffers from nightmares about their family). I'd love to see a follow-up in which regular people were tested and if the genre of video game made any differences.

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    1. I agree, video games could be beneficial for providing those with high distress a way to relieve themselves of those stressors but the games have to be chosen carefully. The method would not be very useful if a game was given that was inappropriate to the situation.
      I also agree that the games could allow soldiers to desensitize to previously experience negative stimuli they may have encountered. If they were to be mulling over a particular situation having similar situations play out over and over again could help them reduce their anxiety to their specific situation.

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  5. For most people, especially gamers, video games are a perfect break from reality. Individuals escape into the virtual world as a mean to escape all their stressful problems in reality. Soldiers, especially those who suffer from PTSD, would most likely find it difficult to lead a normal post-war life.

    Perhaps for these soldiers as well, playing video games is a way to escape into fantasy and not deal with their lives in reality. In terms of this particular study, I am curious as to which genre of video game was used (fighting game, platform game, car racing?). Depending on the type of video games in which these soldiers were engaging themselves with, it definitely have helped reduced their stress levels and thus, decreasing the war related content of their dreams. My guess would be that these video games provided a platform for these soldiers to engage in a virtual social life, and it gives them a sense of comfort when they are able to succeed or win their games.

    I also think that virtual gaming gives soldiers the feeling of being in control of their own lives in a sense that these games allow them to choose their own characters, without having to worry of any serious consequences from becoming whoever they wish to become.
    In terms of replicating a similar study to help other groups with nightmares, I think that the genre and type of nightmare must be taken into consideration in order to gain the similar outcome of this particular study. For instance, if an individual is suffering from a constant nightmare of being in a car crash, perhaps it is best to not have this individual participate in a car racing video game. Instead, it would be a better idea to have this person play other games that does not involve cars.

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  6. I agree with some of the comments made before, video gaming can be an escape from reality for a lot of people. It is a chance to be someone else and live a different life even if it is just for a short period of time. Feelings of anger, anxiousness, upset etc could all be dealt with by playing different video games. For example a game simulating some type of fighting could help an angry person to unleash their anger through playing the game instead of in reality where they would get into a lot of trouble doing so.
    For these soldiers video gaming could be a way to escape from their day to day life which may be very stressful, video gaming could be a stress reliever for them. As mentioned above playing the video game may give the soldier a sense that they have control over something and can determine the outcomes unlike in real life as a soldier where your fate is unknown.
    This could also be tested with other people who suffer from nightmares. It would be an interesting topic of study. Different genres of video games could be selected and it could than be determined which one would have the best effect on the people suffering from nightmares as well as which one had the worst effect. Depending on the type of nightmares that the person is having different genres would most likely help more than others. It would also be important to consider that some genres of video games would possibly make nightmares worse for a person.

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  7. An increase in the playing of violent video games amongst soldiers may be helpful as it is practice for them. For example, many of the high-end gamers have likely been playing video games very often (several times per week) and for most of their lives. These games may have been violent in nature and depicting a “war- like” environment. The soldiers who have been playing these games for most of their lives may become somewhat used to the war-like environment and the actions that accompany this. Resultantly, being deployed into a military setting may not be a significant difference. If they have been practicing using a gun through gaming for several years, it may be less difficult to then use a gun in real life. In a way, the gaming has neutralized the fears that accompany entering a war-like environment. As a result, this leads to less threat and war content in their military dreams.

    I believe game use could be tested with other groups but it may not produce the same results. I believe the gaming environment must be similar to the dream content environment in which the nightmares are occurring in order to lessen the severity of nightmares experienced. Perhaps if young children are having nightmares involving monsters, facing similar monsters through gaming may decrease the threat presented during their dreaming.

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    1. I also wonder if the environment of the room where these soldiers played the video games could also affect the results. Were they playing the games back home, on a base, etc?

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    2. What an interesting point Katie! I too would like to know the answer to that...

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  9. The difference between high-end gamers and low-end gamers is very interesting. I would not expect games to provide a remedy from nightmare suffering. Perhaps one reason as to why there is a difference between nightmare suffering in high-end gamers and low-end gamers is the stress relief that the games provide. Soldiers are constantly on their toes waiting for a potential sudden attack that could cost them their lives. This stress could be the reason for nightmare suffering. It could be that the games they are playing provide them with stress relief for all the pent up anxiety they are feeling throughout the day. As they release their fear and anxiety while playing the video games they are able to relax more so then those soldiers who don't have an escape from their worries. Since high-end gamers have the ability to "let go" of the worries for a while this could cause them to feel free of these anxieties while they sleep and allow for nightmare reduction. Low-end gamers are not able to release the tension and worries and therefore they come out while they sleep as nightmares.
    This method could prove useful for those who have nightmares are usually those who have high distress or worries throughout their waking day life. Therefore, playing video games that allow them to release the distress could allow for a more restful sleep, free from nightmares.

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    1. I like your points in your arguments! I definitely haven't considered the differences between high and low-end gamers. I can most definitely see how avid gamers most likely experience a relief of stress by gaming. I also think that video games provides a platform for soldiers to escape their troublesome and stressful reality. By gaming, they are able to be retain full control of their virtual life, thus providing them a sense of authority and control in their lives.

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  10. I can definitely see the relation between high waking day emotion and distress as being a predictor of suffering with nightmares. I’m sure many soldiers suffer from nightmares because of the distress from being in war and having to deal with PTSD when they come back. I believe that the reason soldiers who were high gamers had less military dreams is because they were able to get frustration and anger out during gaming times. Some soldiers, who don’t fight in the ‘front lines’ may feel that they have less power over war situations, so gaming for them puts them in the front lines and allows them to have control over who is killed and who is saved (if they are playing war games). Other non-war games could provide relaxation and fun for the soldiers – something that might be missing from their lives since coming back from war.

    I believe the research that Gackenback and colleagues have conducted could provide a great service to soldiers. If these soldiers can get out some frustration and anger that they are aware or unaware of, I’m sure it would help them cope better with being back from war. It also gives them the ability to feel powerful, which is something that they probably did not feel when they were in war situations. This could be a stress reliever for them, and perhaps give them some insight into any anxieties they may have or be unaware of.

    It would be interesting to see if gaming could help other nightmare sufferers. I think the gaming would have to be related to the dreams that people are having though. Perhaps someone who has nightmares about assault could play a game that gives them power or strength – like a boxing game.

    I think it would also be interesting to investigate how the gaming affects people. I know that some video games make people more aggressive. So would some soldiers have the reverse affect and become more aggressive after playing certain games. For example, if a soldier was playing war videos, would that trigger negative emotions and experiences from the war? Or would it give them control and power that they didn’t have? I think investigating the difference between less violent games and violent games would be interesting. Which would help the soldiers deal with post-war life and result in refer war content related nightmares?

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    1. I had the same thought, about how games could have the opposite affect on soldiers and make them more aggressive. I definitely think that a study investigating how the content of games affects the dreams of soldiers, and if the dream quality continues to be improved even if the game has a war-based content.

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  11. It definitely makes sense to me that soldiers who are high in gaming exhibit less threat and war content in their military dreams. I wouldn't call myself a "gamer", but I have played the occasional video game and I always find that it is a great way to get out my aggression about whatever is going on in my life. I always feel a bit less stressed after playing a video game. I would assume that soldiers feel the same way, that playing a video game is a way for them to get out their excess frustration and stress, which would then improve the quality of their sleep and dreams. However, I would also assume that it could work the opposite way in certain cases. For example, playing a war-based video game could trigger bad memories for certain soldiers. Research should maybe focus on the specific content of video games, and if it has an effect on the dreams of soldiers.
    A study that examines the impact of gaming on the nightmares of non-soldiers would also be pretty interesting. Research could focus on whether or not tension relief through video games reduces nightmares, as it presumably does with soldiers.

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    1. I totally agree with what you have said. I can definitely see why soldiers would have less threat and war content in their dreams if they are using something such as video games during waking life to get rid of some of the tension and stress that they are carrying with them. I also think it would be very interesting to see if the content of the games affects this theory. It would make sense to me that soldiers, excpecially those with PTSD to have more of a negative effect from the games if they include violence and fighting. It would really be something interesting to look into.

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    2. That is one point I didn't consider! I definitely believe Liisa and Kasandra are correct in saying there would be a higher correlation of distress in soldiers/gamers with PTSD as opposed to "healthy" verteran participants.

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  12. I instinctively agree with the current postings in regards to soldiers exerting their stress into the gaming activity; thus, removing these highlights from their dream content. Gaming is a pastime that brings players into a particular "zone" of focus. This alternative universe brings about new rules, characters, etc.; however, the individual is in control. To act as a person of his/her own and complete missions as personally desired allows for a greater sense of achievement or fulfillment. This would definitely alleviate stress and act as a proper outlet for any lingering aggression.

    However, I believe it's important to acknowledge that "nightmare" prevalence was being evaluated in this study. It parallels the waking day hypothesis in that dreams may still be occurring involving war. However, frightening content or feelings of fear/distress does not seem to be noted. This may be a result of gaming acting as a fictional relief. The games are comprised of individuals that do not exist & the wars are not happening in waking day...the hurt and harm is nonexistent. I think this would sooth over the harsh memories of experiences while serving the country. It removes the tragic truth behind it all and lightens the mind.

    Going along with what many others have mentioned, I believe the research should be targeted to identify if a particular aspect of the game or a certain game as a whole relieves or produces nightmares. For example, perhaps it's the aspects of protection that are healing. In contrast, exerts where one only engages in the murdering/harming of others may have a negative impact on dreaming content.

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  13. I think that soldiers likely experience a feeling of loss of control in their lives after returning from war. Video games might help return that control by giving the soldiers a structured world in which there are levels and set rules. As mentioned by others, there are still war dreams occurring, but the ‘scary’ content has been removed. I thing playing the games helps return a sense of control to the soldiers, which then helps them have more control in their dream.

    I would be interested to see what games these soldiers were playing. As others have mentioned, it could be that playing war-themed games helps return control to the soldier in a combat-specific way. But it might also be that these games aggravate PTSD, and that the soldiers in the study were playing other, non-stressful games (arcade style, role-playing, etc).

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    1. I find your idea about control very interesting; this could very well be true for soldiers considering that when soldiers return from war, they need to be reconditioned back into society as it is a big adjustment. So playing video games could definitely provide them with the sense of a controlled environment that they were accustom to while weaning them back into society.

      I also had the same thought about gaming aggravating PTSD because video games can be quite intense and trigger difficult memories etc., but at the same time I think this is very helpful in the sense of “flooding” and desensitization which I blogged about.

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  14. Perhaps because the soldiers are able to express and act out emotions and underlying war issues through video game play, their subconscious can deal with it all outside of the dream world. They are expressing themselves in their waking day activity and therefore do not have such pent up anxiety and issues in their sleep/dream state. Playing video games can be an escape for these men and they can work through issues or actions that otherwise, in normal society have to be kept inside and bottled up.
    Perhaps the lowering of nightmare prevalence is due to the gaming because it helps the soldiers become detached from real war vs gaming war. Once an individual plays a game enough they become desensitised to it and it becomes almost second nature, the gore, graphics and violence don't even register after enough play time. This may help soldiers during the time they are playing the games but I would be interested to see how their dreams would be affected, or not, once they stopped playing the video games.
    More insight into the types of games being played, the length of time playing and also other factors of waking day life affecting these soldiers would be helpful in determining how much affect the game play has on dream state and nightmare prevalence.

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  15. Initially, I was very surprised to see that soldiers who played fewer videos games exhibited more threat and war content in their dreams than those who were high in gaming. However, the type of gaming was never specified and I automatically pictured war themed games with similar imagery to their daily life. I then began thinking about how (depending on the type of game), playing video games can actually be rather relaxing and help alleviate stress. At that point it started to become a little clearer that perhaps certain types of games can help ease a persons mind and decrease negative imagery. Soldiers, who are surrounded by a hostile environment and constant fear, are likely to reflect this negative imagery in their dreams. However, having a distraction from this could help change the focus of the imagery that is being presented in a person’s dreams.

    I believe that this could be tested with other groups of people who suffer from nightmares in the form of experiments. A number of experiments could help determine what types of games are most effective for decreasing negative dream imagery, how long one needs to be engaged in gaming to help decrease negative imagery, and what happens when a person is unable to engage in gaming for a long period of time after they have significantly decrease their negative dream imagery.

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  16. Anne Marie PanowykOctober 24, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    I see how playing video games may be helpful to returning soldiers of war as shooting and war games may allow soldiers to release built up tension, anger and frustration in a way in which there are no consequences in real everyday life. Soldiers could focus all their negative energy and thoughts caused from their experiences in war towards the game to better let go of these built up emotions.

    As many of us have learned from sociology and psychology courses, watching aggressive television and playing violent video games often impacts our aggressive behaviour in waking life (often in a negative way). Media acts as an agent of socialization and studies have shown that many people often imitate the behaviour seen in such games. Although playing such games may allow a release of tension and anger, it is possible that children or young adults may feel the urge to re-enact the various plots in the video games in real life. Therefore I believe it is important that those who have suffered traumatic events should seek more therapy than playing video games to release tension.

    This could be tested on other individuals with specific fears and phobias as it could act as a source of systematic desensitization. Perhaps in each level one could gradually work towards their fears to overcome them.

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    1. I agree with your post entirely Anne. As the majority of the post have stated, a solider playing video games especially violent ones may help to express emotions, anger or frustrations.

      For example, I'm sure we all know of the famous game call of duty (COD). There is nothing about this game that I believe is not in relation to a past life of a solider. There's bombs, non-stop action, violence, shooting, all in which can allow a solider to release anything they feel again as you said Anne, with no consequences towards their waking life.

      I would also like to mention that COD is very popular for being able to play online with whomever from all over the world, at which you may have the ability to have a live mic to communicate. Sometimes the words alone expressed may be able to help a solider release, however, maybe of damaging to a child or adolescence.

      In regards to being tested with phobias and fears. I too do think it could help. I for one hate with all my might spiders and would love to be able to play games as a way to help overcome if possible.

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  17. I think that it is wonderful that research is finally being done on some of the positive effects that playing video games can have on people rather than just concentrating on possible negative consequences. Video games are definitely a great outlet for the stresses of everyday life, not just for soldiers, but for everyone. I know from personal experience that having a bad day at work can be greatly relieved by a good video game.
    It is unhealthy to bottle up negative emotions and not express them in any form. Soldiers returning from war undoubtedly have experienced some horrific events and therefore have more negative emotions than the typical person. Therefore, it is especially important for them to find a way to express these because if they don’t, the negative emotions will likely arise in the subconscious mind in the form of dreams and nightmares.
    I would be interested to know if Gackenback differentiated between types of video games and how this variable would affect dream content of soldiers. Perhaps the effect would be different if they played a violent killing game versus a completely non-violent game? I would think it would be difficult for soldiers to engage in video games involving war after having seen the horrors of war firsthand. I would also think that playing these types of video games may increase their war imagery when dreaming because it has already been shown that dreams reflect our waking day activities.

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  18. Those high in gaming were exposed to gaming simulations whose theme (war) was in accordance with their waking life experiences. However, compared to waking-life, soldiers are more in control of what is happening in a video game than occurrences overseas (Gackenback, 2011) and are able to channel stress through playing. It could serve to ‘cancel out’ the negative imagery of waking life military service, invoking a lessened content of military dreams. Those low in gaming only have their real life experiences and imagery to go by, and thus much of their dreams are nightmares. Their experiences are filled with negative emotions, highlighted by trauma. Opposed to this, gaming can induce more positive reactions and alternate imagery, as well as a healthy route to release stress.

    Video games could serve to aid those exposed to certain trauma, abuse or in psychiatric disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder can induce nightmares in soldiers. Perhaps gaming could be some sort of therapy for that population to lessen the negative dreams. In psychopathology, those exhibiting symptoms of a mental disorder concurrently with nightmares are treated with medication and/or therapy. If these patients are exposed to a high level of gaming as treatment revolving around a certain theme (like a specific symptom or image), there is a chance it may alleviate their waking-day distress, and their nightmares.

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  19. I think this is very interesting and agree with the comments above that with the high gaming soldier’s, they would be able to use the video games as a release. This could be because of the relationship between a person’s waking day emotion and distress. By playing video games, it may change the emotions felt if the situation in the game relates to past experiences. In addition, by playing these video games in a safe environment, it may also decrease the distress in these soldiers. Due to an increased positive emotion and decreased distress, a soldier would experience fewer nightmares.

    This same idea may be true for others who have gone through a traumatic experience. If a person were to play a video game that related to the experience and emotions that are creating the nightmare, it may decrease the nightmares experienced. An example of this would be someone who may have nightmares due to a car crash they experienced. If this individual were to play racing video games with friends in a positive environment, this positive waking day experience may change the nightmare over time as the emotions and distress relating to this event decreased. Overall, it will depend on the person to see if playing video games will help decrease their severity of their nightmares, although it is an option that could be considered.

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  20. I really like the idea that soliders who play videogames may become desensitized to previous traumatic events experienced in war by re-experiencing them in a realistic but non-threatening way such as videogames. We are at a point now where videogames are incredibly realistic (graphically, of course). This assists in allowing the gamer to be completely stimulated and focused creating a realistic experience. When they are playing the game and experiencing it in this realistic manner, but in a completely safe environment, they may become desensitized and assist in reducing nightmares.
    All of that considered, it would be interesting to know if the solider experienced a decrease in dreams about war that weren't nightmares or whether it was just nightmares that decreased. I'm not a big gamer, but my roommates are, and when they bought Call of Duty, I was pretty addicted to it for a month or so. In the time I was playing it I experienced war dreams almost every night, but they weren't necessarily nightmares. It was more of a humorous dream of myself and friends shooting zombies. So I'm curious if the soliders continue to dream about war with less nightmares.
    I think the idea that this research could assit people with phobias is interesting. If it is able to assist soliders returning home by ridding of their nightmares, why couldn't videogames assist someone with an extreme phobia?

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  21. This is quite interesting research. For a soldier, their lives on duty include great traumatic stresses. I think that the soldiers are able to work out their stress and relieve some of the tension that is in their bodies on a daily basis, on the video game. As it has been mentioned, I think that it is an additional outlet for the soldier’s negative feelings. When you sit to play a video game, you escape from the real world. You are not concentrating or worrying about real-life issues, your focus is on the game. I think this would be a great way for individuals who have nightmares to lessen them. It would be in finding what type of game or outlet best let’s them to relieve their inner tensions during their waking life instead of their dreaming state.

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  22. this is a interesting research, it will impact on how the soldier will deal with stress but it will also help them deal with military events, and this may even help them with post-traumatic distress, because they will be seeing the all the blood shed and shooting other people in the video games, so when they do this on duty it will not be a big impact on them because they have done this before.

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  23. I find this research incredibly interesting. Before reading the caption, I would have assumed that playing a high amount of video games (which are generally rather violent in modern society) would lead to increased military related nightmares. Based on the continuity hypothesis, I would assume that the violent and graphic nature of the video games would be represented through equally aggressive dream images. However, the work of Jayne Gackenback shows that this is not the case. Therefore, I am lead to believe that playing a high amount of video games may relieve some severe stress experienced by soldiers, and may even reduce some symptoms of PTSD. After experiencing great trauma, fear, and anxiety in warfare, the use of video games may allow soldiers a healthy and safe outlet for their built up emotions and anxiety. Video games may have a similar affect on emotional stability as exercise. Through exercise, endorphins are released. Endorphins improve mood and lead to better emotional health overall. Playing video games and applying energy to the virtual challenges may release endorphins in a similar way, and alleviate some of the stress experienced by soldier's returning from war. As a result, the violent nature of dream images associated with military history is reduced.

    This concept can also be tested on other groups suffering from nightmares. For example, in teenagers or young adults suffering from nightmares, a experimental group and a control group could be used to determine the effectiveness of video games on reducing frightening dream imagery. The control group would have no to limited access to video games while the experimental group would have excessive access to video games. The dream images of both groups would be recorded then compared. The effects of video games on nightmare images could be analyzed by determining the magnitude of violence or frightening scenes experienced by the control and experimental groups. If the experimental group shows less negative imagery than the control group, it can be said that video games may have a role in reducing nightmares.

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  24. I think Jayne Gackenback’s research is an interesting topic. As having an art background, specifically in graphic design, I’ve done some work in various aspects of media, and now as a current psych major, it’s interesting to see the effects that media, including technology, has on us psychologically. Within entertainment as an aspect of media, there are many different, what I have learned to be called as “spaces”… so, for instance when you go to see a movie, you’re entering one type of space, when you are indulging in your favorite tune, you’re in another space, and when you’re playing a video game, again you’re entering another type of space. All of these spaces have one thing in common, and that is that they allow you to distance yourself from reality, and within doing so, you’re provided with an outlet to shred your stress. What I find interesting about video games in particular, however, is that here you’re escaping by rein acting something, something that maybe you can’t rein act your daily life or something that you can, such as fitness on Wii.

    Outside of our paradoxical sleep or our REM sleep, we are dreaming in sort of a less awake state, and our dreams here aren’t as vivid or as intense, but we tend to rein act things here, so perhaps in terms of practicing, this may be important to our daily lives. Now considering that our nightmares happen in REM sleep, they can be emotionally draining for when the dreamer awakes, because they are obviously very vivid and intense…Some of the above bloggers have mentioned that rein acting is an outlet for stress and would act almost just like a punching bag… I think my main thought in this, however, as to why video games are helping soldiers decrease threat and war content in their military dreams, is because video games are perhaps acting as a safe ‘flooding’ method as they would be in phobias/anxieties or some sort of desensitization therapy practiced in a safe zone. Here soldiers can explore their fears, face their fears, rein act their fears, and even associate their fears with something more pleasant, i.e. gaming. Gaming kind of acts as a coping method and behavioral therapy where you are reconditioning your cognitive process through association. In that instance, soldier’s rate of threat and war content in their military dreams would be decreased.

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    1. I think there are some very valid points here, I think that from what you said before of entering different spaces when talking about certain arts is a good way of putting it. I think that Video games to some people are also a type of art, they can definitely take people in a certain conscious journey in the same way that music, theatre, and other arts can. Depending on the type of person, art forms, and certain passions/talents are good coping mechanisms for emotions. So in an sense, video games can be attirbuted to emotional coping perhaps. It would be interesting to look into this.

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  25. I find this study to be very interesting as I myself, have never been much of a gamer nor have i seen much of a point to video games. To hear this study makes me really ponder the benefits that games could have that we may be unaware of.

    I think that the benefits that the soldiers find is much the same as the other responses, in that they find a sense of control in the game that aids them with the feelings they have carried back from the way. In video games, the person who decides the outcome of the game is the gamer and no one else. This gives people who play video games a sense of control that may be the boost they need in their every day lives. Another reason that the video games is that it is a stress relief. I have sat around many people playing video games and you can see their emotions relax as they play. Gamers are so used to playing their games that when they play they go into a state of mind where nothing really matters. In a sense, they let go of all their cares. One thing I would wonder is if the type of game that the soldiers were playing would have different effects on the outcome of their dream analysis.

    I think this study could also be studied with other groups who suffer from nightmares as their nightmares may stem from similar underlying issues as that of the soldier, such as lack of control, or anxiety. I think it would be even more interesting if the same results were found for none soldiers because that would show that there may be something similar about the two cases.

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    1. Rebecca, I agree with your point on lack of control or anxiety. They need to set up a good control group and go from there. At the end of the day if it works, for whatever reason, why not use it for any of the situations gaming helps.

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  26. I was initially surprised that more video games played showed less nightmares for soldiers because I think that every male I’ve ever watched play a video game gets frustrated or angry when they lose or get killed in a video game. I couldn’t imagine this helping nightmares because games can make guys so frustrated I would assume it would make emotions run higher and therefore give them more nightmares.
    It made me think about every time I’ve seen my boyfriend get mad at a video game and I always ask him how a game can be so fun if it makes you so angry and each time he replies back what are you talking about this is fun. In other aspects of his life he’s very laid back and it takes a lot to make him really angry so I think the video games are a way of taking out his frustration and aggression on everything. It’s a type of catharsis. I think this is why it would help soldiers play video games. They could have an outlet for negative emotions and this would cause less nightmares. It gives people a way to escape from reality for a while and focus on something else and at the same time they are able to get out their frustration so they feel more calm afterwards.
    I think this could be helpful to anyone who doesn’t know how to express their feelings but has high emotions in waking life. The video game could be an outlet for them to get rid of their distress or anger and then maybe they would stop having so many bad dreams.

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  27. The study is interesting, although I'm curious to see how the type of game and length of game playing influenced the results. Is it a way for the soldiers blow off steam? Or is it a way for them to incorporate similar game experiences to their experiences while deployed?
    I'm gathering if it helps lower the threat and war content in their dreams it's something that should be looked into further. I'm not sure how playing a first person shooter would help other groups who suffer nightmares. If a sexual assault victim has nightmares I don't know how playing Call of Duty or Battlefield 3 would help. Although maybe the simple act of getting lost in the game is enough to take their minds off what is causing the problems for a short while.

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  28. Daiana Locatelli 0405414October 27, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    High distress during waking life would cause an individual to have stressful dream imagery. Using video games to relieve some of the stress could help soldiers to have less stress induced dreams because the soldiers would focus their negative energy and thoughts caused by the war into the video game. This would allow for the soldiers to exhibit less tension and less war imagery in their dreams. It would be interesting to test for a correlation between war veterans who suffer from nightmares, and gaming as a stress reliever.

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  29. Daiana Locatelli 0405414October 27, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    Also I think using gaming to test the reduction in nightmares with individuals who are not veterans would be a great study. Perhaps playing a game that is not violent can help reduce violent imagery in dreams. Also it if questionable if playing violent games for veterans would actually increase violent imagery versus decreasing that imagery, and if veterans should stay away from violent imagery in waking life in general, because even though it may reduce stress, it could cause more violent imagery during dreaming.

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  30. I agree with much of what has been said above. To me the reduced occurrence of violent imagery in game-friendly soldiers seems to reflect a basic kind of habituation. Many of today's popular games are set in the theatre of war, and despite being benign in themselves may habituate the user to the warlike imagery contained therein. If this is true, then it stands to reason that warlike imagery may have less of an impact on a "pre-adapted" soldier.

    This work seems to point to systematic desensitisation as a useful means of controlling nightmares.

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  31. If there is a high correlation to the amount of game play and the amount of dreams about war for soldiers then this would be beneficial to those soldiers who are at higher risk for PTSD. It would also help minimize the emotional effects that soldiers encounter during the war phase of their lives. It would make the impact of their behavior on loved ones less traumatic for all parties and would even help the soldier cope with what they've been through. If this experiment can successfully be replicated multiple times then I believe it could benefit other nightmare suffers as well. What would be interesting to know is the type of games their playing. Does the type of game have to correlate with the profession of the person? For example are soldiers playing war type games? These may also be relevant factors in determining if this concept would be transferable to other groups of nightmare suffers.

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  32. I found this study very interesting, If we are able to see a relationship between the amount of video games that soldiers play and the amount of violence and war related dreams that they have we can use this knowledge for many other situations as well. Soldiers will most definitely benefit from this finding, it is a great way for them to destress and possibly work through their post war symptoms such as PTSD. This strategy could also be tested on others who are not soldiers but who have suffered a traumatic event such as an accident or life threatening situation. I think it would be very interesting to see how these findings would transfer over to such a situation.

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  33. I would assume that the reason in which the high gamers experienced less threat and war content in their dreams, is due to desensitization. By playing the video games they are familiarizing themselves with violence. While, by no means, is a video game the same as waking life, it could be more similar to a dream state. having played these violent games they are less affected, in a dream state by the waking life. While those who are on the low gaming end would be more sensitive to the threat and war content in dreams, since there was no previous exposure through video gaming.

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  34. I found the study interesting and can definitely see the relation. Personally I remember on the rare occasion which I have played violent video games, it creates, stress, and anxiety. Those feelings do not leave when you sleep, it is difficult to find sleep, as well as have a good nights rest. However at the same time I can see how the games can have a positive influence on soldiers, in the way of giving them some type of release. I myself, not having been through anything like that obviously have a different experience. I am not trying to compare just giving a different view on what video games do.

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  35. The findings of this study are interesting. I thought that the soldiers were high in gaming would have exhibited more threat and war content in their military dreams than those who were low-end gamers. This can help soldiers because it seems to reduce the amount of war content and threat they they experience during waking and even in their dreams. The use of video games reducing the content and threat in dreams would be interesting to test on individuals that are not involved in the military to compare and contrast the results, and conclude whether playing video games can be a successful therapy for individuals that are experiencing threatening or violent dreams.

    I also agree with what Erin Campbell stated about playing violent video games and how he/she feels while playing them. I also find that I would see the characters from the video games incorporated in my dreams as if I'm living within the game itself.

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  36. We must all know by now how desensitized we have become to how reality is. We find it very difficult to determine what is real anymore & live in a surreality that has no confounding variables on what it means to be human. Video games are a prime example on how people have become one with the machine. I have watched a person completely transform into a entirely extreme entity from what they are in their typical mundane world. A personality transformation occurs by gamers to an extent that is sometimes frightening. Are they playing out an alter ego which acts out a subconscious urge to murder & destroy? They are in their safe zone because this is just a game with no consequence. They are processing the act but not having the repercussions.
    In the wake of this storm it recalls to mind that we have also been desensitized to the devastation that may unfold. We have been exposed to hundreds of movies playing out scenes of end of the world scenarios. We have seen it all before & there is always a happy ending... so no worries. Desensitization is a means to repetitively expose those to stimuli so that it losses its shock value. Subliminal messaging also works along those lines. In order to prevent chaos or mass confusion, people are programmed to respond accordingly. Just like soldiers who play high combat games, they have the visual & auditory stimuli & sometimes even physical with the high end games. They are being programmed to be an extension of the game, their actions are that of characters where no remorse is being processed.
    It would be great to have the lights go out so that a natural light can be lit. The reduction of technology would enable the human mind to reprocess and regenerate. We may ignite a greater appreciation for the arts, which is a natural state of the of a human being. It is time to unplug & reconnect to an outlet that will create a greater source of energy that will cause a surge of inspirational thought that does not involve destruction but rather creation. We need to understand that we cannot control nature and we should not allow what is unnatural control us.
    Stay Safe & Peace Always

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  37. I find it very interesting that video games can have a direct result on nightmares, as it is a relationship that I had never considered before. This research could be beneficial in establishing new forms of clinical therapy that involve dream interpretation and virtual reality techniques such as video games.

    Video games often provide a sense of escape for individual’s in their waking lives. A person can take a break from reality to experience new situations and scenarios that would not be possible in their waking lives. Gamers can become a race car driver, dance expert, or combat solider for a short period of time from the comfort of their own home. These virtual experiences allow a gamer a variety of new experiences, while always remaining in control.

    It is quite typical to see people get ‘lost’ in games, as their level of concentration is so intense. Some genres of games produce excitement, while other genres allow gamers to release their aggression. For soldiers, this could be a beneficial experience as video games, and specifically combat games, would allow the release of stress, frustration, and aggression. Engaging in combat re-enactment, may allow soldiers to work through distressing memories, while constantly remaining in control of the scenario from the safety of their own home.

    These virtual experiences may reduce the negative emotions associated with PTSD, and subsequently reduce the amount of nightmares that soldiers suffering from PTSD experience. With the positive correlations found between soldiers and video games, it would be relevant to apply this technique to other individuals suffering from PTSD and nightmares. Individuals would have to choose the best genre of video games for their situation, and hopefully they would achieve the same positive results as soldiers.

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  38. I think it is logical that soldiers in high gaming would perceive less threatning events in their dreams than low gamers because these games allow for another outlet for their emotions and feelings. It could almost be therapeutic for soldiers to help them deal with their feelings and stress regarding military and war events. By outletting their emotions in the video games they would be more relaxed and maybe not as anxious when dreaming and experiencing nightmares. I believe that this study could alsobe expanded to other subjects experiencing nightmares regularly.

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  39. ...repeated exposure to frightening
    images might in some instances promote desensitization (e.g. Weiss, Imrich, & Wilson,1993), resulting in less intense fright reactions. It was therefore considered possible that fewer restrictions on exposure to media ( and in this case video games) would be associated with less intense reactions.
    I just read this in an article I was reading & thought I would share it.

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  40. This information at first read did suprise me, I would have though violent video games would cause more severe nightmares, and reinforce the violent occurances in a persons' dreams, no matter the person playing them. However, the more I consider why this might be, the more sense it seems to make. Perhaps gaming is a sort of 'pressure release valve' for soldiers in that it could be way for them to release their emotions towards the violence they have experienced. Soldiers can use video games as an escape, where they can release all of the feelings and emotions they have carried towards the events they faced rather than holding them in only to resurface in their dreams.
    As well, as other posts above have stated, video games have a desensitizing aspect towards violence and so those who play more violent games are more used to seeing these kinds of things. This situation could have given them less severe reactions to seeing these sorts of situations in real life because on one level, even though it is a video game, it is still able to give them an idea of what they will face.
    One could study this with other people by simply having groups of people who have had violent episodes of some sort occur in their lives, have them keep a dream journal for a set amount of time, then gradually begin them on playing violent video games while upkeeping the journal and observing how, or if, their nighmares diminish. I guess you could also use a group of people who haven't experienced any serious real life violence as well, to see any potential differences between the groups.

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  41. This finding was also surprising to me, as the comment above already explained.

    It would be interesting to find out, first of all, if all of the soldiers who were in this video game experiment, actually had nightmares to begin with, if so, it would be interesting to see the severity of nightmares happening within each participant, and then examine whether or not their nightmares decreased from playing video games.

    Perhaps the part of the brain that is related to motor skills and video game playing is also related to the emotion centre in the brain. It would be interesting to study brain activity during video game playing, and then study the activity during these nightmares.

    Also perhaps, soldiers who play video games are mentally distracting themselves from emotional factors going on in their waking life. Depending on the context of the video games, if they are war video games maybe this is helping them cope with certain aspects of their position/experience as soldiers. I feel that video game playing can be very consciously demanding especially now, in 2012, video games technology has advanced so much. It would be easy to feel as though you're in a virtual world with how much technology has advanced in this area. Perhaps for some of these soldiers, the amount of play time and how far they are engaged ih whatever type of gaming they enjoy can also be a factor in how much their nightmares are decreasing.

    For future research they should conduct experiments on type of gaming, severity of nightmares, and brain activity.

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  42. I believe that video games can be used in further understanding in dreams. I think that soldiers that have experienced war times are able through the video games to work out any aggression they have. Many people use video games as a way to escape from reality and day to day life. This might be a way for the soldiers to work through the traumas that they were in involved with while they were away. By playing the video game the soldiers can feel that they are in control of the game and that they might be able to change the parameters which can affect the outcome of the game.

    The study of video games on people that have night mares would be very interesting and would be a very interesting topic.

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  43. This finding is very interesting. As mentioned above, it also was a shock to me that violent gaming reduced soldiers nightmares and traumas within their dreams. Once I really thought about the impact these video games may have on these soldiers then it became very apparent that they could relate to the games. It may be a huge stress reliever as well to shoot, punch, or kill digital characters. Since this is usually what soldiers know when they fight overseas in wars, being able to project it in a video game seems like a very healthy way to relieve tension. As a normal person these kind of violent video games scare me, but as a solider I can see they are desensitized to this type of violence and this can be a very beneficial way in lessening the impact of nightmares, stress or other war related disorders they may be coping with.

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  44. I too was also surprised by this research since I also initially was of the opinion that playing violent video games would result in more frequent and sever nightmares. I also initially believed that since soldiers naturally are subjected to a lot of traumatic experiences that playing violent video games would be reinforcement of these experiences ultimately resulting in more intense nightmares. However as another comment mentions, the research does make sense once further analysed since playing these violent games could act as a method of escape from reality for these soldiers who would use these games as a way in which to release their aggression, stress and emotions about their experiences at war. It would be interesting to see if this research could act as an actual method of therapy for soldiers diagnosed with PTSD.

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  45. I find this research very interesting. Personally, I would think that doing something physically would help with nightmares (i.e. working out, boxing). The fact that the mood or game-high or low in which the individual experience gets while playing determines their state of nightmare astonishes me as I would think that, if anything, it would help them in general with PTSD or their nightmares. After considering video game options, a lot of video games do relate to the experiences that they have while at war.

    I suppose that this research could help others with nightmares is to maybe test this theory on, i.e. students that are stressed, firefighters, people in the business work field and see how their nightmares change or relate to those of the soldiers based on high or low experiences. As a normal student, I dont feel like video games would help me with stress as I personally dont like video games, but I would be willing to test the theory.

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    1. I agree with what you said, I also would think that a more physical activity would help more in taking away the stresses that are put on soldiers or other people. So its interesting that something like video games that your sitting in one spot for long periods of time would have this kind of result.
      I would be interested to see how it would affect people like firefighters or students. I am also curious to know if there is a gender difference with how much this strategy would work as i know personally that video games frustrate me more then they do any good.

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  46. I think that soldiers who play a lot of video games have less nightmares then the soldiers who play less because they are releasing their tension from their waking day life. They are dealing with their stress during the day so that at night they have no need to release their aggression which would be worked through as a nightmare for them. The high playing soldiers also can imagine defeating their real life enemies when they are playing therefore dealing with the stresses and horror they have to deal with in their everyday lives. The soldiers that don't play as many video games don't have the opportunity to feel like they are killing the enemy which could contribute to their nightmares. Playing video games would also bring hope to the soldiers because in the games they can win and defeat who they are playing against whereas in real life that is not always the case. The optimism created by playing the video games helps lessen the chance of having nightmares. Video games also give the chance of coming back to life which I think is crucial to these soldiers because they have lost so many of their friends and comrades that it gets to them. The hope of being able to come back to life in the game helps them deal with everything they see all the time and lessens the amount of nightmares they would have.

    I think that playing video games could help other groups with nightmares only if they have a violent or threatening dream that had war content in it. This could be used because it has been proven with the soldiers. I am not sure it could be generalized to all groups of people who have nightmares because there are people who have nightmares not about war or violence but other things that might frighten them like clowns, death, illness, etc.. For those cases I do not think that playing video games will help them at all. Maybe another therapy for release could help these people like playacting about good health or watching movies that have a positive ending when someone was sick. For a fear of something like clowns then slowly exposing someone to the clowns and seeing that they are good then that would probably help the person more then playing video games.

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