Dreaming: the way it's meant to be played.

The man bites his lip nervously. Thin straggles of his greyish beard catch on his teeth with the tang of caked sea-salt. I’d tried to keep him talking on the way out - trifles, jokes, half-penny little stories - but slowly his mumbled answers turned to grunts, and the grunts to silence, and the silence to a horrible hollow where silence should be. Now his eyes look everywhere but at me, reflecting the colourless nothing of the water, and the only sound is the clump, clump, clump of the lantern against its post as the boat goes up and down. A lot of use that lantern is. The years fall from his face like armour plates as the sea and the fog seep back into his soul - jealously, cunningly they go. All those years of distance, precious distance, from that time and from the ocean, fall away and he is young again: a young father, about to be old, so old, on the night he lost his son. And all the dry, crusty strength of four decades’ forgetting - the water wets it, and it melts like castles in the tide. I half regret bringing him here. But my arms keep the oars going - I have no say in it now.

I touch his hand with mine; he starts out of the dream in momentary panic. The rhythm of the oars is broken, and the lapping dies away to total quiet as for the first time in hours we look at each other. Whether his gaze or mine is more uncomprehending, who could say? But then the sound comes. The rush of ropes and sails and horny feet on deck, the ding-ding of a bell and the clatter of belaying-pins: the whole symphony of ordered chaos which is a great tall ship, but among it not one human voice - and so all that friendly bustle is made cold. And there, where she wasn’t, she is - the Dutchman. She always keeps her time. The waves of her wake buffet us, and I gather the oars in, barely keeping my balance. By the time I get us steady I notice the old man standing as if possessed, as straight as a gibbet, every nervous fidget becalmed as in a painting. He looks straight up at the deck. I follow his stare to the vague wooden rail three fathoms above, but I can see no-one. I call against the wind to ask him what terrible spectre has caught him, but the sound sticks in my throat. I look again and the ship is gone, leaving an evil hole in the mist. The man stands blankly for a minute, then sits. He says nothing. But in his hand he has the only pigment in a heaven and earth of greys - a dash of red, a little, sodden hat, no bigger than a child’s.

Somehow, I get his inanimate body back to the canvas bed in his hut. It is the next day before he half-rises - painfully, wearily - and notices me. And even then I can barely hear what his cracked lips frame as he presses a couple of green copper coins into my hand, along with a cracked earthen pot of vinegar - it could be thanks, or a bribe never to show my face there again.

I take his meagre offering. “Call this a reward? Screw you!”, I exclaim. I beat him to death, loot his clothes and sew his hide into a tier-2 backpack.

Thank you for reading my story! Now what on earth was the point of all that?

If your LDs don’t quite satisfy you, this story could well be the reason that they aren’t enough. As you’ve guessed, the characters we’ve just met live in a video game (apparently quite a good one, though I say so myself). And since I began lucid dreaming, I’ve noticed that on this website and any other you care to look at there is an inescapable connexion between LDs and video games. Browse back through the forum - see how many times in one page they come up together. Here’s the thing: it’s not doing us any good.

Lucid dreams and video games are ways of living vicariously, of having adventures with no risk and little investment. But they are not equally good ways. Video games are immeasurably poorer. Nowadays, some of them can create wonderful worlds and tell great stories. They have the advantage that someone else is building a world for you . They can give you something totally new. But apart from that very slim advantage (our subconsciouses can do pretty well with second-hand props) they can never offer the total immersion, freedom or immediacy of a dream. You already know this to be true - you took up LDing because of those NDs where you woke up with a broken heart of a racing pulse. Not even Bioware can leave you that raw!

The trouble is, we’re imposing the limits of video games onto our dreams. We drown in pointless rules: “you have to stabilize or it won’t work”; “rub your hands and spin”; “if you kiss someone you’ll wake up”; you know the drill (here’s a secret: there are no rules. We made them all up because we couldn’t cope with the absurd freedom). You are a slave to the programming parameters. Dream characters become flat NPCs: puzzles to be cracked or puppets to be dominated - mannequins just waiting for us to exploit them. But worst of all, we become players, not heroes. We stand behind our dream-self, pointing them this way or that, trying to work out how to “use their abilities”: flying, superpowers, and so on. Everything is difficult - the dream is resisting us, because we expect it to! We expect it to present levels which we have to overcome. We don’t live the story as we live our waking story - we merely experience it at the same remove which we experience a film or a game - we think about how we can trick or beat the system: we try to learn the cheat codes, and that drives us out of immersion. So what was the point of learning? We had all that already.

So here’s my little tip. The problem runs deep, but it’s at least a start. When I became an adult and began to outgrow video games, I found some of the dream shackles also fell away. For adventures and escapism I went back to my childhood favourites: C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, Terry Pratchett, and so on. My brain reabsorbed the idea that an adventures has no walls, levels, or limits, and that every character you meet is a real person with a world’s worth of life and love behind them - the dream again became the magic vapour in the hands of the BFG: it can be anything, anything at all. Programming my foot. Now, if you recognize any of these symptoms of dream-gaming, then my advice is to try a week or a month without games. Bury your nose in books instead - whatever sent you up a tree with a sword and helmet when you were six. At the very least, maybe they’ll bore you to sleep. And then who knows where you’ll wake up?

Yes you set the rules, but there are some very rough ideas that build on the way our dreamworld gets constructed and how our perception of it works. Like spinning in a circle makes it easier and more natural to transition between scenes - or rubbing your hands gets your perceptions attention back on the dreamworld.

But yes to the rest, you preach what I preach - just with nicer words :razz:

Well, I certainly value your agreement Globetrotter! You’re right that there are some rules of thumb that can help you - in a very natural and unmysterious way. Spinning wipes the current scene, rubbing hands calls your attention to your senses. As long as you understand it’s as simple as that, and that you can find other ways if you like, it’s all to the good. On the other hand they’re too often built up into taboos and magic rituals that are a bit unhelpful. On balance I think it’s often better to play these down to new dreamers. The real solid laws they’ll work out for themselves, and the dispensable ones won’t get blown out of proportion! Lucidity can (and mustn’t) become a “type” of dream, just like that one nightmare you always get, or the dream where you can’t stop peeing. Those types are incredibly hard to break out of.

There’s a great series of posts on a similar topic on DreamViews (link below). The real trouble is that the magic of normal dreams is how totally convincing they are (internally). With the best, you wake up confused that it isn’t real. The whole point of lucid dreams, initially, is stepping back and realizing it’s a dream. To get the most out of them, however, we need to find ourselves a way to step back into dreams and lose ourselves in the story - until then, they’ll feel cheap and tawdry, at least comparatively. Sometimes it’s actually better to become lucid, choose your adventure, then lose lucidity again, just so you can enjoy it properly. This is a problem which I think the LD community has not satisfactorily addressed - I offer this not even as one possible solution, but just one possible direction in which a solution may be found.

dreamviews.com/dream-control … lucid-drea ming.html
dreamviews.com/dream-control … reams.html

EDIT: Happy five year anniversary yesterday, Globetrotter! Funny to see someone with even longer standing and even fewer posts than me. Lurkers unite!

It depends on the type of game and the way you play games. If you are just constantly striving to get more power and more shiny items then yeah you end up with the ‘you call that a reward!?’ situation.

Personally, I play games for the story. Adventure games, RPGs, I couldn’t care less about shooting people in the same map repeatedly or racing cars/karts around the same track 2000+ times. The point of the game is the story.

Some games have incredible stories and are very well written. Instead of limiting my dreams, they encourage and increase the amount of adventure and exotic locations in them - jungles, mountains, other planets, lost temples.

Books are fantastic as well. I’m a compulsive book reader, have been since childhood… always have a fiction book on the go. Fantasy, steam punk, sci-fi, detective novels, historical fiction, futuristic dystopias, love them all. However I wouldn’t replace games with just books. The interaction and immersion of games, to me, is fantastic, but then that comes down to the games I play.

(Currently playing: Uncharted 2. Currently reading: The Rise of the Automated Aristocrats by Mark Hodder. :content: )

You make a good point, and as I mentioned I don’t at all want to do down the capacity for world-building which games clearly have. For instance I think the Starflight series and its successor Mass Effect have some better stories than many “genre” novels and films. So does a fantasy classic such as Arcanum. Where they can be unhelpful (if they spill over into our attitude to lucidity) is not in the content but the form: the disconnect that the medium necessarily puts between you and your character.

If you have a named character, there’s always the feeling that your adventures are happening to someone else, particularly if the plot is linear. A nameless Bethesda-type hero can be better, or even worse - RPGs are at their best when you really make an effort to immerse yourself in the world, taking it inch-by-inch, enjoying every second and every flower. But I know I can could only play that way for so long before I itched to hit the fast-travel button. You can certainly choose to be totally involved. But I suspect few do, and I’m not sure that it is always encouraged by the format.

I encourage books not because they have richer stories of deeper worlds - often they don’t - but because you don’t have to make an extra-special effort to immerse yourself fully. You hear someone else’s story and you live it vicariously just as humans always have done since we first span yarns around campfires. It’s like those dreams where you see yourself in the third person, but you are somehow still inside (has anyone had a third-person LD? I wonder!). There’s no weird tension between controlling and observing as in a game. There was a brief trend for books written in the second person (e.g. by Italo Calvino): “You buy the book; you feel strangely unsatisfied”. I think it’s fairly obvious why they didn’t catch on.

I’m not suggesting that people have to choose between games and lucid dreaming. But I suspect a significant number of people will not be aware of how certain self-defeating attitudes and limitations can creep from one to the other - and so I do suggest a temporary re-adjustment period where you step back and work out which influences are shaping your dream experience.

I haven’t played that game or read that book but I have heard good things about them! I’ve just finished Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. Typically beautiful, but not something you want to dream about!

Admittedly, I tend to play games very differently from most people. I’ve always liked the dreams where you become the central character from a game. Rather than a disconnect, it’s more involving to be able to put yourself in that character’s place, to experience a story from a different viewpoint than your own.

Mind you, I’m an avid tabletop roleplayer as well, which probably has something to do with my ability to really connect with a well written character. Crafting and playing a character, similar to acting, allows you to experience a story in a different way. It can strengthen your feeling of involvement.

I can certainly see your point of view about games causing expectations and limitations in the dream world though. However, some of these are good: If you frequently play games involving firearms, it will give you the impression that getting shot is not a big thing. Rather than be crippled or dying when you get injured in a dream, you act like a typical game character or action-movie hero and ‘walk it off’ … :happy:

As for the third-person LD, it’s possible. I asked a question of my SC, then went on ‘auto-pilot’/DO mode to observe the results. They were rather disturbing though. Guess it was the wrong question to ask. :sad:

I hear you there. Thinking I’m someone else has given me some of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had in dreams. There’s that episode of the new Star Trek, isn’t there, where a mind probe causes Picard to spend his whole life in another man’s shoes? It’s often as moving a feeling as that.

In the Mass Effect games I mentioned, there’s something of the same quality. I feel compelled to respect Shepard’s (the protagonist’s) integrity as a character other than myself, even though I control him. I’m not going to make him do something outlandish or obscene, because I don’t have that right. It is very much like acting, as you say - or the dignity which every good writer must allow to his creations.

A quick glance seems to show that CALD is pretty much dead on these boards. That’s a real shame - even though it always carried a slight danger of becoming mildly unhinged! I never got into it because I didn’t think I’d have time to do it justice. But apart from its benefits as an induction technique, it really encourages you to appreciate and respect the three-dimensionality of the dreamworld. The dreamscape comes from inside your mind, of course, but, in a way which is very obvious when you’re in there, it is still a “given”: an “other” that you have to respect in its irreducible otherness.

Dreams are subjective - but it’s important to remember, perhaps, that everything in them ultimately comes from the real world. You don’t “possess” a dream character when you receive them in your sleeping mind any more than you possess your best friend when you receive their sense impression in your waking mind. So perhaps trying to play games as you do, with proper respect for the things they contain, is another possible step on the path to good lucid attitudes - one that I’m sure plenty of books will help us to take!

p.s. Please tell us more about the results! It sounds intriguing - I’ll give it a go myself next time. Perhaps we could try experimenting with more direct questions: “Make this dream like a book! Now make it like a game!” and see what our subconscious reveals (as always, take your SC with a hefty pinch of salt! They can be tremendous humbugs…).

You’ve hit the nail on the head there! Refusing to act against a character’s morals really is the crux of it. Any game that forces you to consider your actions and not take ‘the easy route’, even though you know that decision will probably come back to haunt you… those are the best and most memorable characters to play.

It would definitely be an interesting lucid experiment, to become certain characters from books or games. (Since after becoming lucid, morals tend to go out the window due to the ‘I can do anything with no consequences’ feeling.)

Unfortunately as this is a public forum it’s not appropriate to share the details of that particular experiment. Also, it’s deeply personal. The dream journal post I made for that night is mostly censored as it contained a level of violence that would rightly make most people raise an eyebrow, myself included. (Made even worse by seeing such things perpetrated by ‘yourself’ whilst a DO.) I’ve been too nervous to try anything like that again.

But your idea sounds cool! Definitely up for trying that. I might try ‘Make this dream like A Song of Fire and Ice, and let me experience it as Tyrion’. :cool:

Sorry to push you to share your experience obfusc8 - when you said it was disturbing I didn’t realize it was you yourself acting that way. Do all you dreamers have a conscious moral policy in LDs? One that you’ve worked out while awake? Do you stick to what you would do in reality? Morals intuition, like everything else, seems to come across very impressionistically in unaware dreams, at least: you have a grave sense of right or wrong for no apparent reason.

It surprises me that you seem to be saying you have lower moral standards in your dreams than in games - is your dream-self not a well-written enough character :content: ? It’s a rum thing. When the new Grand Theft Auto got a first-person camera, people complained that it made them to involved to loot and murderize with their wonted abandon - and yet if you look through some Dream Journals here, many people seem to be quite happy depopulating the planet one megadeath at a time despite being plugged into the best virtual reality system there will ever be.

p.s. Taffrail! I’ve just remembered. That’s the name for the wooden railing - I was looking for the word in my story. Mark your copies please boys and girls…

Interesting posts!

It does depend on the game what the gameplay is, or how good the physics engine is. So, recognizing limitations in gameplay aren’t worse than in waking life. We’re limited by the laws of physics, aren’t we? Neither can we fully empathize with every single other person that we meet.

Fortunately, when I really like a video game, I also get into the fandom. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 takes place in a small town where the playing character goes to high school. It has a background character who’s always running around. He doesn’t even have a name or a face, but the fans thought it would be funny to name him Running Boy and pretend that he has the potential to become a main character. They make mock-up art of the character profile for the game, write stories about him, and all that. It’s fun.

The way people’s minds collectively operate is very different than the intentions of the designers and programmers. So, this NPC doesn’t remain a flat NPC character.

When it comes to stabilization, I think that’s less from the idea that we must have rules, and more that we want to have vivid and satisfying lucid dreams…but have observed a common obstacle to that through experience, and we name that obstacle “destabilization”. If shouting, “Stabilize lucidity now!” in the dream, or taking 10 seconds to modulate the emotional thrill in case you get too excited and wak up…if that will help, then it will help. If it doesn’t help, then every dreamer must be free to disregard it.

We are our own programmers, but we work in partnership with our subconscious.

Also, some video games can add to our symbolic vocabulary.

Suppose that I wanted to “spawn” (apport or manifest an item, like in Scribblenauts) something. I could think of the word and try to type it, if I’m caught up on Scribblenauts programming. Or, I could ask fellow lucid dreamers in waking life. They’ll have different bits of advice, different “hacks” to the programming that I learn from waking life. In waking life, I can’t just spawn something, but it’s a video game that allowed me to imagine that it was possible, and taught me IWL how it feels to be successful. Fellow lucid dreamers can further refine that by advising me to “expect” the object to be in my hand, or ask a passing dream character if they have that item so I can steal or borrow it from them, or imagine a big ball of clay that I can just squish into what will become the real thing.

Which method proves effective depends on my own psyche, my own running program of consciousness, but that doesn’t mean that I might as well have just done it all on my own without asking anybody else. If I take somebody else’s word for the way my own dreams should work, then that’s a personal flaw rather than the problem with how-to articles for lucid dreaming that exist at all.

Hello EllyEve! I suspected you might weigh in here; I’m glad I wasn’t wrong. Everything you say seems correct to me. It’s just a question of where you place the emphasis.

I think I would be more interested in “limitation” as a mindset, rather than specific limitations of the type you mean. Of course we are limited in waking life. But in a simulation, limitation is the whole spirit, the sine qua non of the exercise. Chess is a limiting of the variables that govern warfare. Shove Ha’Penny limits racing. Fencing is limits duelling. So while you’re right, I don’t think limitation is something of which we are conscious in waking life to the degree we are in dreams. We tend to think that waking life is the totality of infinite possibility, little sections of which we split off and simplify to make our models and games. And since dreams are all about belief, when we go into them expecting them to be like real life, we expect them to be fully satisfying. When we go into them expecting them to be a virtual reality tool or a mimetic copy, we are thinking in the context of “limitation” or simplification in general.

To come at it from another angle, our experience of waking life is purely descriptive. There are rules, but they are never exhaustively knowable. We could very well discover tomorrow that gravity does not apply universally, and we’d just have to accept it - we observed gravity, perhaps next we’ll observe anti-gravity and we can’t argue with what we observe. Practically, therefore, it is always worth pushing the bounds of possibility to see if the rules really are what we thought they were. In a game or simulation, however, we know what the limits of possibility are, because we made them. So again, we consciously expect limitation in a way we don’t going about our daily lives.

I’ve been careful not to say that any particular way of thinking is flawed, or wrong. If you take someone else’s word for how your dreams should work, of course that is not the writer’s problem. But shouldn’t he at least try to give information that doesn’t come across as prescriptive? Some tutorials make things sound much more clear-cut than they really are. Games can give us lots of invaluable tools, as you say. For the reasons you describe, they can be very empowering. But I have been bold, for that reason, to say that things can be dangerous or unhelpful. Games can often influence our way of thinking about dreams such that we become unnecessarily limited: they do not have to act that way, but often they do.

But the chief danger (not one which everyone will fall into, by any means) is the one in your profile picture! With Magritte, “ceci n’est pas la vie”, we train ourselves to think, if our primary waking experience of vicarious living is one that enforces the mind/body separation in the way that a computer screen does. That is: when I intend something in my mind and it takes effect on another plane, inside a computer, there is a disconnect that is not there when I listen to an audiobook or watch a film. In those cases, the intention takes place in the medium and so does the result - as in waking life, where both will and execution unfold continuously inside my own body. When in dreams, we can sometimes end up watching ourselves act, almost as if from outside, in a world which we clearly sense to be somehow false - because we are used to thinking in those terms. That’s why I still recommend a temporary stepping-back, so that we can dissect the competing influences on our dream-consciousness and work at reducing those that keep us from full satisfaction. Not everyone will need to do that.

What you say about Shin Megami Tensei I think supports my point. The world and the characters from the game take on a new life in your hands: as they should. But what about the actual form of the game itself, apart from its content? A quick Google search tells me that the game is turn based. Do you keep that limitation when you think and write about the characters as characters, separate from their presentation in the program itself? Or Is the format as important to you as the setting - would you like the game any less if it were a book or a film instead?

Lastly, do you have any views on the moral question? Do you follow the same code in dreams as waking life? Thank you for joining us here!

Morals seem to be very different in dreams. As in, they are there, but our SC possibly wants us to experience pushing those boundaries and occassionally makes us do things or think we have done things we would not do in RL.

In dreams, I’ve killed without remorse, killed then felt extreme remorse and tried to cover it up, killed and then come clean, faced retribution/justice. In dreams we can take on many roles, many characters, and with ‘dream logic’ to prevent us from instantly dismissing these impossible situations, we can fully experience what it is to be… anything - hero/villain, criminal/detective, creator/destroyer.

In some cases these dream personas have been caused directly by a book I was reading in real life. For example, while reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, I had dreams about cheating/ having a mistress. After powering through several Ian Rankin novels in quick succession, I alternated between dreaming about being a detective and being a serial killer.

…and when lucid, I certainly have less morals than RL. Power corrupts, as they say! :wink:

On a side note, I had more success with the third-person/ observer lucid dream state last night. A much nicer experience than last time! It didn’t last for very long, but I managed to leave my body and view myself acting independently, from afar.

No luck on the story/video game lucid investigations yet though.

Good points to clarify. When it comes to disseminating information, I guess there could be a standard disclaimer that “the limitations described in this article are statistically common but not guaranteed/absolute”. Maybe for the benefit of beginners, or those who can hardly remember the dreams, rather than those who have been able to keep a record of it for any amount of time. I would find that after any record, the nonlucid dreams, or even some lucid dreams, can show themselves how wild and beyond limits they are no matter what the dreamer believes! :tongue:

Cutting straight to the catch: When I dream about being in the game and meeting the characters, different things have happened. I’ve dreamed of having the console controller in my hand and living the game, in the same way as when I play the game in waking life, and maybe that’s why it became a nonlucid dream. I’ve also dreamed of becoming lucid, expecting to be able to change the dream world into the setting where it will work according to the programming of the game…but the dream only “answered back” with the design. In some nonlucid dreams, I’ve met characters from that game who appeared to be perfect cosplayers instead of animation or pixels.

I would enjoy the same story as a book. It’s an anime, now, and it makes some minor deviations from the game in some characterization moments that make me dislike the series as a story rather than as a storytelling medium.

It does raise an interesting question to me, though. Video games require a player to enter and make decisions. Isn’t that act of agency more like lucidity? Books, movies, and television shows cultivate a passive acceptance of…essentially…a painting of a pipe, or a painting of an apple. :tongue: Video games might be the least harmful storytelling medium to the practice of lucidity, not the most. Of course, it depends on the psyche.

I’ve killed someone in a dream, but I felt sorry about it (both in the dream and upon waking) even though it was in self-defense. I just didn’t like the experience.

Although in one nonlucid dream, I shied away from a sexual experience, and when I woke up I thought, “Darn, but if I were lucid I would have totally let it go on!” Because you can’t catch an STD from a dream.

Maybe I follow the same code in dreams as the analysis of fictions in waking life. Was it entertaining or empowering? Then it has served its purpose. But did it portray a morally dubious act? Let’s say yes, but the impact isn’t judged the same way as if it were a true crime. The act has a surreal effect, rather than a real one, so the implications can be discussed without expecting an absolute truth/judgement/consequence to come from it.

Take the examples of my moral looseness in dreams above. I might have judged myself harshly for violence, but my attacker could possibly still become a recurring nightmare. If I kill somebody in real life, they would cease to exist with far more consistency, and the action would be judged based on that through cultural and governmental “programming” systems.

I might have been a little harsh before to a poster or two here who were frank and honest about the sexual violence they “perpetrated” (in their lucid dreams, hence the quotation marks.)

My standpoint is (or was) from one who accepts a sexual or romantic dream character as Animus or Anima, important archetypes to the psyche. So, a violation of dream character embodiments, even though they “aren’t real”, are ones that I believed to be morally wrong because they symbolized that which was consequential: relationships with and regard for others. In hindsight, that’s my paradigm that doesn’t necessarily apply to others, so symbolism schmymbolism. It’s Carl Jung’s “programming” because I read too much of his stuff. I’d still rather have sexual experiences with an apparently consenting DC, but I’ll quit giving the stinkeye to those who freely admit that they don’t bother with that.