The results of a new survey reveal that video games help keep nightmares away. According to an online survey of 98 military personnel, regularly playing games that involve war and combat like Call of Duty help to decrease the level of "harm and aggression" dreamers feel when they are dreaming about war. Of those surveyed, soldiers who did not play games reported having more violent dreams combined with feelings of helplessness. The survey was conducted by Jayne Gackenbach of Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Canada. She presented some of her findings at the Game Developers Conference earlier this month.
To make sure her study profiled healthy and mentally stable soldiers, Gackenbach weeded out any soldiers with pre-diagnosed mental disorders, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Soldiers were divided into two gaming groups: high gaming and low gaming – based on how often they played video games. The high gaming group played every day or several times a week and played more immersive games like World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Red Dead Redemption. The low gaming group played video games as little as a few times a year and played more casual games.
Those in the high gaming group reported that their nightmares about combat were less intense and many in the group reported that they often felt able to fight back against whatever forces were threatening them in their dreams. Low gamers reported more incidents of feeling helpless against an aggressive, violent enemy. Gackenbach’s theory based on this preliminary data is that playing violent games may serve as a sort of "threat simulator," a way of conditioning the mind to cope with intense and dangerous situations in nightmares.
In a presentation at the Game Developers Conference last week in San Francisco, Gackenbach used one soldier, who wrote to her, as an example. Here is what he said:
"I would see many soldiers, in combat, with PSPs or anything we could hook up to 220v electricity. When soldiers weren’t on patrol, we often had violent war games on our systems. It was weird. Like we didn’t get enough violence."
She added at the time that this might seem like an example of a game addiction but there was something more profound going on:
"But this counterintuitive scene might be more than just a manifestation of young men and women addicted to video games bringing their favorite diversions to war with them. It may be a form of self-medication. They’re taking (Playstation 3’s, XBox 360’s and other consoles) into the field and playing them all the time," she told New Scientist. "And it turns out, there may be a good reason to let them do that."
Source: New Scientist