Too much Tetris will have you looking at the furniture as if it’s made of blocks that need to be lined up in neat rows, and don’t tell the cops this but too much Grand Theft Auto can make you think some bad thoughts about cars. Sometimes games go even further, penetrating far enough into our brains they don’t just recolor our waking life, but our sleeping one as well.
Have you ever played a game so much it changes your dreams?
Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.
Katie Wickens: Genuinely had some weird waking dreams about designing junctions after a weekend of non-stop Cities: Skylines. There’s certainly a deep thought process that goes into traffic management for that game, and it really is a joy to feel like you’ve mastered it, but it’s a little worrying when it follows through into your subconscious. If it can get my traffic flow up to 90% or higher, I’d welcome it… But I’m not sure even the deepest slumber could unlock those kind of numbers.
Morgan Park: This happens to my friend constantly, but not to me for some reason. I definitely start to see game stuff in the waking world when I get truly obsessed. A few days into my Red Dead Redemption 2 playthrough, I remember walking up to my partner and somehow wanting to hold a nonexistent left trigger to “interact” before saying anything. That’s when I realized I should take a break for the night. Regretfully though, I rarely remember dreams and can’t recall videogames making guest appearances. Instead, I remember dreams about screwing up at school, pissing off friends, or plummeting off a cliff in a car.
Christopher Livingston: Plenty of times, most recently Dice Legacy, a city builder which I played a preview build of obsessively for about a week. Your dice act as your citizens, and if you get far enough into the game without your dice-people turning on you and burning your city down, you can dunk them in these experimental tanks which can give them new powers and abilities.
It didn’t translate exactly in the dream I had that week: I had some very big orange dice (like in the game but the size of an armchair) and I was painting them (with a paintbrush) a side at a time, trying to come up with a color combination that would make them kind of glow and spin around slowly in the air (I don’t know why this would be a good thing). Since my dreams are always anxiety dreams about the impossibility of completing simple tasks (I don’t want to analyze this), I got one side painted blue and then went to wash the brush so I could use a different color but the sink was broken, so I went to drive to the store for a new brush but I couldn’t find my car keys, so I went to look through the basement (I don’t have a basement) for a spare brush and opened box after box never finding one. And then I woke up. I like the dice in the game better.
Wes Fenlon: Games will invade my dreams if I play them actively for several hours and don’t have enough of a gap before going to sleep, so this has happened to me many times. But never more than with League of Legends, which I habitually played four hours a night, almost every night, for an entire year. Most of the time in my dreams my overactive brain would conjure up entire matches, and I’d be stressed out while trying to maintain my lane or push enemy towers.
I don’t remember if I ever really won or lost these dream games—I think usually, after awhile, I’d wake up enough to tell myself this isn’t a real match, you’re making it up and force my dream self to stop “playing.” So close to lucid dreaming, but with none of the fun. This became a real problem for my sleep, to the point that I had to make sure I had at least two or three hours of downtime between my last game and going to bed.
Evan Lahti: I had a multi-year stretch around ’08-’09 where more than half of my dreams had some component of the zombie apocalypse that I’m pretty sure was driven by the release of Left 4 Dead, seminal co-op game that it was. Obviously there was plenty of zombie stuff to be found elsewhere in media at that time too. But it got pretty boring, honestly—these weren’t nightmares, just various expressions of the genre like taking shelter, going from point A to point B, etc. Vague memory of Tom Hanks wielding an M4, also.
Andy Chalk: No. But once, while driving many years ago, I was sure I caught a glimpse of a rogue stone at the side of the road. It wasn’t, of course, but for a fleeting moment I wondered, “What if…?” Kinda dreamy, right? Turned out to be an old beer can, I think.
Alm: At uni I played so much Halo local multiplayer with people in my halls that I would dream about lining up headshots on Blood Gulch.
McStabStab: Yes, but never in a good way. Most recently I’ve been grinding Mini Motorways to try to get all the achievements and I had one night where I kept hearing the sounds of more houses and more destinations popping up, just outpacing my ability to keep up.
I don’t see games in my dreams, they manifest my nightmares.
Zloth: Last spring, I had a dream where I was driving along, when I decided had to get off the chopper (there was suddenly a chopper) to get something unspecific done on the ground. So I roped down XCOM-style with my team (I suddenly had a team). We barely got our feet on the ground before somebody had the package we were looking for (the “thing I had to do” was suddenly some fool FedEx quest!?) and he was grabbing a rope to get hauled back up to the chopper. I was trying to work out whether or not he was actually on the team or if this was some sneaky, alien trick when my alarm went off and I woke up.
I was playing a lot of XCOM at the time.
mainer: I have a hard time remembering details of any of my dreams, those details just seem to fade so quickly once I wake up. I’ve tried, in the past, keeping a bedside journal to write down the details as soon as I was awake, writing without turning on a light, but the words were mostly illegible. Then I tried a tape recorder, but on playback, it sounded like some alien language.
Mostly what happens is just hearing a certain soundtrack or song from a game as I wake up. It just plays from my subconscious into my conscious mind. That happens often enough that it’s not a rare occurrence for me.
But about 3 weeks ago, back when I was puling late nights trying to finish up Baldur’s Gate 2 EE, I had a dream about fighting a mob of enemies (can’t remember what they were, maybe Kobolds) with several others. I wish I could remember the details, but they’re gone from memory. I did wake up sweating and thrashing a bit. Must have been my sword arm. Probably a good thing I don’t sleep with a weapon under my pillow.
ZedClampet: I’ve had some dreams related to games, RE8 being the most recent. But even everyday events can sometimes cause me to have a game-related thought. For instance, I was supposed to go into a middle school one night to clear out a room (long story), and when I flipped the light switch on nothing happened. My first thought was that I needed to find a fuse and the fuse box, because that’s what you do in every dang game. My second thought was to light the room with my phone flashlight. It was an immersive sim kind of night.
Sarafan: It happens that I dream about video games, but it’s rarely something more than me playing them. One of the exceptions from the distant past that I still remember is a dream about Operation Flashpoint (or ARMA: Cold War Assault as it’s called now). The dream wasn’t limited to playing it. I was an actual participant of the events: a soldier sent on the front. The weirdest thing was that the environment looked similar to the in-game graphics (you know what I mean: low polygon models, angular trees, lack of 3D grass and so on), so I was literally put inside a computer game. It was a really surreal experience…