Xbox: The Guardian of Sleep

This soldier is clearly a regular gamer...

Violent computer games desensitise people to violence. This is normally considered a bad thing, but perhaps this is not necessarily so. Soldiers in a warzone face a situation in which they must encounter extreme violence routinely, and a survey has revealed that playing violent computer games might well help soldiers cope with this prolonged exposure to the extreme violence of war. To be more precise, the survey revealed that soldiers who frequently played computer games that involved war and combat experienced fewer violent dreams, and when these dreams did occur they reported feeling lower levels of fear and aggression compared to their non-gaming colleagues. The gaming soldiers reported feeling more able to “fight back against whatever forces were threatening them” in their nightmares.

It’s not difficult to formulate a plausible theory that would go some way towards explaining this data. Certainly, it seems clear that the desensitising effect of playing computer games could be a contributory factor. It’s quite unremarkable that soldiers who frequently encounter war as a game – albeit in the artificial context of a computer game – subsequently find the actual reality of war less threatening when they encounter it in their dreams. They learn to associate war with a game, perhaps as a game, and as a result their natural inclinations of fear and abhorrence are suppressed. But as a philosopher who possesses a passing, though not-insignificant, level of interest in psychoanalysis and the work of Sigmund Freud, I wonder if a more interesting explanation and investigation might be available to us… Continue reading “Xbox: The Guardian of Sleep”


Epistemology, Dreaming, Inception

Chistopher Nolan’s imaginative and visually stunning thriller Inception is looking more and more like the hit film of the summer, if not the year. I won’t write here about the nature of the film as danielwilson’s post already does that. Instead, I’ll be concentrating on the ways in which the movie draws on epistemological problems first raised by Descartes.  (Guaranteed spoiler-free!)

Unusually for a commercially successful movie, Inception raises a number of engaging (if well-worn) questions. Indeed, publishers have been quick to see the appeal of the film for philosophers and their students, with open calls for abstracts issued by both Open Court and Blackwell within just a few days of each other.

The central question raised by the film is familiar from a number of sci-fi films, most reminiscently evoking the epistemological conundrums of The Matrix. How does one know when one is dreaming? Pinch me?