Nuking Dreams

This is from a recent issue of Science:

In 2004, a research team led by Pierre Maquet of the University of Liège, Belgium, used positron emission tomography (PET) to monitor brain activity in men playing a virtual-reality game in which they learned to navigate through a virtual town (actually a scene from the shoot-’em-up video game Duke Nukem). The same regions of the hippocampus that revved up when the subjects explored the virtual environment also became active when the men slipped into slow-wave sleep that night.

Well first, that’s pretty neat. I guess dreams aren’t a waste of time after all.

But: Duke Nukem?? In 2004? Assuming they meant Duke Nukem 3D and not the 1991 original, that game is almost 10 years old. By today’s standards, the graphics are horrible and unrealistic. You’d think that they would get better results using a game that resembles real life; and, um, less meaningful results with a game where you walk around a pixely city fighting cartoony 2-dimensional pig-people with a freeze ray.

Of course, if they really wanted a Duke Nukem game to use, that was their only choice. The sequel to Duke Nukem – Duke Nukem Forever – is one of the most hilarious things in the video game world. It’s been in development since 1997, and was scheduled to be released in 1998. It is still not out. It’s now almost 10 years over its scheduled relase date. What’s funny is that every few years, news of the game will come out, usually saying that it will be out soon, accompanied by a tiny screenshot. Nobody will admit that it’s been cancelled. The fact that it has “forever” in the title, and abbreviates to “DNF” (i.e., did not finish) makes it even better. Still, there are plenty of games, out now, that have gorgeous graphics which psychology researchers could easily use to simulate real life. Look at Gears of War.

And this, friends, is why spending countless hours playing video games is no more a waste of time than dreaming. It’s pretty much studying for school and my future career as a psychologist.

I’ve now outed myself as a pathetic geek to everyone on Facebook.

To be all intellectually honest, here is the full source of the quote in glorious APA format:

Miller, G. (2007). Hunting for meaning after midnight. Science, 315 (5817), 1360 – 1363.

Bonus picture:

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