Alone in Electric Dreams

If you ever want to invite me for a day playing games, I’d probably be keen. But there is one peculiar problem I have.

After a day of board games, I often find myself in patchy sleep, trying to dream in terms of board game mechanisms: I guess because I’ve been thinking in these terms for a long time, and deeply, during the day before, I end up with dreams regulated by worker placement mechanisms and turn order limitations. Honestly.

Similarly, when I was more involved in computer games, I’d have 4-colour CGA dreams.


Tapper in CGA. Playing for more than five minutes would be a recipe for headaches

Each is, sincerely, painful. When I’m trying to dream according to board game rules, I can feel the parts of my brain dedicated to sensory experience and unrailed imagination attempting to speak, but failing. And so my head ends up hurting. The pain of dreaming in CGA is, I assume, entirely obvious.

I suppose one day I might come up with the first stages of a game design this way, but usually those mechanisms from my dreams which I can drag into full consciousness are entirely absurd. I’ve dreamt that the roll of a dice would decide if, until further notice, I was permitted to walk forwards or backwards, for instance.

How much is my brain doing something useful when this happens? On such occasions, have I fed my brain so much essentially unimportant stimulation that it doesn’t know what to do, or is its action more rational?

In this dream activity, I can recognize the part of my personality which wants to interpolate aspects of the people to whom I relate.  In a deepening relationship, I see value if I draw something of my partner’s personality into myself, insomuch as I recognize that it adds to my character, rather than overriding it.

Presumably board game mechanisms may also be processed into elements of a rich psyche, albeit they seem to draw upon existent mental processes. While the worker placement mechanism is an abstraction of decision-making processes our minds already inherently employ – that of deciding how to utilize limited investment capacity (deciding, for instance, how to assign our time during a day) – I feel its board game rendition has a value which can be taken beyond a given game, and beyond games in general. Seeing this process abstracted can allow us to recognize it in regular life, and perform it with greater clarity.

Certainly, I’d like to flatter myself that the time I’ve dedicated to games has sharpened my reasoning skills. I’m not so sure I can argue that dreaming in cyan and magenta represents anything other than moderate self-flagellation, however.

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