For his latest creation, experimental game developer Ian MacLarty decided to visualize what he calls an “impression of [his] dreams after [he’s] been playing Doom all day.” The result is called Doomdream, and it’s like playing the 1993 first-person shooter Doom with no enemies, and no textures, as you aimlessly wander through an endless labyrinth of low ceilings and jagged blocks.
MacLarty says that he “based Doomdream on being lost after killing all monsters, unable to find the exit – just a maze of abstract architecture.” This is how he once dreamed of Doom 2 after playing it obsessively for a period of time. He remembers wandering those creepy sci-fi facilities and hellscapes while the gored bodies he created lay upon the floor, leaving him in relative silence.
“I think it’s the brain’s way of making a mental map of the game world,” MacLarty says about his Doom-based dreams. And he may be right. Bob Stickgold, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, once told Game Informer that he conducted a study on how playing video games can affect our dreams. During one test, 75 percent of the subjects that he had play Tetris before going to sleep said that they had dreamed about the game that night. The theory is that it’s the intense emotions and high interactivity that video games engage us with that trigger them to re-appear in our dreams.
In the case of Doom 2 and MacLarty, the interaction of these moments was in trying to navigate an labyrinth to find the exit, a moment that can be frustrating but also requires you to work out a confusing layout.
Having been playing Bloodborne quite a bit recently, during our conversation, I brought up to MacLarty that I had been revisiting parts of Yharnam in my dreams. “I guess with something spatially complex and interconnected like Bloodborne, dreaming about its landmarks makes sense,” he says.
And, yeah, it does—getting through the game’s starting area especially, with its staggered, interconnected structure requires you to put pieces and paths together. Learning those areas is something we do while we play and is helped along by revisiting them in our dreams, too, it would seem.