Where is the Game of Dreams?
November 22, 2007 4:22 AM   Subscribe

Is there a video game that simulates a dream?

I'd like to a play a game with the same 'look and feel' of my dreams.

Games that do away with the whole 'complete obstacle race, win jackpot' sensibility and pump up the dada, i.e. nonlinear cryptic surreal recursive interactive media that might relate to daily life and are often freeform and make no sense at all.

'Ah, sushi, go make machinima', you say? Any examples?

So yeah, dreams are kinda personal. Writing an app that samples your 'social graph' and presents it to you visually seems straightforward - is there something similar out there?
posted by sushiwiththejury to Computers & Internet (31 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Note: I find the semantic shift 'dreamy' has taken (to mean vaselinecoated johncusack chickflicky slowtracking rosetinted britinvasion janglepop) annoying: my dreams scare the crap out of me. Pls advise accordingly.
posted by sushiwiththejury at 4:23 AM on November 22, 2007

Well there's this which is diverting enough, but seems to fall into that "dreamy" semantic shift category.
posted by Jofus at 4:37 AM on November 22, 2007

Lots of the stuff at Orisinal seems to fit the bill.
posted by jbickers at 4:45 AM on November 22, 2007

Have you checked out Psychonauts? I think it might fit the bill.
posted by necessitas at 5:08 AM on November 22, 2007

Spoiler alert: though it's a normal run around and shoot bad guys 3rd-person affair, this game has 2 dream sequences that work very well. Well, they do when they sneak up on you at 2am.
posted by Martin E. at 5:08 AM on November 22, 2007

There's Weird Dreams, which might be of interest even though it's not quite what you're looking for.
posted by teleskiving at 5:15 AM on November 22, 2007

And also Dream Zone.
posted by teleskiving at 5:17 AM on November 22, 2007

posted by goshling at 5:23 AM on November 22, 2007

Killer 7 stars you as an assassin with multiple (though equally homicidal) personalities. You run around killing members of a cult (aliens?) called Heaven Smile. If you shoot them skillfully enough you can collect some of their "Thick Blood" to inject into yourself and upgrade your skills and abilities. You are lead around the game by a trussed-up gimp, and one of your personalities can slit her wrists as a special ability. Then it gets weird.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:41 AM on November 22, 2007

NiGHTs into Dreams?
posted by zemblamatic at 5:43 AM on November 22, 2007

There is also the surreal Flash game game, game, game, and again game, as discussed previously.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:46 AM on November 22, 2007

There was a game called 'Nights into Dreams...' I played on Sega Saturn (how short lived was that?) where you played a child inside their dream. In order to keep the game going you had to fly through these cloud rings and stay away from the ticking alarm clock which chased you around trying to wake you up (I assume). There were other things you had to accomplish, but largely you had to escape the dream or something similar. I recall it was mainly about flying around in a forest or open landscape and had some kind of dreamy surreal appearance in it.

Another game I remember was Sanitarium on PC. It was very surreal, with really really weird plot twists and involves transference of conciousness into the bodies of other people and psychological trauma, flash backs and some really unusual things. Traumatized me when it came out (I was 12 or so?) . Only applicable if your dreams are dark and morbid. But definitely surreal.
posted by chrisbucks at 5:52 AM on November 22, 2007

It probably doesn't count as a video game, but the early black-and-white version of The Manhole for Apple ][, by the team who'd later go on to make Myst, has a very dreamlike/surreal look and feel, with nonlinear storylines and no set goal (it also reminded me a lot of the video game in Ender's World). The later color version added in a lot more features of standard children's computer games, and lost a lot of that surreal feeling.
posted by nonane at 6:22 AM on November 22, 2007

There's a level in Oni that takes place in your own dreams. It's called, somewhat unsurprisingly "Dream Diver." The game got pretty bad reviews, but I actually really enjoyed it. The combat system is great, even though you're basically fighting people in exactly the same way for the whole game. You could probably find a copy of the game for like 10 bucks at this point.
posted by heresiarch at 6:27 AM on November 22, 2007

Seconding Sanitarium. I'm remembering that the control scheme and navigation tended to vary from level to level too, which was nice and disorienting.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:28 AM on November 22, 2007

Not exactly what you're after, but Rez simulates various aspects of Synesthesia, and is a lot of fun. It's being ported to the XBox 360.
posted by Mwongozi at 6:31 AM on November 22, 2007

I'm very much looking forward to the new game by Bill Viola "The Night Journey" for the PS3 which looks a lot like my dreams. His video stuff is excellent so I have high hopes for the game.
posted by merocet at 6:59 AM on November 22, 2007

Check out LSD, a "dream emulator" for the Playstation in which you explore a surreal landscape -- based on the dreams of its Japanese developer collected over a ten year period -- that shifts and changes as you play. The thread I linked to contains a better description, plenty of screenshots, and a disc image which you can play on an emulator if you don't have a Playstation handy.
posted by Ben Light at 7:05 AM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sanitarium is good stuff, indeed. Not just because of the surreal shifting-consciousness, but because how it handles it as an imperfect shift.

But I can't think of any examples that really nail your general proposition of incorporating outside material into a freeform narrative.

I have to say I very much like the idea in general of an app incorporating seed material for dynamic presentation—it seems like something that will really find its stride some time in the nearish future, really, with ubiquitous net access finally being pretty much a rock solid reality.

I remember a (really crappy) game I played years ago that I played solely for the gimmick: it used the layout and content of your computer's filesystem to generate the "world" of the game—creating a labyrinth with the branching nature of your subdirectories, using found jpegs and gifs as visual elements in that area of the filesystem-maze, etc. It was a neat idea, but the implementation sucked pretty bad; I remember giving up on it after a hopeful twenty minutes or so.

But the idea of that, I liked. And something taken more general but aimed at creating a sort of surrealist, dreamy juxtaposition of ideas—especially, as possible, of a person's own unique set of memories and stimuli (or some reasonable simulacrum of same) —would be great.
posted by cortex at 7:23 AM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Dreamfall (the sequel to The Longest Journey) has large sections that take place within dreams - hence the name, I guess...
posted by dogsbody at 7:42 AM on November 22, 2007

I second Sanitarium, it was one of the few games I played till the end. Following the story of a delusional amnesiac who wakes up from an accident in a sanitarium, the game blurs all boundaries between dreams and reality.
With a beautiful, surreal plot and scary twists, its a classic work of art from start to finish.
posted by arungoodboy at 8:11 AM on November 22, 2007

Cloud, Created with the Game Innovation Grant from the Division of Interactive Media at the University of Southern California School of Cinema and Television is pretty cute, dreamy, fun, and free...
posted by anthill at 8:34 AM on November 22, 2007

Aside: I never actually finished Sanitarium but I found the CDs in a case last week. I think I'll go and confront my childhood fears :-o

Does Myst/Uru feature as possible "dreamscape exploration"? It's possible that we're confusing 'dream' with 'fantasy' here, but the Myst/Riven/Uru series is possibly surreal enough to qualify. Mainly it's an adventure series (or other definition?) set in a series of impossible worlds, which have been created by writers and special books. Events such as opening a fissure in the ground and falling into a void of stars?.

Maybe just a lot of my dreams are based on fantasy type illustrations in these games (well, I played a lot of Fallout, so my dreams are kind of Mad Max) so these are things I could connect with a dream I may have had.

Have you seen Waking Life? It's not a game, but it gives the visual interpretation of a dream and a unnerving sense of disconnection from reality whilst critiquing reality.

I think you're more after a kind of interactive AVS (like in winamp) where you can explore random events and random data with your own personal input into how that is visualized? Rather than something with a story to it?

I think completely non-linear, open ended, surreal, dada games might be hard to come across because people like to feel that they've accomplished something with computer games.
posted by chrisbucks at 9:16 AM on November 22, 2007

There was a game called Bad Mojo that was pretty trippy.
posted by exolstice at 9:33 AM on November 22, 2007

posted by skryche at 9:35 AM on November 22, 2007

Super Mario Brothers 2?
posted by SansPoint at 9:39 AM on November 22, 2007

Dark Eye and thirding Sanitarium. Both have same surreality for me, both are really dream-like.

Bioshock sampler was very dream like for me; but perhaps its just because I like anti Utopias.
posted by olya at 9:57 AM on November 22, 2007

I second Max Payne, but not just because of the dream sequences.

I think that the whole of Max Payne 1 and 2 could be characterized as dream-like. The slow-motion ability, anachronistic portrayal of New York as teeming with violent criminals and salty mobsters, and deliberately ham-fisted noir style all give the series the feel of a feverish nightmare arising out of a nagging fear of urban violence.
posted by ionnin at 11:02 AM on November 22, 2007

I strongly second the Dark Eye. From my experience of it, it may be exactly what you're looking for. It's old enough now that I had to downgrade some software components the last time I played through it, but it's creepy, unforgettable, and totally surreal.

There was a game made by The Residents the same year called Bad Day on the Midway that was also really creepy.

I also agree re Bioshock. It does have an FPS type interface, but the plot is surreal, you make your own moral choices, and the music they play throughout the game (and the look of your surroundings) are very dreamlike.
posted by zebra3 at 7:02 AM on November 23, 2007

Silent Hill 2 (on the Playstation 2), though perhaps not what you are looking for, did an excellent job of evoking the dream state. Character identities shift, your main character goes from being totally in control to having no control, the environments change and that change is sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle. The atmosphere - through sound and visual - is very much one of isolation with a very sinister undercurrent. Unlike other games, when I finished this I felt a sense of loss and sadness rather than accomplishment.

Of course, it is still a video game and has the logical gameplay of searching corridors, finding keys, solving puzzles to open the next door and bashing zombie-like things to get to the next stage. But the story and execution are the closest I've come to evoking the sort of emotions I have in vivid dreams. Bad dreams, very bad dreams.
posted by Elmore at 6:42 AM on November 24, 2007

Planescape: Torment had a very dreamlike quality, and is perhaps one of the finest single-player CRPG's ever, to boot.
posted by waraw at 1:09 PM on November 29, 2007

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