Dreams

The meaning of back-to-school nightmares, and PSVR

Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! One of my resolutions for the new year is to blog more, as blogging seems to help me think in words, which helps me think in general… I think. And I haven’t blogged much over the past year, so I got a little bit dumber.

I had a very good and peaceful Christmas. Pre-Christmas busy-ness was worse than usual though, so I didn’t have time to bake a bunch of cookies like I usually do, but I managed to eat too much on the holiday anyway. It’s nice to have a few days off. My big gift this year was a PSVR, which I’ve been wanting since it was released. I’ll blather about that in a bit, but first some thoughts on some nightmares I’ve had…

The meaning of nightmares in which I’m forced to go back to school

I got out of college in 2008.

Notice the phrasing of that sentence. I “got out.” Not “graduated.” I hate formal schooling so much that I think of it as something to “get out” of.

So it’s been over a decade since I got out of school, but throughout that decade I’ve been plagued by annoying nightmares about having to go back. Either I find myself back in college having to earn a few more credits, or I have go back to high school for some stupid reason even though I already graduated from college.

Last night I had an interesting and somewhat cathartic variation on this dream. I was forced to go back to high school and retake some classes, including AP European History, which I dreaded, not so much because the material was difficult, but because there was so much of it. Lots of notes to take and lots of essays to write and lots of names and dates to memorize. But I packed my bookbag and off I went.

When I got to school, however, the teachers had an announcement. “Would the following names please report to the office: Sean, [and three other names I don’t remember]. You four don’t have to be here. There’s nothing more we can do for you. We wish you the best in life and we’re sure you’ll do great!”

In the dream I was relieved. Freedom! The nightmare actually released me from its clutches. Although, what did they mean, “There’s nothing more we can do for you”? Was that because I was too dumb? Not good enough? Oh well, who cares, I was free!

But when I woke up and thought about it, it hit me: Was that why I was having these nightmares? Because my subconscious was (is?) insecure about how I did in high school and college? My subconscious was disappointed in me, knew I could’ve focused more and could’ve earned better grades, so it kept revisiting those stressful times in a sort of effort to “conquer” them? To fantasize about doing better? To try to understand why I hated it so much, why I didn’t do better?

Obviously, I don’t know the answer, but it’s certainly an idea I didn’t even think to consider before. There’s the conscious me, which says of my memories of high school and college, “I don’t care about how I did, I’m just happy to be out of it!” But it certainly feels possible that below the surface, in that mysterious realm where emotions and fears and dreams and desires are manufactured according to their own strange and mysterious logic, the subconscious was unsatisfied and frustrated by the high school and college experience, and that the seeds of these nightmares are planted in unresolved tension. At the very least, it’s an interesting idea that I hadn’t considered and something worthy of pondering.

Guess I’ll have to wait and see if I have any more nightmares about school, and/or whether they are varied in any way.

What would Jung say about this?

PSVR

PSVR and games and movies!

As mentioned earlier, my big gift this year was a PSVR. One of the coolest things I can do with it is watch 3D blu-rays! I love 3D movies, though of course the home video market for 3D films never really became popular enough. It’ll be interesting to see if they stop producing 3D blu-rays altogether. Already it seems impossible to find certain titles like Rogue One on blu-ray 3D (in the USA at least). But now I can bask in the beauty of Jurassic Park and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo in 3D! I’ve collected about a dozen other 3D movies as well. I watched a bit yesterday, and it was great! Granted, the resolution wasn’t great, as PSVR doesn’t give you full HD resolution in both eyes, but it’s still completely watchable, around (or perhaps a bit better than) DVD resolution.

I also played a bit of Skyrim in VR. I’m used to playing this game with a keyboard, so mostly I was terrible at fighting as I tried to figure out how to control the character with a PlayStation controller. Can’t do keyboard shortcuts like I’m used to. I suppose I could try hooking up a keyboard to the PS and see if Skyrim VR is even compatible with that. Moving around in the Skyrim world did make me a bit VR motion sick, though the “FOV filters” help a lot.

With that limited gaming experience, here’s my comparison between PSVR and Oculus Rift:

PSVR

  • More comfortable to wear (VR unit hangs in front of your eyes from a ring on your head)
  • In-ear headphone are more comfortable and deliver great sound
  • Supports 3D blu-rays
  • Resolution is decent
  • Field of view seems smaller, but as greater FOV causes more VR motion sickness, this is a tradeoff

Oculus Rift

  • Less comfortable to wear (VR unit presses against your face like ski goggles and gets too warm)
  • Headphones (not in-ear) aren’t great
  • Blu-ray support depends on your PC and so would cost more (I’ve never tried it)
  • Resolution seems a bit better; your GPU can likely offer better graphics (at greater cost)
  • Greater field of view, helps with immersion but causes more VR sickness

Overall, I’d say the PSVR wins at the moment largely due to its greater comfort. I can only play my Oculus Rift for up to about an hour before it starts to annoy me; it’s constantly pressing against my face, gets too warm, and leaves me with ski-goggle marks. PSVR’s design is far superior.

That said, I still prefer PC gaming to console gaming, though I don’t like the whole “Oculus Home” or whatever it’s called that Facebook (owner of Oculus) has tried to shove down everyone’s throat. It’s clunky and unneeded. (I understand they want some control over the market, as any console manufacturer gets for free, but too bad; that’s not in my interest as a consumer.) Overall, I’m hoping for a 3rd party company to come in and conquer them both, but we’ll probably have to wait a while. As with any new technology, I think most companies and investors are more concerned about the business models of this tech; innovation’s not worth much if you can’t sell it. We’re probably lucky (Luckey! haha) to have any VR at all.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Games

Another “escape the room” board game

Some family members and I recently tried playing another “escape the room” board game, this time from different creators. ‘Twas called “Escape The Room: Mystery at The Stargazers Manor”.

I’m not sure if it was better or worse than the pharaoh’s tomb we played earlier.

Pros: The puzzles were a little less arbitrary and fit into the story a bit more naturally. The final puzzle made you search through all the material you had used throughout the game, which was a nice finale. Also, this one allows you repack all the material so that someone else could play through it again. (Whereas players destroy the gaming material in the pharaoh’s tomb game during the process of playing, so no one can replay with the same set.)

Cons: Like the pharaoh’s tomb game, the game mainly depended on finding the right symbols in the right order and using a sliding decoder disc to check your code. If your code is correct, you advance to the next puzzle (or set of puzzles). I wish they’d come up with something a little more creative, though I’m not sure what. Symbols just get boring very quickly, and seem so arbitrary. However, the main “con” of this game was that it was just too easy. It might be great for 10-13 year olds, but it feels way too childish for 30 year olds. The puzzles here are just way too easy, and the game is over too quickly.

Therein lies the challenge of designing a good puzzle. If it’s too easy, it’s not interesting, but making it more challenging by making more confusing or enigmatic doesn’t make it more enjoyable.

What makes a good puzzle?

I suppose a good puzzle has three (or four) attributes:

  1. Problem to solve is easy to understand.
  2. Problem is challenging to solve.
  3. Solution is simple.
  4. For story-based games like these “escape the room” games, I’d also add this: Problem relates well to the game’s overall story.

Of course whether or not those conditions are met by a certain puzzle is subjective. What’s simple to someone may be confusing to someone else. But everyone is different and special in their own way, so that’s OK.

Anyway, I think the pharaoh’s tomb game design had problems with attribute 1. They tried to make puzzles more difficult by simply making the instructions more enigmatic. This stargazer’s manor game, on the other hand, had problems with attribute 2, at least for adult players. The challenges were too easy for adults.

Both games had trouble with attribute 4. The puzzles are just sort of shoe-horned into the story and the setting. Perhaps most players are more interested in the puzzles than the surrounding story or scenario… but then why not just go print out some puzzles from the web for free? If you’re going to buy an “escape the room” board game, isn’t for the “escape” scenario? So I wish these games had spent more effort writing compelling scenarios, rather than just taking it a bit for granted. Both scenarios were just forgettable and dumb.

By S P Hannifin, ago