Articulating the Paradigm Shift: Serious Games for Psychological Healing of the Collective Persona

Articulating the Paradigm Shift: Serious Games for Psychological Healing of the Collective Persona

Stephen Brock Schafer (Digipen Institute of Technology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0149-9.ch019


The author’s hypothesis covers the following: neural processes are correlated with archetypal states of the cognitive unconscious, archetypes form a magnetic field and energy center underlying the transformation of the psychic processes into images, as in Jungian dream analysis, images can be used to access dimensions of the cognitive unconscious, and drama-based video games (DBG) constitute a dream analog that can be employed as a cognitive research instrument. Therefore, using a dramatic-metaphorical point of reference, deep states of the psychic unconscious can be interrogated using Jungian principles of dream analysis, the most recent research in the cognitive sciences, and the mathematics of recursion in order to improve understanding of higher order cognitive functions, to apply compensational content patterns to the global media, and to foster sustainable, coherent human values and behaviors.
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The Dream Paradigm: Coherent Potentials Of Media

Carl G. Jung, who is recognized as the father of psychiatry, made this observation long before the media age got underway, “On the whole, I believe I am not exaggerating when I say that modern man has suffered an almost fatal shock, psychologically speaking, and as a result has fallen into profound uncertainty (Jung, p. 200).”

The magnitude of the paradigm shift into a media age is so great that collective trauma can be predicted to be catastrophic. Indeed, we need not look carefully to read the manifest signs of psychological imbalance in the media dream of the nightly news, film, video games, and the Internet. Much of the imagery confirms that collective humanity is experiencing a psychotic episode. If these mediated images have the same dynamics as dreams, they are projections of unconscious psychic content that, when recognized, have the capacity to “heal” the “patient” by disposing a state of relative coherence. If their warnings are heeded, they will compensate with a cognitive reframing whereby the unconscious sources of collective pathology are understood and corrected. Jung says, “The belief that man’s essential attitude is that of consciousness is a fallacy, for ‘we spend the greater part of our life in the unconscious: we sleep or daydream….It is undeniable that in every important situation in life our consciousness is dependent on the unconscious.” (Jacoby p. 10: Quoting from Jung’s Kïndertraumseminar, 1938-1939)

It is self-evident that the planet is in crisis. Human institutions and humanity itself is in crisis. In fact, it was observed long ago that humanity and the planet face a complex of crises that seems well beyond the human capacity to resolve. We seem to be sinking deeper and deeper into unprecedented chaos and generalized psychosis that seems—by archaic worldviews and standards of materialistic science—unfixable. On the other hand, in his book on fractals, John Briggs says, “In the twentieth century, we have been overwhelmed by the nearly magical ability of science to understand and control our physical environment.” (p. 13)

Where lies the disconnect? The problem is our failure to realize that the so-called physical reality is an illusion, and the underlying psychic reality of energy and information constitutes a more authentic reality than the “material reality.” (Chopra, et al) Though scientific verification of this fact is massive and interdisciplinary, modern science has not yet prioritized research on the influence of the cognitive unconscious as projected in the media. As with most modern science, our manipulation of its power goes beyond our understanding or sense of responsibility for that power. The emergent media age is more an illusion than ever, but cognitive patterning of human beings since the beginning of the Rational Enlightenment prevents researchers from engaging in a timely and open minded assessment of the reality of illusion. Though we can see the vague outlines of a new-paradigm worldview, we have not yet discovered a way to prepare for this brave new world of mediated energy and information.

A positive way to look at the emergent paradigm shift is that humanity is experiencing an expansion of consciousness by which it may contemplate a more “conscious” universe. By the term conscious, we do not mean only human consciousness but “that” which is based on an exchange of energy and information—a worldview in tune with myth and quantum physics. Such exchange is possible due to the existence of an infinity of mediating structures that translate energy into information within a psychecology—a metaphysical construct that incorporates and synthesizes principles of psychology and physics, alchemy and chemistry. Interestingly, in our modern age of metaphysical science, significant parallels appear to exist between ancient and modern worldviews. For example, the alchemical axiom, “As it is above, so it is below,” might be applied to non-linear phenomena such as the physics of chaos and fractals and the non-local dynamics of psychic synchronicity. Both alchemy and physics are metaphysical sciences that contemplate reality in terms of a vast and shifting set of unique circumstances and a kaleidoscopic interaction of influences within a unified field.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Character Premise: Premise is the contextual, very personal, truth that is learned by the character as a result of his experiences in a drama—the personal conclusion that the character comes to as a result of his actions.” In terms of DBG, the value of the premise is that it provides a reference point for the development of software. Premise is a test of authenticity relative to the contextual nature of the game player. Based on contextual premise, software will be developed to include or exclude every element in the story. Player choices will be designed according to a cognitive matrix linked by correspondence to the premise, and—ultimately—to the psychological meaning of the game-win.

Paradigm Shift into a Media Age: Thomas Kuhn coined the term paradigm shift and used it to describe a change in basic assumptions within the ruling theory of science—an epistemological revolution in science. According to Kuhn, a scientific revolution occurs when scientists encounter anomalies which cannot be explained by the universally accepted paradigm by which scientific progress has heretofor been made. Wikipedia explains that in different disciplines, the term is used more generally. The discoveries of quantum physics constitute a genuine Kuhnian shift. However, in this paper, the term is applied to a dynamic emergent realization of the synergies between physics and psychology.

The Media Dreamand the Dream Paradigm: These are psychological constructs that postulate the idea that the symbolic-metaphorical narrative architecture of myth, Jungian dream analysis, and recent research on cognitive framing and Global Workspace theory can be synthesized in the medium of drama-based video games (DBG). Because they have the same structure, DBGs can simulate dreams in order to map the “territory” of the personal and collective unconscious for the purpose of understanding the potentials for psychological compensation as articulated by the media dream.

Compensation in Analytical Psychology: Compensation is both a self-regulating process and a state of being—a correction, balancing, or harmonization of the conscious and unconscious elements of psyche. Compensation is best understood as an ongoing process to maintain cognitive coherence. Jacoby says that, as a rule the orientation of the unconscious is complementary or compensatory to the conscious attitude. The more one-sided the conscious attitude is, and the further it deviates from psychic balance or harmony, the greater becomes the possibility that vivid dreams with a strongly contrasting but purposive content will appear as an expression of the self-regulation of the psyche.

Amplification Method of Analytical Psychology: According to the Jungian method for dream analysis, called Analytical Psychology, The meaning of the dream is supplied by subjective amplification ; i.e., the analyst asks the dreamer what symbols in the dream mean to him personally. By a process of metaphorical extension colored with empathy, the psychiatrist amplifies the possible significance of the symbols, makes suggestions, and enriches dream elements with the universal, symbolic material of fairy tales, myths, etc.

The Media Dream or Media-sphere: These are in the nature of a holographic universe-- the infinite field of psyche-physics as “energy” in conjunction with the Jungian-cognitive functions of psyche as “information.” The media dream is the symbolic, semiotic, metaphorical projection of the collective unconscious by a contextual culture’s visual media—particularly film, television, the Internet, and video games. Like personal dreams, the media dream affords insight as to the achievement of psychic harmony in a culture. Psychologically, the media dream is a projection of the a-priori subjective psyche that is best defined in terms of Jungian functions and narrative-metaphorical cognitive framing. This holistic state seems to exist as a dramatic unity of being (enactive mediated correspondence) includes not only a dream-like illusion, the “world out there,” but the archetypal patterns—the Psychecology—that are synchronous with subatomic patterns (spin types) of “the world in here.” It is in constant movement and transformation based on the function of “mediation.” In its many forms, this mediation may be understood in terms of language including: mathematics (algorithms & Fourier transforms), symbolism, and the narrative architecture of metaphor and cognitive framing.

Contextuality: Jung’s principle of compensation is critically important to dream analysis and the compensatory process. The psychiatrist must attain significant familiarity and understanding of the individual or patient who is doing the dreaming. Jung believed that it is only with deep empathy and knowledge of the dreamer’s conscious situation, values, family, profession, and background can a healer understand whether the unconscious content carries a plus or a minus sign [valence]. In order for DBG software to provide authentic compensation, the game must be specifically programmed to the psychological profile or “context” of the player. Ongoing research in this area would be necessary in order to refine healing potentials, but due to the sophistication of focus-group psychology and personality profiling, even a limited psychological gamer profile might prove statistically valid in an ongoing process of inducing self-realization.

Coherence: The various concepts and measurements embraced under the term coherence have become central to fields as diverse as quantum physics, cosmology, physiology, cognition, and consciousness research. Coherence has several related definitions, all of which are applicable to the study of human psychology, social interactions, and global affairs. The most common dictionary definition is “the quality of being logically integrated, consistent, and intelligible,” as in a coherent statement.

Cognitive Framing: In the language of the brain, words and thoughts are defined relative to narrative frames and conceptual metaphors. We are not born with these complex, fractal narratives—the kinds we find in everyone’s life story, as well as in fairy tales, novels, and drama. Rather, they are patterned into our nervous system as a result of experience. Frame structures are gradually created with a variety of components such as neural binding circuitry, neural signatures, and event structures. These narrative-metaphorical structures imbedded in the nervous system serve as reference patterns with which new experience is assessed, choices made, values and behaviors established. Cognitive frames tend to structure a huge amount of our thought. Sounding remarkably like Jung who observed that dreams have dramatic action that can meaningfully be broken down into the elements of a Greek play, George Lakoff explains that each frame has roles, relations between the roles, and scenarios carried out by those playing the roles. He says, there is a protagonist, the person whose point of view is being taken. Events have valence—they are good or bad—and they evoke appropriate emotions that fit dramatic scenarios. Lakoff also observes that words are all defined metaphorically as “conceptual frames,” and “Groups of related words, called ‘semantic fields,’ are defined with respect to the same frame. Thus words like ‘cost,’ sell,’ ‘goods,’ price,’ buy,’ and so on are defined with respect to a single frame. and the roles of Buyer, Seller, Goods, and Money, form a narrative field context for the frame.” The dynamic is one of correspondence. A correspondence is a complex metaphor with a unique “personalities” that includes great complexity and extraordinary accuracy. Correspondences are as complex as the relationships of harmony and tone to be found within the study of frequencies of sound and light—music, color, or a DNA map.

Psychecology Games or Drama-Based Games (DBG): It is postulated that because video games have all the dynamics of Jungian dreams, they can simulate dreams. The DBG medium assumes the same dramatic-metaphorical structure as the cognitive unconscious (researched in neurolinguistic cognitive framing), the universe of correspondences (as studied in mythology), and the structure of dreams (as applied in Jungian dream analysis). Dramatic-metaphorical structure provides a point of reference for navigating unconscious psychic dimensions, tracking synchronicities and coherences among multi-level neurolinguistic structures, and accessing veridical data relative to subliminal states of individual and cultural psyche.

Psyche & the Psychecology: The term Psych ecology applies to a universe of patterns that can be mapped and navigated with the medium of symbolic language in its dramatic form. It is a term I use to elicit a metaphorical reality that incorporates the laws of Psyche, rhetoric, and ecology. The dynamic patterns of the Psych ecology are derived as well from principles of Hermetic philosophy, Gnosticism, physics, psychology, computer science, and systems theory. The term is meant to elicit the unified field of Psyche—dynamic thought forms and metaphorical-emotional resonance.

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