the artistry and psychology of gaming


World 5 (Mr. Sandman)

World 5 (Mr. Sandman)

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the sandman: a being who places sleeping sand on the eyes of the dormant. This sand is said to cause dreams, and while I find this story to be highly implausible for several reasons, it did cause me to have a unique experience. As meta as this may seem, I had a dream that I was, in fact, this sandman; this bringer of dreams. It was almost as though I was dreaming of the Mushroom Kingdom, since it had a very similar feel to it, but the landscape was completely different. While the clouds, fortresses, pipes, and tall trees with flat tops were all similar elements, their appearance had been drastically altered.

I’ve previously mentioned the third and final regions of this dream. Today, I would like to discuss a region very near the center of the dream; its deepest part. The fifth region takes place in that special part of the sleep cycle in which the barriers of the logic that the dreamer has built in the physical world begin to break down. Without these barriers, the dreamer is completely unaware that what he or she is creating is utter nonsense. So, although some of the other regions were so dark and barren that I could almost hear the sighs of lost souls on the winds, and although I saw breaking dawn in a neon-framed world, this stretch was, perhaps, the most haunting of all.

I began in a common element from my dreams: an endless stretch of black water. Contrary to what most people think, this black water is crystal clear, and often suffers none of the usual rippling distortions that one sees underwater. Behind me was the castle from which I had emerged, though it was above water when I had entered it. Another oddity that I noticed was that the sides of the castle had been cleanly sheared off, and so had the road on the side to which I was traveling. I began swimming into the endless black abyss.

I swam through nothingness for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually, I came to a black-and-white checkerboard wall with a tunnel just wide enough for me to enter. I swam through, finding myself in darkness once again. After a time, I came to another wall, but for some reason, I could not swim high enough to get over it. Beneath it was one of the strange denizens of this dream – most of whom I’d found inside of castles – sitting upon a strange device. I went to speak to the being, who grabbed me, pulled me downward onto the device, and let go, launching me high over the wall; evidently, it was some manner of springboard. I came back down and swam through emptiness once again.

After a time, I came to another wall with a small opening, but this one was strange. It seemed to be made of red blotches with pale orange tendrils snaking around them, and yet, it was completely solid. It was not until later that I came to the realization that these were the pink ghosts that I had encountered in other underwater areas. These particular ghosts were mostly invisible, due to their black color vanishing into the blackness of this submarine world. I slipped through the small opening into what appeared to be underwater treetops, these having red leaves. What struck me as unusual about them was that the trunks were either almost entirely broken off, leaving a jagged anti-stump, or else missing altogether. I snaked my way through this passage, over a pipe, and swam over a checkerboard road to a flagpole and the first fortress.

Upon exiting the fortress, I was not merely out of the water; I was in a new area entirely. The fortress looked the same, but the road was paved with gray blocks outlined in red, which had faces with ambiguous expressions upon them. The ceiling was comprised of the same material, and the sky was still completely black. Upon it, I could see the gray outlines of clouds, which brought the memory a night in my physical life that could never have happened; it had to have been a dream, because I had never been at that place at night. Though there was little else noteworthy between this fortress and the next, I was too awestruck both by the strange road and ceiling and my own memories dragging themselves in to notice at the time. I reached the aforementioned fortress and took a brief respite to collect my head before heading to the castle.

The fortress had now turned to a rust color, as had the checkerboard road in front of me. I ran a short distance before stopping dead in my tracks. Before me was a body of water with several cube-topped towers emerging from its surface. I soon came to know these towers as launchers for giant syringes, so I had to carefully make my way across the tops. At one point, the towers made a sort of staircase, which I ascended. In between that and a downward “staircase” was a floating checkerboard platform the bridged the gap. I leapt across a few more of these launchers, coming to a series of shorter stacks of blocks that didn’t quite reach the surface. I loped across them, making sure not to fall in the gaps as my feet splashed with each step. Soon afterward, I passed another denizen just before the castle, and made my way inside.

The setup inside – a white-and-gray checkerboard construction with the red outlines of lava – was similar to that of the other castles in this dream, but the differences soon made themselves evident. I had a difficult jump to make both over the lava and under the overhang, in order to find myself in another dangerous situation. I had to climb a series of blocks to reach the walkway above, one of which had a spinning bar of deadly energy. I made my way past, soon finding myself dumped into a pit of lava at the bottom of a long shaft. Using every bit of momentum that I had, I managed to land near a cliff of sorts, and climbed to the top. I ran along another elevated walkway, this one taking me past many bars of energy. The path opened into a large pit with a neverending line of red-and-white checkerboard platforms descending to the bottom. Several bars of energy hounded me through this ordeal, but I soon reached the bridge, at which point, several white creatures appeared. They came seemingly out of nowhere, and in a split second, warped diagonally through the floor, soon disappearing into nothingness. I crossed the bridge, grabbed the key, and left the castle.

Though in the physical world, I prefer strict order, what I love most about dreams is their chaotic nature. They are a time when your thoughts can truly unravel and create whatever they desire without consequence. If you dream of a world in which gravity is constantly changing, tearing any sort of structure apart, in no way will this affect the physical world. Furthermore, unless you have a proclivity toward recurring dreams, the world of your dreams will be gone from all but your memory as soon as you awaken, regardless of what happens to it while you are asleep. This gives us a chance to experiment with and explore the depths of our minds without the risk of causing any real damage. Unfortunately, unless the dream is lucid, there is no control over this experimentation, so we should absorb, cherish, and reflect upon our dreams as the unique and wonderful opportunities that they are.

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