Gamasutra is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
July 18, 2019
arrowPress Releases

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


Gaming Cultural Atonement

by Stephen Schafer on 05/24/18 09:49:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Reframing the Collective Unconscious

With Coherent Healing Patterns


©Stephen Brock Schafer



The concept behind the development of a Psychecology game (PEG) prototype is that authentic game-play based on the most current cognitive research and the principles of dream analysis identified by Carl Jung can promote individual and collective psychological atonement.  When the dynamics of “authentic game play” based on the Jungian process of “Individuation” are more fully researched, they can be applied as media biofeedback that—like Jungian dream analysis—can lead to meaningful cognitive insights which foster “coherent” states of being. For present purposes of understanding, such coherent states of being can be correlated with “Flow” states and with Jungian “Compensation”. Coherence becomes the arbiter of contextual health and ethical behavior; therefore, “Atonement”—both individual and collective—can be contextually analyzed and the resulting rubrics can be applied to cultural healing with the “media-dream”.

The hypothesis of this proposal is based on robust hard-scientific research on the proposition that media-dreams, video games, Jungian dreams—and so-called “real” life—have the same structure and purpose. They have dramatic structure and compensational purpose which is conveyed in images.  Within a quantum electrodynamic (QED) field of physics, matrixes of energy frequencies connect linguistic (dramatic) patterns with neurobiological cognitive patterns that can be projected as pixel-images.  Accordingly, the media-dreams of a culture can convey subconscious problem sources in the form of pixel patterns. Because the projected patterns in media-dreams are recursive, reverse engineering can divulge the precise form and content of QED archetypal patterns of the unconscious.  Mathematical-computational algorithms like Fourier transforms can make translations between pixel patterns—be they neurobiological or computational—and QED archetypal patterns.  Using Psychecology video games for ongoing research and analysis, rubrics can be developed for the provision of coherent mediated biofeedback in-order to adjust dis-harmonious problems that have their source in the collective unconscious.  Ongoing cognitive research with PEG can then be addressed to contextual game design and to the refinement of media policy.  New media policy will emphasize “coherent” content that—when employed as media biofeedback—will reframe the personal and collective unconscious. 

This re-framing dynamic is unlike all existing research in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics because it is non-manipulative.  Primarily due to motive, the game dynamic is based on “contextually autonomous” choices that are geared to the essential (contextual) nature of the gamer.  The purpose of PEG is to foster the “natural” dynamics of Jungian Individuation rather than to create an artificial simulation of the dynamic.  Reframing unconscious cognitive patterns with media biofeedback will “compensate” for dis-harmonious patterns in the collective unconscious of contextual cultural personae, and coherent reframing will alter choices and behaviors in the direction of coherent states of being. However, this approach to problem solving (on a global scale) will fly in the face of many fundamental value structures that are presently considered sane. 

Unknown to most, these cognitive media dynamics are being aggressively explored by private industry—especially in the neuromarketing field. It should come as no surprise that advertising techniques which are based in psychological association and brainwashing have been very successful, nor should it come as a surprise that “private industry” does very little in the name of the general welfare.  Cognitive manipulation through advertising has transformed world culture from “needs-based” values to “want-based” values known as the “consumer” culture. (Curtis, Adam, 2002) The prime example of psychological media manipulation of values is the Republican agenda, “Contract with America”, that was based largely on the psychological media research of Frank Luntz. (Goodman, Barak, Dretzen, Rachel, Rushkoff, Douglas, Soenens, Murial, and Fanning, David, 2004). 

Consumerism has been sold as positive evolution in the quality of life, but—in fact—it is a profiteering dynamic.  Consumerism has led to significant reduction in the quality of life in the global environment.  Stories of corporate deceit and profiteering abound. The byproducts of pollution and the degradation of natural life are destroying human health on a global scale, and the earth’s bounty which had been free to all now costs money—gigantic health-care costs in a corrupt health-care system, the degradation of cultural values to a monopoly of profiteering, and the growth of a psychotic “elite” faction that obstructs and undermines all life.  The fact that consumerism is ecologically unsustainable was documented in the Limits to Growth study. (Meadows, Donella H., Meadows, Gary, Randers, Jorgen & Behrens, William W. III., 1972) But little has been done during the intervening decades to address relevant issues, and it may be stipulated that consumerism—with its basis in psychological marketing and profiteering—is the single most influential source of the Global Problematique.

The latest evolution of this destructive dynamic is the incipient field of neuromarketing, but the neuromarketing of products is most destructive when the product being sold is political candidates.  The world has been aghast at the election of Donald Trump and the hacking of the American political system.  It came as a complete surprise to almost everyone.  But every crisis has value, and neuromarketing has brought the existence and importance of the psychological media dynamic into the light of day.

Issues of the media go far beyond advertising or even political hacking.  Man-made media has become the current ontology.  As a reminder, ontology is the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being, a set of concepts and categories in a subject area or domain that shows their properties and the relations between them.  The media ontology is created automatically from large datasets.

A subset of ontology is epistemology which is defined as the theory of knowledge, especially with-regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion. The justified beliefs addressed by this proposal are large.  They allude to the appropriateness of the economic value structure of current global culture.  When we suggest that Capitalism is an aberrant structure that impedes the “natural” flow of QED nurturance, many will disagree.  Our proposal argues for a solution to the Global Problematique created by aberrant values.  The need for fundamental adjustment of this cognitive-Capitalistic set is without question, but the proposed “gaming” dynamic for altering archetypal patterns of the personal and collective unconscious entails an adjustment of ontological principles to “reality as a Jungian dreamscape” in which coherent biofeedback with media-dreams can heal.

In a recent article, Foreign Policy made the statement, “Tech companies are ruining America’s image.” (Gelzer, Joshua A. & Ghosh, Dipayan, 2018) The article poses the question that Americans have asked with palpable chagrin: “Does the materialism and vulgarity of their TV shows and movies contribute to the virulent anti-Americanism that has spread throughout much of the globe.”

Such introspection may help Americans better understand how they are seen and treated by others, including foreign governments, corporations, and populaces, on the world stage. Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, etc. have billions of users that have spread from Silicon Valley to all corners of the globe. These are all aspects of the media-dream.  Amidst the background of great change in cultural preferences relative to their mediated environment, it is time for Americans to recognize that they have a new major cultural export.  The set of modern communications platforms created in the United States has since overtaken the world. “The question then becomes: If the world looks at America and sees Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter as its profile picture, what does the world think?”

In the May/June 2018 issue of Mother Jones, published an article, “Cloak and Data”, about Cambridge Analytical (CA), the phony political technology firm that “Exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles, built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons.” (p. 25) According to Mother Jones, CA never came through on its promises.  This failure is very fortunate because such “exploitation” could have been devastating not only to the very foundations of human dignity and democratic government, but to the survival of the planet. 

Meanwhile, over several decades in the face of such threat, the American FCC has weakened its regulations in favor of monopolization by big-money players. All of these trends clearly indicate that an entirely new and different approach to media policy is critically necessary.  Such current mega issues such as net neutrality and the hacking of the American political system are only the tip of an iceberg that extends deeply into the ontology of the emergent Quantum Electrodynamic (QED) mediated reality.

This proposal addresses that general need with a specific strategy that is based on psychological research of the media-sphere with Psychecology video games. Video games are so popular that they barely need to be sold to the public.  Additionally, they have the same QED dynamics as the dreamscape of the media-sphere, so they can be used to research media ethics according to Jungian standards of Compensation. Jungian Compensation is the same dynamic as coherence, and it is our primary assumption that within a “contextual” QED field, coherence is the measure of ethical behavior.  Fortunately, there is a way to turn current media failure into future success as well as immediate relief.  That way is to Game Cultural Atonement.




PREFACE                                                                      1

INTRODUCTION                                                        6

BACKGROUND                                                           20

GAMING CULTURAL ATONEMENT                       23

  • Reframing the Collective Unconscious

    With PEG Gameplay                         28

THE GAME TREATMENT: Game Mechanics       32

  • Game Play Elements                                    64

PSYCHE-PHYSICS of MEDIA-DREAM                     81

PEG AS JUNGIAN DREAM ANALOGS                   98

THE REALITY OF ILLUSION                                      125

PEG GAME DESIGN DOCUMENT                           153

REFERENCES                                                               199

Related Jobs

Sucker Punch Productions
Sucker Punch Productions — Bellevue, Washington, United States

Senior Gameplay Animator
Disruptor Beam, Inc.
Disruptor Beam, Inc. — Framingham, Massachusetts, United States

Senior Game Designer
University of Huddersfield
University of Huddersfield — Huddersfield , England, United Kingdom

University Practitioner/Senior University Practitioner in Computer Games Design (2 posts)
University of Exeter
University of Exeter — Exeter, England, United Kingdom

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Loading Comments

loader image