Recently, while working on a feature for the upcoming issue of the magazine, I had the opportunity to talk to doctors Bob Stickgold of Harvard University and Jayne Gackenbach of MacEwan University about dreams as they relate to interactive experiences. I also took the opportunity to ask the two, who have each made academic careers out of studying dreams, what they thought of the movie Inception. You can find their thoughts below.

Bob Stickgold, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard University
“I thought it was a lot of fun. It’s a funny story, I got a call from Sony when they were just about to release it, sort of probing if I wanted to be a go-to person to talk to about dreaming that they could pass out. And I said no [laughs]. I said no because I felt I was going to watch the movie and say, 'Well, the movie was really dumb,' but it actually wasn’t bad at all. A, I enjoyed it a lot, and B, I love the sort of playfulness of getting you to forget where you are in the dream. You say, ‘Oh wait a minute, is this actually happening? Are they really on the train? I’m confused. What’ actually real and what’s a dream, and what’s the dream within a dream?’ And I think they did that beautifully, and I just enjoyed it.

I don’t think at any point in watching the movie – I have two kids that went to M.I.T. and they sit around and watch all the science fiction movies and give them one to ten thumbs down depending on how bad the science is – and I don’t remember any point in that movie where I had that feeling. Obviously, the basic supposition that you can control things in the real world by controlling dreams is wonderful science fiction, but that’s out front I think, and I just enjoyed it.”

Jayne Gackenbach, psychology professor at MacEwan University and co-author of Play Reality: How Videogames Are Changing Everything
“It was great fun. I was on the documentary about dreams on the Blu-ray. They flew me down there and the whole thing. Anyway – a lot of the points [Christopher Nolan] got right. With Hollywood, it always goes too far. Yes, we do have lucid dreams. Yes, you wake up into another dream, and wake up into another, and I think they did that four deep in Inception. I had a colleague who did it seven deep once. Yes, you can have a certain amount of control over the dream. I don’t think to the degree in which they have it. Some indication – I hesitate and say ‘some,’ big time – we can share dreams – particularly people who have lived together for 50 year, or identical twins, that sort of thing. Lots of places he got it right. He’s an amazingly thoughtful film maker.”