Looking Back At 'LSD: Dream Emulator,' Playstation's Trippiest Video Game | Midnight Pulp
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Looking Back At ‘LSD: Dream Emulator,’ Playstation’s Trippiest Video Game

Thompson October 29, 2017 November 3rd, 2017

Whenever there’s an uptick in virtual reality technology, we generally focus on how it could better simulate the experience of killing people (first person shooters, laser tag, ect.) or fucking people.

But what if — as opposed to instant gratification of our baser instincts — we could use VR for consciousness expansion? Or vicarious consciousness expansion, at least?

That was the idea behind LSD: Dream Emulator, a 1998 Playstation venture that never wound up released anywhere outside of Japan. Artist Hiroko Nishikawa inadvertently came up with the idea by showing her dream journal to her bosses at her video game production company, the comparatively successful Asmik Ace.

I have no idea how parents didn’t all fly into an anti-drug frenzy at the prospect of their children playing a game with the same title as a legendary hallucinogen. But I think I understand why LSD: Dream Emulator wasn’t exactly a huge hit for Asmik.

The environments are just as unpredictable and confusing as a real dream. Animals and sumo wrestlers appear out of seemingly nowhere; touching a wall can transport you to an entirely new area; You’re followed around by an ostensibly malign entity known as “The Grey Man.” But there’s no goal. You can’t win LSD: Dream Emulator. You can’t beat any levels, dispatch enemies, play against your friends, or progress at all in any quantifiable way. You just kind of walk around a place where things are weird, and then they get even weirder.

Back then, the commercial world wasn’t ready for video games as a platform for abstract art. One could argue that outside of the realm of indie companies who principally distribute online, we’re still not there yet. So while LSD: Dream Emulator was impractical in its conceptualization and faulty in its execution, the curious non-game comfortably deserves its cult status based on uniqueness alone. The fact that a modern take on the experience has been attempted in more recent years should come as no surprise.

The prospect of virtual reality dreams is pretty exciting, but I don’t know if video games based on drugs make a lot of sense. For instance, wouldn’t making something like “Amphetamines: The Game” be completely redundant?

I don’t mean to imply hardcore gamers are all blasted on A.D.D. medication….or do I?

via TV Tropes