Aphantasia

For a long time now i’ve been struggling with playing (and creating) text games. When I was younger I had a great imagination, created my own little games in Basic and had no issues playing them until probably the last year or so.

It’s now like something has sucked out my internal video screen! No only am I struggling to create anything as I can’t visualise anything, but it’s now affecting my playing. I used to enjoy the more “prose” games as I had a strong visual in my mind of the map, landscape, characters etc

I just feel like an imagination zombie.

I looked into it and the nearest thing I can approximate it to is something called Aphantasia. This seems to be a lifelong ‘thing’ so it’s probably not that, but it’s certainly the best online description I can find.

It’s gotten past funny, and is actually really bothering and worrying me. I am really struggling to visualise anything!

I guess this is one of those “reaching out” messages to see if anyone else has had this. Did you get your internal video screen back??

Thanks

Adam

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I’ve heard quite a few people talk about aphantasia as a lifelong thing. Including some IF authors! (Yoon Ha Lee comes to mind, e.g. https://www.scifinow.co.uk/interviews/raven-strategem-author-yoon-ha-lee-on-how-his-spaceships-became-bags-of-holding/ .)

Having it come on as a cognitive change is a little weird. I’d say check with your doctor, but the doctors are a little busy right now. :/

I don’t want to be scary about this. It’s hard to be objective about the inside of your head. It’s possible that you’re upsetting some internal balance by trying to pay too much attention to it, because you’re worried about it, because it’s been upset.

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I find the ability to visualize spatial information, create mental maps, etc… is improved (subjectively of course) by being active in 3 dimensions in novel situations. For example, going to a new place that you have never been and moving without a map, without a phone, etc… through that new environment. Walking in the woods works for me. :slightly_smiling_face:

@zarf Makes a really great point too, “Having it come on as a cognitive change is a little weird. I’d say check with your doctor”

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How is your sleep doing? Or concentration levels? I find I have something similar to this when I’m either really sleepy or really distracted. In other case, I can’t concentrate enough to form a picture, so I usually just give up on reading/playing for that moment. I’ve found depression is also a factor.

My girlfriend has self-diagnosed aphantasia. She says she’s never been able to picture stuff in her head and didn’t even realize that was a thing that people could do until she was older. She doesn’t really enjoy reading books because of it because it’s like reading an instruction manual.

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Thanks for the responses, much appreciated. :+1:

I’m trying to put a timescale on it. It’s probably much more recent than I originally thought, I mentioned a year in my original post but its probably much less.

I used to be able to relax, visualise something, for example playing football with my friends on the park when I was a teen (I can no longer do this due to health stuff sadly). I recall a few times I would physically jolt if the ball hit me in the face!

I’ve gone from that to … Not much! The thing is, without it I’ve lost a major part of the engine in how I would put little games together. My kids had a school project a month ago to create a board game, something I would have eaten up before, I just sat there getting frustrated because I couldn’t conjure anything up!

It’s probably just temporary, at least I hope it is. I suppose it’s akin to writers block perhaps?

Sleep wise, well, I have something called CMT which is easier to ask you to Google than try to explain! Anyways, the short version is that left to my own devices I can sleep for 12-13 hours quite comfortably and still nap later in the day!

I’m going to research meditation, maybe I ease my imagination gently back into life that way!

I’ll also read the link about Yoon Ha Lee.

Thanks

Adam

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I’m curious about this, too. I can’t just close my eyes and conjure up mental pictures like other people say they can. When I try to do it that way, I only get a vague ghost image, mostly blotches of color with no detail at all. I don’t think I have aphantasia, though, because there are times when I create really vivid images in my mind. But that only happens if I trigger them by focusing on my other senses first.

My brain seems to prioritize my tactile sense over everything else, so thinking about touching things works especially well for me. If I close my eyes and try to visualize a stone, I only see a grey blob. Maybe it’s a stone, or a cloud, or I don’t even know what. But if I put my hand out and imagine running my fingers over a stone and focus on the way it feels then I get a really intense image. I can see every angle and how the shadows fall and the way the light reflects off the little bits of quartz in its surface. I can hear the sound it makes when I rock it back and forth on the table. I even know what it tastes like.

And I manipulate mental images by changing their texture. Not just in the obvious way, like how imagining a smoother stone gives me marble and a rougher one gives me granite. I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s like everything has an under-texture in addition to the regular texture, and when I change the under-texture then it automatically changes the colors that I see. Does anyone else visualize things this way? Or am I really weird?

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Interesting… ! Yeah I can understand this because last night I tried meditation to visualise and I was getting the blurry/greyish images you’re referring to. I couldn’t hold them though.

It’s something though, maybe as @zarf said earlier I’m overthinking this, just need to relax and allow it to come back in its own sweet time. Although it’s been months already! But I’ll keep up the meditation.

Adam

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There is a wonderful scene from The Magic Grandfather where the young protagonist is doing mental training by struggling to visualize a short passage from a book (Rat’s fireplace in The Wind in the Willows, I believe). At the end he is exhausted and sweating profusely. I feel the same way when I close my eyes and try to perform a single complete act of eidetic recall, even for a pair of nail-clippers or a coin.

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Hi Adam,

The first thing that crossed my mind when I read your post is that it might be stress related. We’re living in very troubling times. I often find my creativity is impaired when I’m worrying about other things, and perhaps this is similar.

Give it time, and I hope it gets better soon. You could try doing something different for a while, such as making paper collages, or even building things with Lego, if you have any! Sometimes our minds just need a break, or a change.

Jason

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For me, anyway, imagination is never a tool I can turn on of my own volition. I think it’s an awful lot like falling asleep: if you lie in bed and thing “I need to fall asleep, I need to fall asleep, I need to fall asleep” sleep never comes. If you lie in bed and plan out your day or consider favorite foods, sleep eventually takes hold.

Similarly, scenes and ideas surge into my head at the worst times, almost always when something else demands my full attention: class, meetings with clients, arguments, etc. It could simply be we’ve all been cooped up inside so much. I say give it time, and tell us what happens in a few weeks.

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You may be right J, I’m your typical Duck in these situations … Above the water I look cool, under the water I’m paddling away like a nutter!

Seriously though, my wife commented that she’s really worried about everything (pandemic, the kids, our poorly parents, shops being raided) and I seemed calm as ever. As I explained to her, I’m not! I’m just keeping everything normal, “just another day”, mostly not to worry the kids.

I stopped taking Citalopram a good while ago now, years in fact. There was no need, the Tramadol I take for my CMT has much the same “mood lifting” properties; better in fact (Citalopram used to leave me feeling flat and “meh”).

Before this all kicked off I’d finally got the money and bought a decent microphone, webcam etc to do those UK IF/Adventure creator interviews I always wanted to do. AND a USB capture box so I can do Let’s Plays for IF/Adventure games. Then the pandemic struck, the kids are home etc

I’ll give it time and try to (genuinely) relax.

Adam

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Hang in there. You provide a lot of value to the IF community.

Thank you, Jeff

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