“A fire truck was coming down the street, and there was a Pokémon spawned [appeared] in the street. I thought… ‘I hope the fire truck doesn’t hit the Meowth [Pokémon]’. And then I realized what a strange thought that was.”

My study on Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP) in Pokémon Go (PoGo), “Empirical study on Game Transfer Phenomena in a location-based augmented reality game” was recently published in the journal Telematics and Informatics.

I surveyed a sample of 1,313 Pokémon Go gamers – English and Spanish speaking – to get insights of Game Transfer Phenomena in AR games, the relation with immersion and the importance of playing with AR and sound enabled.

More than four out of five (82%) of the participants had experienced GTP when playing PoGo, which is less than in previous studies when investigating GTP without any specific game in focus. The range in those studies was 96% to 99%.

Those that spoke Spanish were more likely to have experienced GTP (89% vs 83%). Most reported mild levels of GTP (a few GTP at a low frequency).

Some gamers committed mix-ups while playing and looked for Pokémon outside the screen while playing (16%) and felt Pokémon physically present (15%). These experiences were especially common among those who had experienced GTP.

 “While playing the game, I will often look up at the landscape as if I would be able to see a Pokémon!”

In general, many of the predominant types of GTP found in PoGo were the same as those found in previous studies. For example i)visualised/seen images with closed eyes, ii) heard music from the game, and iii) sang, shouted or said something from the game unintentionally.

A total of 39% reported having seen/visualised images with closed eyes after stopping playing, and 16% had seen game images with open eyes after playing; quite many, but fewer in comparison to previous studies. In previous studies without any specific game in focus, seeing images with open eyes were reported by around 30% of the gamers. Misperceiving objects as something from PoGo were reported by 20% of the participants (31% when using the AR function).

Interestingly, playing with the AR function enabled was relevant for misperceiving objects in the real world with Pokémon, but it was not relevant for seeing images from Pokémon Go after playing, neither for feeling the presence of Pokémon in the physical world.

“My findings suggest that playing using Augmented Reality may increase the chance of misperceptions… However, to actually experience hallucinatory-like phenomena neuroadaptive mechanisms seems necessary.”

My findings suggest that playing using Augmented Reality increases the chance of misperceptions. Misperceptions are very common, especially when the original and misperceived stimuli share characteristics. Pokémon are colourful and can even be confused with real animals due to their looks. However, to actually experience hallucinatory-like phenomena (seeing images with closed eyes or open eyes), prediction errors (seeing images due to expectations to seeing them as in the game) may not be sufficient; neuroadaptive mechanisms seems necessary, facilitated by the prolonged exposure to the images, and focused attention. The type and the quality of the images (e.g., brightness) are probably also important.

We need to further investigate the characteristics of the images of the GTP experiences, and the context where they manifest, as a starting point for improving the understanding of the interplay between the physiological, perceptual and cognitive mechanisms involved.

“Mix-ups while playing, like when gamers look for game elements beyond the screen may be more common when playing AR games on mobile devices since the attention spans are shorter and the games usually require constant shifting the view between the device and the physical world…”

Hallucinatory-like experiences induced by playing AR games may be more common when using mixed-reality glasses due to prolonged exposure to images of high fidelity, strengthened by the interaction and immersiveness of the experience. Although, mix-ups while playing, like when gamers look for game elements beyond the screen of the device may be more common when playing AR games on mobile devices since the attention spans are shorter and the games usually require constant shifting the view between the device and the physical world.

Other interesting findings

Since playing PoGo involves touch-screen interaction, re-experiencing tactile sensations were more common in this study (22%) compared to re-experiencing sensations of whole body movement (5.3%), which is more common in previous studies with mostly computer/console games. Also, hearing auditory cues from PoGo were less common than in previous studies.

Gamers also reported wanting to or felt the urge to do something as in the game, triggered by some stimuli in the physical world (53%), although this has also been one of the most predominant GTP in previous studies.

“I saw a pigeon standing on the street and had a momentary urge to throw something at it [to capture it].”

A total of 33% of the participants had experienced still in the mindset of the game after stopping playing, which is also very common in other video games. Although, location-based games such PoGo may ease this type of GTP, since you keep interacting in the physical world even after stopping playing. This may be experienced as keep applying the rules of the game (e.g., keep paying attention to coloured objects in the same way as paying attention to colourful Pokémon that appear, keep looking for PokéStops or gyms, etc.).

Interestingly, while the following GTP types were not the most prevalent, they were significantly associated with playing PoGo with sound:

  • Wanting to use something from the game such as wanting to use a Poké Ball to catch a fly,
  • committing errors by mixing up video game events with actual events,
  • perceiving body differently after playing.

Immersion in the game was moderately correlated with GTP. Playing with sound was more important for GTP than playing with AR enabled.

These findings give us an idea how important sound is even in AR games.

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Other posts on Pokémon games:
Pokémon GO is reviving old memories and creating new ones
Game transfer Phenomena after playing Pokémon video games


Related Readings

  1. Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., & Griffiths, M. D. (2016). Prevalence and characteristics of Game Transfer Phenomena: A descriptive survey study. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 32(6), 470-480.
  2. Dindar, M., & Ortiz de Gortari, A. B. (2017). Turkish Validation of the Game Transfer Phenomena Scale (GTPS): Measuring altered perceptions, automatic mental processes and actions and behaviours associated with playing video games. Telematics and Informatics, 34(8), 1802-1813.
  3. Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014). Altered visual perception in Game Transfer Phenomena: An empirical self-report study. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 30(2), 95-105.
  4. Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014a). Auditory experiences in Game Transfer Phenomena: An empirical self-report study. International Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning, 4(1), 59-75.
  5. Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014b). Automatic mental processes, automatic actions and behaviours in Game Transfer Phenomena: An empirical self-report study using online forum data. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 12(4), 432-452.
  6. Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., & Griffiths, M. D. (2017). Beyond the Boundaries of the Game: The Interplay Between In-Game Phenomena, Structural Characteristics of Video Games, and Game Transfer Phenomena A2 – Gackenbach, Jayne. In J. Bown (Ed.)
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