A_Google_Glass_wearerHave you ever tapped your fingers to the rhythm of a song or moved your feet reproducing the steps from Step Mania? What is the seductive nature of the repetitive movements we engage in our daily lives?

An intriguing case study reported by Yung, Eickhoff, Davis, Klam and Doan [1] has taken my attention. In this post I drag  parallels between the symptomatology of a patient remitted for the treatment of alcohol addiction at the US Navy’s Substance Addiction and Recovery program (SARP) and some of the Game Transfer Phenomena experiences reported to date [2-4].

The patient in question used Google Glasses for up 18 hours daily and when he was deprived of them due to the submission into the recovery programme he showed signs of withdrawal for not being able to use them. These manifested as seeing his dreams through the device and moving his right hand toward his temple where the Google Glasses should have been and tapped it with his finger, almost involuntarily. He stated, “The withdrawal from this is much worse than the withdrawal I went through from alcohol.” [1, p., 59].

Withdrawal symptoms and craving for tech devices such Google Glasses? Can this include tech-induced dyskinesia? With this I mean involuntary movements induced by technological devices and by the repetitive use of virtual objects. Maybe it is too soon to make conclusions.

In 1996, Goldberg [11] as a joke between psychologists proposed a diagnostic criterion for Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) that included “voluntary or involuntary typing movements of the fingers” as a withdrawal symptom. However, so far in terms of internet and gaming related disorder scholars have found mostly psychological withdrawal symptoms (e.g., irritability, anxiety) rather than physiological symptoms of withdrawal as the ones seen in the consumption of substances (e.g., shakiness). Although, some symptoms of physiological withdrawal identified in cases of internet/gaming disorders include psychosomatic symptoms [5] and over- responses (e.g., increased brain activity in the prefrontal cortex) [6]  to cues related to gaming.

Where is the connection with Game Transfer Phenomena?

Studies in Game Transfer Phenomena have showed the attachment to video game elements that are repetitively used and have important functions in the game (e.g., bionic arm). Gamers have seen or visualized video elements or reproduce involuntary movements associated with a game. (Here you can read my previous post about virtual phantom limbs).

Involuntary movements related with video game playing include:

Amusing executions of movements related to the game

Voluntary but perhaps in some cases automatic and repetitive movements of limbs.

Typing stuff on an imaginary keyboard at school during classes, and sometimes moving my thumbs when I walk or move around…” (Paol)

“When I was playing World of WarCraft I usually kept my fingers warm by pushing my fingers like if I pushed the buttons that I use in the game. I usually do it when I’m concentrating on something. I push my fingers in patterns and think of what that would do in the game its sort of meditative…like 6143… which is my rotation in wow” (Samuel, 16 years old)

“Tapping at class with my friends the steps we have memorize from Step Mania” (Mar)

Feel the movement of limbs while falling to sleep like pushing buttons

Also, gamers have reported multisensory experiences when images from the game were seen or visualized while feeling kinaesthetic sensations such as feeling their fingers twitching as if they were pushing the buttons on the gamepad. This phenomenon has been referred to as myoclonic jerking [7], hypnagogic jerk or myoclonic twitch [8]. For instance,

“It’s annoying, but very interesting. First this happened when started to play “DDR” [Dance Dance Revolution], as I was falling asleep I would literally feel my feet moving with an image I made up of the game in my head… Recently for “Robot Unicorn Attack,” as I fall asleep, I picture the game blowing by in my head, with my fingers twitching (at least they feel like they are moving) to control the unicorn”. (Boris)


Involuntary movement of limbs when thinking to use video games elements as a response to real life stimulus associated with the game

This last one is probably the most fascinating one, when gamers have experienced involuntary movements when thinking about using video game elements or pressing the gamepad (e.g., using a grappling hook, pressing the “R2” button) in real life contexts [2,3,4] and these are translated into involuntary actions as a result of ideomotor effects [9]

“A friend flung out his arm. He became embarrassed…without thinking he was trying to use the grappling hook from a Quake 2 mod to swing under the bridge” (Superpaul)

“After completing ‘Prince of Persia: Sands of Time’ when I accidentally dropped a sandwich with the butter side down, I instantly reached for the “R2” button. My middle finger twitched, trying to reach it. Only to discover that I didn’t have a PS2-controller in my hands” (Milton, 19).


Additionally, among the experiences of GTP there are cases were gamers reported repetitive execution of activities in the real world that resemble the video game world for feeling compelled to do something or say something as in the game. For example jumping every time when seeing a red object as in Mirror edge where you need to follow the red sings or picking up objects to examine them as when playing L.A Noire by investigating clues to resolve a criminal case [2]

Does the manifestation of involuntary thoughts, images and actions release anxiety as repetitive compulsions? Are these sings of craving for playing your favourite game?

Gamers have incorporated video game content into their dreams and have visualized or seen video game images in the mind or in the corner of their eyes when doing gaming unrelated tasks. Some have seen the real life world through Heads-Up Display that suddenly appear in front of their eyes [3, 11]; probably similarly as the patient described by Yung and colleagues [1] when he saw his dreams through the Google Glasses. I will discuss more about the visual experiences in my next post. Some visual experiences commonly reported by gamers.

We need to conduct more research to answer these questions. Maybe Goldberg was not so wrong after all about the involuntary movements of fingers as a sign of internet addiction. Tech-induced dyskinesia? For now it is interesting to spin the head and think of all the possibilities.

Please let me know if you have some Goggle Glasses to lend out. I would love to try them and I’m afraid I will need to wait quite some time to get my hands on some!


  1. Yung, K., et al., Internet Addiction Disorder and Problematic Use of Google Glass™ in Patient Treated at a Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Program. Addictive Behaviors, 2014. 41(0): p. 58–60.
  2. Ortiz de Gortari, A. and M. Griffiths, 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, 2014: p. 1-21.
  3. Ortiz de Gortari, A.B., K. Aronsson, and M.D. Griffiths, Game Transfer Phenomena in Video Game Playing: A Qualitative Interview Study. International Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning 2011. 1(3): p. 15-33.
  4. Ortiz de Gortari, A.B., Targeting the Real life Impact of Virtual interactions: The Game Transfer Phenomenon 42 video games players’ experiences (Unpublished Master dissertation). Stockholm University: Stockholm. p. 68.
  5. Cao, H., et al., Problematic Internet use in Chinese adolescents and its relation to psychosomatic symptoms and life satisfaction. BMC Public Health, 2011. 11(1): p. 802.
  6. Han, D.H., et al., Changes in Cue-Induced, Prefrontal Cortex Activity with Video-Game Play. CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 2010. 13(6): p. 655-661.
  7. Grunewald, R.A., E. Chroni, and C.P. Panayiotopoulos, Delayed diagnosis of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 1992. 55(6): p. 497-9.
  8. Mitchell, S.W., Some Disorders of Sleep. The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 1890. 100(2): p. 109-127.
  9. Shin, Y.K., R.W. Proctor, and E.J. Capaldi, A review of contemporary ideomotor theory. Psychological bulletin, 2010. 136(6): p. 943-974.
  10. Ortiz de Gortari, A.B. and M.D. Griffiths, Altered Visual Perception in Game Transfer Phenomena: An Empirical Self-Report Study. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 2014. 30(2): p. 95-105.
  11. http://www.urz.uni-heidelberg.de/Netzdienste/anleitung/wwwtips/8/addict.html

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