The Ministry of Health and Welfare in South Korea has launched a public service announcement warning about gaming addiction. The video portrays a variety of gamers’ experiences, similar as those we have reported in different studies on Game Transfer Phenomena as part of my PhD thesis with over 3,500 gamers, manifesting in different sensory modalities, mental processes and behaviours.
The video shows a variety of scenes, where the viewers are asked to tick a box for each of the following experiences: hearing sounds from the video game when not playing, seeing video game characters triggered by seeing something in real life contexts, movements of fingers, and attacking someone when confusing her with a video game character. This last scene was in the first version of the Ad but later was removed due to negative response from the public (9).
Hearing sounds when not playing – In the studies on GTP, gamers have reported hearing music, sound effects and voices from the game in their head, coming from nowhere or from physical objects associated with the game when not playing (2).
Perceiving things as in the video games – gamers have reported visual misperceptions or confusions of physical objects or persons (4), as well as automatic associations between persons and video games characters (3). Moreover, gamers have reported seeing images from games that go from seeing recurrent images in the back of the eyelids to seeing health bars above peoples’ heads or menus in front of their eyes (3, 5).
Movements of limbs – Repetitive movements of fingers (which I refer to as Tech-induced dyskinesia) have been reported as “instinctive”, “automatic” or initiated in a “playful way”. Moreover, involuntary movements of arms or fingers have occurred when thoughts or images of the game suddenly arose after playing; sometimes in response to real life stimuli associated with the game or when falling asleep (2).
Behaviours – In the studies on GTP behaviours have mostly occurred as automatic actions such as approaching objects with the intention to do something as in the game and then realizing they are not in the game; verbal outburst is another example. However, there are a few extreme cases that have ended up in risky situations (3).
The GTP studies suggest that the duration of the visuals, sounds or thoughts mainly tend to be very short (seconds or minutes) but can occur recurrently (1).
In 2013, for the first time, the American Psychiatric Association’s updated version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM-5) included “Internet Gaming Disorder” in the section of “conditions that require further study” (8). Even though researchers have made significant progress in understanding about internet/gaming addiction for more than a decade, we still do not have a recognized golden standard criteria for the diagnosis. Although, gaming addiction is a fact and has negative consequences for a small number of the population of gamers. In terms of GTP experiences, they have usually been reported in association with intensive and excessive video game playing but this is not always the case. In a survey as part of my PhD thesis, all of those who reported having problematic gaming or gaming addiction have experienced GTP (1). Also, in another study based on interviews some gamers who reported GTP had neglected other parts of their lives due to playing games (7), however, in most cases, GTP doesn’t have negative consequences (1).
A disorder such as behavioural addiction requires that a group of diagnostic criteria (symptoms) are fulfilled for a certain period of time, including a detriment in some areas of the life of the individual.
I argue that GTP are on the continuum between normal and pathological phenomena, and they are not necessarily an indication of addiction, however, in some cases “GTP could be manifesting as symptoms of gaming addiction (i.e., preoccupation for gaming, an anticipation of expected outcomes and withdrawal symptoms).” GTP seem to be the result of hyperstimulation and the interplay of physiological, perceptual and cognitive mechanism (1).
Can the recurrence, prevalence and negative consequences of experiencing altered perceptions and/or intrusive thoughts and/or automatic behaviours related to interactive virtual technologies become a syndrome, or should we just consider GTP as normal temporary and residual alterations in susceptible individuals?
Could GTP help us to solve the puzzle of gaming addiction? The beauty of GTP is that they can easily be identified, quantified and corroborated based on video game contents and gamers’ experiences in the game and after playing. Although, not all gamers are susceptible to experience GTP and how they manifest seems to depend on the structural characteristics of the games (1). I strongly believe that investigating GTP can broaden our understanding of the side-effects of video game playing, but also our understanding of normal non-volitional phenomena that we experience daily. To date, we have little understanding about cognitions, perceptions and behaviours post-play. This is one of the reasons why the goal of my PhD was to identify and explain non-volitional phenomena (altered perceptions, automatic thoughts, and automatic actions) that manifest in a large variety of ways.
Gaming/Internet addiction is considered a very serious public health issue in some Asian countries and a large number of studies have been conducted in this area (10). In South Korea laws have been introduced to try to reduce the problem. For example children 16 and younger are banned from playing online video games between midnight and early hours (11).
I don’t know what evidence the Ministry of Health and Welfare in South Korea has to link GTP as symptoms of gaming addiction but I would like to find out. Scientific evidence is compulsory.
I will present a paper at the “IV International Congress of Dual Disorders: Addictions and other Mental Disorders” where I will discuss GTP in terms of gaming addiction, in case you want to know more. If you want a copy of the GTP papers just drop me an e-mail. You are welcome to visit my weekly cartoon collection “GTP adventures” which are part of my efforts to inform about and demystify these phenomena.
U P D A T E
A recent study showed that those that experienced severe GTP (i.e., various forms of GTP and very frequently) are significantly more likely to have problems with gaming/addiction, play for longer than 6 hours per session and experience distress or dysfunction due to their GTP experiences.
Read the blog about the study.
Reference: Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., Oldfield, B., & Griffiths, M. D. (2016). An empirical examination of factors associated with Game Transfer Phenomena severity. Computers in Human Behavior, 64, 274-284.
maybe put “Reference:” as bold
- Ortiz de Gortari, A.B., (2014).Exploring Game Transfer Phenomena: A multimodal research approach for investigating video games’ effects (doctoral dissertation). Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK.
- Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014). Auditory Experiences in Game Transfer Phenomena: An Empirical Self-Report Study. International Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning (IJCBPL), 4(1), 59-75.
- Ortiz de Gortari, A.B., & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). 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, 4(12), 1-21.
- 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.
- Ortiz de Gortari, A.B., & Griffiths, D. (2012). The relevance of Game Transfer Phenomena when addressing problematic gaming. Journal of Cyberpsychology and Rehabilitation, 5(2), 143.
- Ortiz de Gortari, A.B., Aronsson, K., & Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Game Transfer Phenomena in Video Game Playing: A Qualitative Interview Study. International Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning 1(3), 15-33.
- Ortiz de Gortari, A. B. (2010). Targeting the Real life Impact of Virtual interactions: The Game Transfer Phenomenon 42 video games players’ experiences (Unpublished Master dissertation). Stockholm University, Stockholm.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Washington DC.
- Ashcraft, B. (2015, Febraury, 4) South Korea’s Game Addiction Ads Are Terrible. Kotaku. Retrieved February 4, 2015 from http://kotaku.com/south-koreas-game-addiction-ads-are-terrible-1683683072#
- Kuss, D. J. (2013). Internet gaming addiction: Current perspectives. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 6, 125-137
- Associated Press in Seoul. (2013). South Korean MPs consider measures to tackle online gaming addiction. Retrieved 6 February, 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/11/south-korea-online-gaming-addiction