In our “Letter to the Editor for ‘Current Addiction Reports’—Game Transfer Phenomena and Dissociation: a Reply to Guglielmucci et al. (2019)” me and my colleague Professor Mark D. Griffiths raised questions regarding the implications of the conceptualisation of GTP as dissociative phenomena by Guglielmucci et al. in their literature review “Dissociation in Problematic Gaming: a Systematic Review”.

“… excessive video game use is linked to a variety of dissociative phenomena (e.g. depersonalisation experiences, escapism, psychotic-like experiences, game transfer phenomena)” (Guglielmucci et al. 2019, p.1).

Highlights from our Letter to the Editor:

“Should GTP be considered dissociative in the continuum from episodic intrusions with game content (e.g. images, sounds, thoughts, urges, impulses) that can awaken feelings and sensations of unreality, to engrossment in mental actions (e.g. replays of the game) or multisensory sensations and automatic actions toward game related stimuli that lead to absentmindedness?”

“We acknowledge there are phenomenological similarities between GTP and diagnostic features of dissociative disorders. However, we advise caution in generalisations which may lead to overestimating the impact of GTP on gamers’ lives at this early stage in the study of GTP. This is because independently, the form of dissociation (normative or pathological) involves absentmindedness and implies different degrees concerning the sense of experimental disconnectedness with the self and with the environment [3]”.

“It is important to bear in mind that GTP are almost ubiquitous among gamers (81–97%; N > 6000; 15–60 years old)  [10, 17••, 19]. GTP are mostly appraised as positive by gamers [17••].”

“Some of the altered perceptions provoked by the virtual immersion identified in previous GTP studies are highly prevalent, and it appears problematic to classify them as dissociative rather than as simple neural adaptative phenomena, even though some of them are intrinsically related to dissociative phenomena such as vestibular adaptations to autoscopy [2,18].”

“The most common forms of GTP do not appear to affect ongoing behaviours or lead to sensation of unreality of self and body [11]. However, when GTP become severe (i.e. several forms and frequently), 58% reported distress and/ or dysfunction in one study [20••]”

“The impact of GTP appears to be related to how sensory/perceptual changes or intrusions are interpreted and appraised, what subsequent behaviour they lead to, and under what circumstances they manifest. Since most GTP manifest in diurnal contexts, it is crucial to evaluate when GTP can genuinely affect normal functioning (e.g. disrupt task performance, and in extreme cases, lead to potential accidents) and psychological health (e.g. from awkward moments to questioning self-identity and mental stability)”

In our paper we also described the instances where episodic dissociations manifest in GTP, supplemented by examples of gamers’ experiences:

  • Sensory/perceptual neural adaptations and other physical aftereffects
  • Automatic responses toward game-related stimuli
  • Engrossment in automatic mental actions with game-related stimuli
  • Engrossment in vivid imagery of the game.

Download the full paper.

Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., & Griffiths, M. D. (2019). Letter to the Editor for ‘Current Addiction Reports’—Game Transfer Phenomena and Dissociation: a Reply to Guglielmucci et al. (2019). Current Addiction Reports.