The report “Metaverse” by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, at the request of the JURI Committee mentioned my research on Game Transfer Phenomena among the challenges and opportunities of interactive media technologies.

In his report, Mariusz Maciejewski highlights concerns about violent game content in PEGI-12 titles, re-experiencing visual imagery, transferring violent behaviour to real life, and dissociations due to VR.

According to research, younger video game players are more susceptible to experiencing GTP. However, when comparing adults with minors, minors only had higher scores in certain types of GTP, namely automatic thought processes and physical experiences. For example, they are more likely to have the urge to use video game elements in real-life situations, confuse events from the video game with reality, and feel physical sensations such as movement or experience tactile feedback from game controllers or keyboards.

Controversial content in video games is an important area that should be studied more thoroughly in Gaming Transfer Phenomena (GTP) research. While violent video games may pose a risk for some people, to date, there is no evidence that suggests that players’ behaviours or actions reported in research on GTP have been premeditated or with intent to cause harm. 

A few gamers have reported experiencing GTP in risky situations, such as seeing game images while driving, feeling the urge to follow racing lines on roads or thinking they can “save” when jumping from a hill; although, most gamer have not acted on these impulses.

Based on my research, playing video games can temporarily alter our perceptions of and responses to the real world but the consequences depend on the individual and the context. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 50% of the participants of a study reported a positive impact of GTP when they perceived trivial choirs as fun or felt creative and smart. However, around 28% to 33% reported feeling confused and disoriented, nervous or anxious, and even experienced feelings of insanity due to experiencing GTP.

Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP) manifestations depend largely on the game content and, in many cases, on the affordances in the environment that elicited the experiences. For example, after playing a first-person shooter game, players have found themselves analysing the best hiding spots in an open field. GTP experiences can even promote engaging in positive behaviours, such as feeling the urge to organise a messy drawer or hearing game commands like “you can do it” when feeling demotivated to start a difficult task.

In another study, participants reported sensations of unreality when feeling still being in the game (28%), feeling like the game character (37%), and seeing one’s body from a third-person perspective as in a video game (21%). Reports of consequences of GTP manifesting as dissociative experiences reported in qualitative studies include feeling bizarre, considering cutting down gaming sessions and questioning one’s mental health.

The consequences of GTP can vary depending on several factors, including the player’s personal characteristics, such as their psychological stability and ability to resist responding automatically to game-related stimuli. Other factors, such as the frequency, duration, and type of content of the experience, and whether abstract or realistic video game content is re-experienced, also play a role. The circumstances of their occurrence, such as while driving or lying in bed – which may provoke sleep deprivation in the worst-case scenarios. A crucial factor to consider is the degree to which the experience interfered with or distracted from an ongoing task. However, the most significant factor is the player’s interpretation and response to the event, whether they perceive GTP as distressful, aversive, neutral, or amusing.

Further reading

  • Ortiz de Gortari, A. B. (2023). Sensory and cognitive intrusions with and without media content during the COVID-19 pandemic: Isolation, media use, sleep and stress factors. Telematics and Informatics, 102095.
  • Ortiz de Gortari, A. B. (2023). Coping with COVID-19 pandemic stressors: Comparisons between non-players and players, and levels of Game Transfer Phenomena. Entertainment Computing, 44, 100530.
  • 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.
  • Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., & Diseth, Å. (2022). Multidimensional assessment of Game Transfer Phenomena: Intrusive cognitions, perceptual distortions, hallucinations and dissociations. Frontiers in Psychology, 13.
  • 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, M. D. (2016). Prevalence and characteristics of Game Transfer Phenomena: A descriptive survey study. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 32(6), 470-480.

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