GTP is the transfer of experiences from the virtual to the physical world manifesting as altered sensorial perceptions, sensations, automatic mental processes, automatic behaviours and actions with video game content.
Most GTP appear to be triggered by game-related cues, although they are not always present, or they are not always identifiable. GTP can manifest under hypnagogic states -borderline states between awake and sleep or while waking up. However, research has shown that in most of the cases GTP occurs in full awake state and many times triggered by associations.
I coined the term “Game Transfer Phenomenon/a” (GTP) in my seminal study on GTP in 2010 – an interview study with 42 Swedish frequent gamers “Game Transfer Phenomena in video game playing: A qualitative interview study”. The study was later published in collaboration with my master and PhD supervisors in 2011.
GTP has become my area of research expertise and I have investigated it over the last seven years. Data with over 6,000 gamers (15+ years old) show that GTP is common among gamers (81-97% have experienced GTP at least once). Most gamers have no negative consequences, have no underlying medical conditions nor have they ever used drugs.
A remarkable GTP experience that motivated my curiosity and my pathways into this area of research was the gamer that started seeing health bars above peoples’ heads.
“When I really was a hardcore player in WoW’ [World of Warcraft]…when I got my adrenaline pumping. I started seeing health bars above people’s heads” (Charlie, 17 years old)
Research on GTP pays attention not only to sensory perceptions with game content but also to cognition and behaviours deliberatively initiated by gamers. This is done to establish differences between voluntary/self-generated phenomena and involuntary phenomena/non-self-generated (e.g., using slang from video games for amusement vs. saying something involuntary with game contents). GTP also establishes the differences between endogenous and exogenous phenomena (e.g., seeing images with closed eyes, hearing sounds in the head vs. seeing images with open eyes and hearing sounds coming from objects associated with the game or nowhere) since research suggests that the psychological and potential risks of GTP depend thereupon.
GTP consider all human senses (e.g., sight, hearing, touch). GTP can manifest in a single sensory modality, or across several sensory modalities (e.g., seeing video game elements while hearing the music of the game). Altered sensorial perceptions have been reported triggered by game-related objects, words or music.
Research on GTP takes into account the video games’ structural characteristics, in-game phenomena (e.g., immersion, embodiment), in-game behaviours/activities, and the interaction/manipulation of hardware (e.g., keyboard, gamepads).
A multimodal and eclectic framework is used to explain and understand the GTP experiences, and cognitive and behavioural psychology is mainly used to explain the gamers’ experiences.
Some individuals may be more prone to experience GTP. However, different people have had remarkably similar experiences after playing the same games.
It is important to remember that some of the GTP can be misunderstood as pathological due to their similarity with symptoms of mental conditions (e.g., hallucinations). I am particularly concerned and interested to inform and demystify GTP to avoid that gamers and other misinterpret GTP. Therefore, I have created a series of cartoons: “GTP adventures” to communicate my research.
Certainly, transfer phenomena are not exclusively experienced after playing video games, however, the prolonged exposure to sensory overload and high cognitive load, trance states and emotional engagement, that often happens when playing video games, appear to ease the phenomena.
I believe that beyond the risks GTP can pose to certain individuals it can certainly be used for positive ends as well.
GTP tell us about everyday life cognitive abilities, automatic mental processes, and physiological mechanisms. However, the studies about GTP invite us to reflect about our vulnerability to the exposure to synthetic stimuli and the challenges that the human mind affront due to the fantastic technology advances that are still to come.
If you want to know more about how my research started you can read this blog post.
Here is a list of published studies on GTP.