Defining GTP

Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP) comprise sensory perceptions, spontaneous mental processes and behaviours derived from interactions with digital simulations in a video game environment.

The content and the characteristics of the video game (e.g. the visual or auditory effects, realism), the hardware utilised to control the game (e.g. gamepads), and subjective phenomena such as immersion and embodiment appear to influence the manifestation of the Game Transfer Phenomena experiences.

The research on GTP considers all human senses (e.g. sight, hearing, touch). GTP can manifest in a single sensory modality, multisensory (e.g. seeing video game elements while hearing the music from the game) or cross-sensory modalities (e.g. seeing images from the game triggered by hearing a word from the game).

The research establishes the differences between voluntary/self-generated phenomena and involuntary/non-self-generated phenomena (e.g. using slang from video games for amusement vs. saying something involuntary from the game).

GTP tend to occur after playing but has also been reported during playing, particularly in AR games that allow switching between the virtual and the real world.

The term “Game Transfer Phenomenon/a” (GTP) was coined by me (Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari) 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.

Some individuals may be more prone to experience GTP. However, different people have had remarkably similar experiences after playing the same games.

An outstanding GTP experience that initiated the 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.

The involuntary phenomena observed in GTP do not only happen due to playing video games. However, key factors involved in playing video games (usually for prolonged periods of time) such as sensory overload, high cognitive load, trance states and emotional engagement appear to ease the occurrence of such phenomena.

Characteristics of GTP

  • Most GTP occur in the fully awake state while engaging in everyday tasks, but GTP can also manifest under hypnagogic states -borderline states between awake and sleep or while waking up.
  • In many cases, GTP occurs triggered by associations with game-related stimuli (e.g. objects/events simulated in the game).
  • GTP usually last for seconds or minutes, but there are reports of experiences for days, weeks or longer.
  • Reality testing remains intact, meaning that gamers know that the manifestations are not real.
  • However, sometimes the vividness of the sensory intrusions (e.g. hearing sounds as coming from nowhere or seeing images overlaying objects) and game-related objects that evoke emotions has resulted in impulsive responses (e.g. involuntary actions). These appear to happen during episodic moments of dissociation where gamers feel as being in the game or believe for moments that the game elements are real.

Facts about GTP

  • GTP is common among gamers (82-96% experience GTP at least once during the last 12 months or in their life; N>6,000, 15–60 years old).
  • No gender differences have been found in most of the studies.
  • Younger players (15-22 years old) tend to be more prone to GTP, experience GTP more frequently and in a variety of forms. However, comparisons between minors (15-17 years old) and adults have shown significant differences only regarding GTP manifesting as automatic thoughts and altered body perceptions.
  • Usually players appraised GTP as positive rather than negative.
  • Most gamers have no reported negative consequences due to GTP. Although, a substantial minority (16%) reported medium to high levels of negative consequences and when GTP is severe (i.e. many times and in several forms), 58% of gamers reported associated distress and/or dysfunction.
  • Confusion and sleep deprivation due to GTP has been recurrently reported.
  • Most gamers are not under the influence of a substance (e.g., medicine, psychoactive substance) when they experience GTP.
  • Most gamers who experience GTP have never used drugs; nor do they have a mental or neurological condition. However, mental disorders and drug use increase the propensity to experience GTP

List of published studies on GTP.

Research on GTP is currently carried out in Belgium, Norway, UK, Canada, USA, Poland, Italy, Philippines, and Taiwan. Follow this link to learn about some of the research projects.

Read further how the research into GTP started.

The controversy

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.

Beyond the potential risks that GTP can pose to certain individuals and in certain circumstances if we understand the underlying mechanisms of GTP we can apply GTP to obtain benefits (e.g. in therapy or learning).

The occurrence of GTP invites us to reflect on our vulnerability to the exposure to synthetic stimuli and the challenges that the human mind will affront due to the technology advances that are still to come.

Impact of GTP in media

TV

•BBC News, 2015 •Episode of the series “CSI: Cyber”, 2016 •Televisa Monterrey, 2000 •Multimedios Estrella de Oro, 2006, 2000, 1999.

News papers

•Die Zeit 2017 •The Telegraph – Science 2016, •Washington Post, 2016 •TV2 Norway, 2016 •The Sydney Morning Herald, 2016 •El Reforma, 2015, •The Independent, 2014 •Guardian, 2014 •Boston Globe, 2014, •The International Herald Tribune, 2011 •El Norte, 2005.

Radio & Podcasts

•BBC Digital Human, 2016 •Formula, 2015 •Late Night Gamers, 2014 •Piensa Indigo Media, 2012 •Brain Gain or Drain, 2011 •BBC World Service – Click, 2011 •Radio Nuevo Leon, 2006 •Radio Multimedios, 2000.

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29 thoughts on “What is GTP

  1. I had a wierd experience of GTP in which I was experiencing GTP from one game (an online loot based game) while playing another (a wander/discovery game). I found myself getting irritated that I was incapable of finding good loot in the later game, before realizing what I was looking for was from the prior game.

    1. I kinda had something like that but weather it was GTP or just auditory hallucinations I don’t entirely know… but it seems after an extended time playing skyrim I tend to hear like… Music, the soft choir that accompanies you in the wilds in skyrim would seem to just be wherever I was whenever im in a quiet setting. Places like at home, in a library or museum etc. And it lasted for at least a couple weeks even if I didn’t touch the pc the entire time

  2. When I first experienced game-related hallucinations, I thought I was just young and it was my imagination. Now I’m a lot older and recently experienced some GTP. When I first looked around, I thought I was going crazy! This is amazing, I wish more people would realise how credible it is.

  3. This is happening to me after playing dead island for like 9 hours I keep hearing the music,the zombies,and the looting sound effect I’ve been hearing it all day it’s weird.

  4. Currently experiencing this now, which is how I found out about GTP. I’ve been on a three day Pokémon Leaf Green binge and I am hearing the sounds of the game. At first I thought I left my game boy on, but anytime I’d put it next to my ear I wouldn’t hear anything.

    1. I have it in my right ear from the same game lol. I’ve been bingeing it as well and was going out of my mind.

    2. I’m hearing Gameboy 8 Bit noises from Pokemon Red and Blue (Gen 1) right now as I’m attempting to get to sleep. I’ve been playing for the majority of the day and the sounds aren’t leaving my head.

  5. Play a game called one more brick
    On the play store u will continue to play after closing your eyes that night. sleep is impossible but it’s very vivid . I play without sound but a friend said he could see and hear the game when he went to bed .

  6. I literally never played video games growing up it never really interested me but recently I’ve gotten hooked on this online game my friends found and now every time I close my eyes I see the game in action and it freaks me out

  7. When I was younger I played Pokémon on my gameboy color for several hours every day and when I would stop playing it I would hear the Pokémon music as clear as day for several hours afterwards. It seems like anytime I play a video game with that retro type music sound for an extended period of time I experience GTP.

  8. I played Assassin’s Creed 3 for several hours on end every day for almost a week. I started seeing the mini-map in my field of view and almost reflexively wondered if I could free-run up buildings and trees every time I saw one. Not entirely a negative experience, just a little weird at first and eventually funny.

    1. Thanks for sharing! Other gamers have reported very similar experiences in my studies. Some have seen mini-maps when looking for an address. Approx. 15-20% has seen images with open eyes (N<1000).

      Please send me an email if you would like to chat with me and tell me more about your experiences.

      By the way, a large broadcaster is looking for gamers to do a program about GTP. In case you are interested, or someone else here, then please let me know by email.

  9. I’ve been playing sky: children of the light on ios for hours every day and when I’m not playing I sometimes hear the ambient sounds, or I hear a bird outside and automatically think it’s one of the “creatures of light.” I’m experiencing visual effects too but I’m not sure if it counts as gtp. I’ve just been doing things like noticing the beauty of light and shadow way more than I used to. The game is so beautiful I’m definitely not mad about my heightened sense of beauty in real life too. When I was younger I also experienced strong gtp-like effects from tv shows I binge watched, and it scared me at the time.

    1. Thanks for sharing! GTP can manifest in all sensory channels. Confusing or misperceiving sounds with those from the game have been reported by close to half of the participants in various studies; this include focusing attention to certain objects or experiencing change in perception such as perceiving colour or light brighter or more intense.

  10. Maybe this is kind of different from GTP. But after playing Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, I sometimes see real life photos of natural spots, like a lake or bay, and I’ll think “That reminds of a location in Zelda.” And I get a pleasant feeling like I would if I were seeing a photo of place I’ve been to before.

    1. Our memories from video games are powerful because they are full of emotions. In many cases GTP are triggered by associations based on memories from the game.
      Game related stimuli (objects, sounds, events) tend to trigger thoughts, emotions, involuntary actions and even sensory perceptions (e.g. hearing or seeing something from a game). Thanks for your comment. Please participate and share in the ongoing survey
      https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GTPCOVID19

  11. I remember for a period of time when I was at school and would play Skyrim for hours as soon as I got home, I would try to quicksave real life before doing anything “risky,” like before doing a presentation or something, just as in Skyrim I would press F5 to quicksave before starting a fight with a difficult enemy, lol.

    1. Thanks for sharing Andrew. Cognitive mix-ups about wanting to use video game elements such as game controls or key game functions have been commonly reported in my research of GTP. Sometimes thoughts are companioned by automatic movement of fingers. What experiences have you had? Only as thoughts?

  12. This is a super common thing with a video game called “Devil Daggers.” Devil Daggers is an interesting game for this because a lot of the feedback you need to survive is based on audio, you could almost play the first couple waves blind. Every enemy makes a unique sound, and the most ubiquitous is one called a SKULL III. It has a soft, airy laugh as it approaches behind you.

    A lot of people report that after they close the game, they can sometimes hear the laughter of a SKULL III, and they sometimes look behind them. The world’s top players confirm this, and say it’s a super common phenomena. They hypothesize that it is because a SKULL III is the first challenging enemy a new player faces, and it almost drills into your subconscious to always be on the lookout for it.

    When I go to sleep after a long play session, the last thing I sometimes hear before drifting off is that soft “ha-ha-ha.”

    Thanks for the cool research!

  13. Hello! A few days ago, I played a horror game on Roblox for like 7 hours that day and I have been hearing the scary background music whenever I go to sleep for like the past few days. It really scared me the first day but it started fading away and I was more in control of it on the next day. I think on the second night it wasn’t GTP but just me trying to stop thinking about the music. Is there a way I can get rid of these effects or suppress them? It is causing a little bit of distress to me when I go to bed to hear scary music in my left ear in a pitch black room. The game is called “Specter” and it required a lot of attention to the background music as it would inform the player about a “hunt” where the ghost tries to get you. The majority of the music could only be heard on the left ear through the headphones while the right ear just heard ambient noise. Initially, I didn’t know who to reach out for help but I think you can give me some good advice! Thank you!

    1. Hi! It is common that trying to repress thoughts or sensory intrusions leads to more intrusions rather than making them disappear.
      I would suggest taking a break from the game, play another game that has a strong musical background, or listen to some other catchy music. Try to replace the intrusion with something that is not distressful as a distractor. When the scary music gets stuck in your head you can try to tap on your lap or somewhere; you can also try to sing or hum a song. I checked the game and I can see how you need to pay attention to sound and the environment is quite dark. Leaving a light on or play some music might help when trying to fall asleep and may avoid you automatically establishing associations between the dark environment in the game and your sleep settings.
      It is common to re-experience sounds from the game coming from the same direction that they appear in the game; your one is a good example. Thanks for providing the details.
      I hope this helps!

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