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 a particular video game (e.g. the visual field, auditory effects, and realism), the hardware utilized to control the game (e.g. gamepads), and the degree of immersion, embodiment, and flow are key factors influencing how GTP will manifest

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 across 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.

GTP characteristics

  • 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.
  • Young gamers (18–22 years old) and minors (15-18) are more likely to experience GTP. Minors are more prone to automatic thoughts and altered body perceptions.
  • More gamers appraised GTP as pleasant (25.9%) compared to unpleasant (5.4%) and more than one-fifth (21.2%) wanted GTP to occur again.
  • 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, 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


•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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23 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

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