Game not over

The Guardian covers a new study on how video games can persist in our perception as fleeting hallucinations in an effect labelled ‘game transfer phenomena’.

Unfortunately, the study has been published in an obscure journal which means I’ve not been able to read it in full, although the write-up quotes the lead researcher, Mark Griffiths:

“The academic literature goes back to 1993,” says Griffiths. “There was a case of a woman who had auditory hallucinations; she just couldn’t get the tune of the game she was playing out of her head – it was very intrusive. But what came out of our pilot research were lots of different experiences, some that were auditory, some visual and some were tactile. We had the example of a teacher who dropped his pen and immediately reached for a joypad button to retrieve it, as though he were in a game.

“Most of the experiences were neutral and often quite positive. We distinguished between what we call automatic GTP, which are almost like reflexes or classically conditioned responses, and those where players deliberately take elements out of the game and work them into their day-to-day routines.”

Needless to say, the tabloids got carried away and ran with ‘gamers losing touch with reality’-type stories although it sounds like the authors of the study were probably a little over-enthusiastic with their own descriptions.

Despite this, it sounds like an interesting study describing how conditioned responses and perceptual expectations learnt in video games might be get triggered in other situations.

I knew someone would get round to studying those weird thoughts about Tomb Raider at some point.

Link to Guardian article on ‘game transfer phenomena’

12 thoughts on “Game not over”

  1. Not Tomb Raider Vaughan but Tetris: if you play it a lot, the last thing that you think of at night is trying to fit the shapes together as you’re falling asleep. It’s impossible not to do so …

  2. That reminds me of the time I saw a beautiful landscape (in real life) and thought “I should make a screenshot of that.” 🙂

  3. With regard to being haunted by the games just before or during sleep, i always thought that had to do with encoding. As in… your brain continues to familiarise itself with the game format, even after you have stopped playing.

  4. It goes further than games indeed Berna, I was just now reading a textbook and had the urge to “ctrl-f” a term I was looking for. A friend of mine caught herself marveling at the “wonderful rendering” of sunlight through a puddle.

    Game stuff: “That streetlamp looks ideal for a grappling hook”

    But I think applying the concept merely to games is a bit too specific. After studying thermodynamics for a while, for example, it’s easy to see it in everything one does (hot tea cooling, kitchen spills evaporating etc).

    Maybe it’s just in human nature to seek to apply what we’ve experienced to new situations.

  5. The effect also works with Warcraft 3. I replay in my mind over and over the games that I lose. It’s very invasive, like a virtual reality that you can’t stop.

  6. This phenomena is worse for game developers. While working long hours on a particularly stylized game, I found myself seeing the real world with the style superimposed. The more stylized the game, the more I am aware of it interjecting itself into my time away from the computer/game console.

    What I wonder is if the same thing happens with other long term exposure to stylized realities, be they cartoons (watch 4 hours of Disney and see what happens, or even static images (do graphic designers start seeing the world in the style they are currently working in?).

  7. I was just discussing this very thing with someone recently!

    I’ve found the absolute worst game for this for me is Minecraft since my visual field will then seem to be organized in blocks. The first time I played the game (for several hours straight) I was seeing depth in anything linear, especially text.

    I’m not sure this is limited to video games or computers though, as others have noted. I know personally I get kinesthetic “ghosts” after swimming where I still feel as if I am swimming and that it would be appropriate to move as if I were. The visual field thing happens to me anytime I have to do prolonged perceptual searching. For example I went berry picking for raspberries in the wild a few months ago and afterwards my interior environment had inappropriate depth and structure more akin to trees and bushes. I also find that weird things happen to shadows and forms (especially of fabric) if I am painting or drawing for a few days.

    I figure it’s a combination of two related things: 1. inappropriate generalization of recently used perceptual/action strategies and 2. encoding of procedural memory to the brain leaking into consciousness for some reason. I would assume that both are due to your brain/body trying very hard to learn these things and maybe due to the fact that they are behaviors which mimic (or are!) important survival behaviors such as foraging and navigating.

  8. I used to see everything as something to grind on after playing Tony Hawk 3. It was hilarious to me back then (2002).

    Last year I would see the propane tank in my mom’s backyard and it’d make me think of Left 4 Dead. Funny stuff, but it goes away easily.

  9. That reminds me:

    I had a minor fuel spill in the garage, and obviously I looked around to see if there were any hazards nearby.

    About a meter away was a red barrel, and I knew immediately the the danger – “If I so much as touch/punch that, it’ll explode!”

  10. It’s not really losing touch with reality but more of changing your perception of reality, more than likey any deep immersion mental process will tend to imprint itself into our daily perception. Reality is after all somewhat the product of the observers perception.

  11. “We had the example of a teacher who dropped his pen and immediately reached for a joypad button to retrieve it, as though he were in a game.”

    It’s not quite the same thing but, after using the Kindle for Ipad app for a long time, I sometimes find myself doing the swipe page-turn motion to try and change the page when I’m reading printed books and magazines.

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