Virtual phantom limbs

Which video game elements have you wished to have in real Life?

Check out Killer guides blog for some game elements and functions these gamers wishes to have in real life.

Research about Game Transfer Phenomena has found that some gamers not only wished to have video games elements in real life but have actually tried to use them. This resulted in automatic thoughts, episodic dissociations, involuntary movements of fingers or arms, tactile sensations of game controls, and projections of video game images elicited by automatic associations between real life stimuli, events and video games elements.

These experiences can be explained as conditioned responses by pairing activities with video game elements; these appear to be effects of the repetitive use of virtual artefacts. However, I also see these experiences as interesting examples of virtual embodiment. Maybe it is a part of our cyborg nature nowadays, where not only physical devices that provide us with functions are missed or desired, but also intangibles objects that can empower us.

Video game elements transferred to real life sceneries are like phantom limbs, metaphorically representing our wishes to enhance our real life abilities (bionic arm) compensating our human limitations (teleport), fixing our mistakes (reverse the time), preserving our moments (save), leading us towards destiny (quest arrows), revealing the state of others (health bars) and being self-aware (HUD).

Caught myself wishing to have the zoom from the rifle scope to see something far away, during my days of intensive playing of Resident Evil 4, was what triggered my inquisitive mind to start my research about GTP.

Here are some examples reported by gamers in an interview study (1).

Seeing health bars IRL – “I started seeing health bars above people’s heads. It was mostly when I played football in school in the breaks. We were losing in a game and when we started turning it to our advantage. I started to see stuff almost like some kind of “bar” when I look down that I could use to, I don’t know, do something strange” (Charlie, 17).

Reversing time to undo a mistake – “After completing ‘Prince of Persia: Sands of Time’ when I accidentally dropped a sandwich with the butter side down, I instantly reached for the “R2” button. My middle finger twitched, trying to reach it. Only to discover that I didn’t have a PS2-controller in my hands” (Milton, 19).

Using a hook to get to town- “When just ‘Cause 2’ got released, I played it a lot for about two weeks. But when I tired of the game, and I was sitting at my windows, four floors up, I thought ‘It would be so awesome if I could [tie a] hook to that car and get to town that away’ and felt like pressing the ‘F’ [button on the game pad] but it was like a reflex” (Milton, 19).

hook cause 2

Missing a bionic arm – “When I had played ‘Bionic Commando’ for a long time, in reality it felt so weird not to have the Bionic arm” (Tobias, 15).

bionic arm_alone

Shift button to talk – “When I was giving a presentation I wanted to press the ‘shift’ button to start the microphone, because I had a function in the computer. But in Real Life when I was giving the speech, I couldn’t find the button. I was looking for my keyboard in the air but it wasn’t there” (Carl, 19).
Search button – “Sometimes I can find myself trying to find a search button In Real Life. Like in ‘World of Warcraft’ you can use /who to find people. I was in a big crowd looking for my older brother and after looking for like 5 minutes I thought ‘Ooh, I’m so stupid I’ll just use the / who function’. But then I realised how stupid it sounded” (Linus, 19).


Gravity gun to get something from the fridge – “The gravity gun from ‘Half Life’. I want to use pretty often. When you want something from the fridge and don´t wanna go all the way over there” (Simon, 15).

Grapple to get a bowl –
“I played ‘Tomb Raider’ and could reach something with the grapple Lara has, and when I saw a bowl in our pantry that I couldn’t reach I wished I could have her grapple so I could’ve reached it!” (Eva, 16).

Telekinesis to move a car – “The thought just pop up in my mind, like “Oh, what if I were able to use my telekinetics to move this car out of my way so that I can drive pass with my moped” (Anton, 15).


If you want to know more check out:

(1) Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., Aronsson, K., & Griffiths, M. D. (2011). Game Transfer Phenomena in videogame playing: A qualitative interview study. International Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning, 1(3), 15-33.


About Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari

Dr. Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari is Marie Curie Postdoctoral Research fellow in Cyberpsychology. Critical inquiry on the psychosocial implications of interactive media technologies has been her professional passion since undergraduate school, when she conducted one of the first studies on internet addiction. Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP) is her area of research expertise, for which she has won awards. Dr. Ortiz de Gortari’s research has been featured in different media worldwide including Discovery News, History Channel News, BBC World Service, the New Scientist and the International Herald Tribune. Her research on GTP has even inspired an episode of the TV series CSI: Cyber. She has published academically and presented at several international conferences. The goal of her research is maximizing the psychological and social benefits of interactive virtual technologies while reducing the potential risks it can present to some individuals.

Posted on March 6, 2013, in Gamers' GTP experiences and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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