Video games’ visual effects leaking into our reality

There are still no holograms or touch interfaces that float in front our eyes, and the Google glasses are just a small step on the way.

No artificial technology is needed, only the most powerful machinery never invented, the human mind! Suddenly the real scenery of some gamers appeared tinted by colours and textures, shadows, auras around objects, menus, power bars and pixelations.


Video game images appeared passive and other times moving. Sometimes with closed eyes or with every blink of the eye, and suddenly in front of the eyes!


Visual after-effects happen due to neural adaptations. Afterimages can easily be caused by simply looking at a bright light, but the most interesting findings in this study about GTP, is that perceptual distortions and images from the games were triggered by associations between the real world and previous video game experiences.

Images appear like pieces of a puzzle in real life scenarios, like projections of thoughts that reveal the complexity of the human mind, and the interplay of physiological, perceptual and cognitive mechanism.


These altered perceptions can end in a good laugh, in creative and ludic experiences, or scary situations where some gamers have questioned their own mental health.


Gamers have also experienced cross-sensorial experiences, synesthesia-like experiences induced artificially, when auditory stimuli such as music triggered seeing video game images, and multisensory experiences when images were seen while feeling involuntary movements of fingers or legs.


Also,  gamers experienced misperceptions when for a moment they thought they saw something from the game. These experiences usually occurred when real life stimuli shared similarities with video game elements or were presented in similar contexts.


In the first Game Transfer Phenomena study, an interview study with 42 Swedish frequent gamers, participants reported seeing health bars and text boxes above people’s heads (Ortiz de Gortari, Aronsson, & Griffiths, 2011). So, I decided to investigate these experiences closer as my PhD. This new study focus particularly on gamers’ experiences related to visual cues in video games, published in co-authorship with my PhD supervisor, Dr. Mark Griffiths, comprise the analysis of 656 experiences from 483 gamers that were collected from online video games forums.  Here are the results in numbers. A total of 181 different video game titles were related with gamers’ experiences.

percents VGTP

Updated based on a recent survey with over 2,000 gamers.

Gamers have reported similar experiences in the same games in both qualitative and quantitative studies of GTP.

77% have visualized or seeing images with closed eyes

46% have misperceived real life objects

36% have perceived environments distorted or objects

30% have seeing images with open eyes


You are very welcome to share your own experiences or questions. If you want to know more about GTP, or get a copy do not hesitate to contact me.

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

Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., & Griffiths, M. D. (2013). Altered visual perception in Game Transfer Phenomena: An empirical self-report study. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.

Ortiz de Gortari A. B., & Griffiths M. D. (2016). Prevalence and Characteristics of Game Transfer Phenomena: A Descriptive Survey Study. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 32(6), 470-480.

Main news about the study: Altered Visual Perception in Game Transfer Phenomena

Game Spot Daily News

17 January 2014. The Boston Globe –When the game shuts off and the brain doesn’t

10 Janaury 2014. The independent –Better than real life: Gamers report video-game mechanics appearing in their vision 

8 January 2014. Telegraph – Gamers who play for hours ‘prone to hallucinations’

8 January 2014.Irish Metro– Gamers hallucinate and get flashbacks

Related blogs

Game Transfer Phenomena the original AR

Game Transfer Phenomena: Echoes of Extended Gameplay

Five most common type of GTP

Participate in a new survey!



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 October 15, 2013, in GTP study and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I do not beleive these examples

  2. this is so fake i have played cod for days this haz never hapend

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion.
      Not all gamers experience GTP, but according to our studies conducted with different samples of over 1,000 participants, most gamers have experienced some form of GTP (visual, auditory, thoughts or behaviours) -at least once- at some point in their lives. GTP has been reported with over 400 video game titles.

  3. I have not heard of this and I think the only way for this to happen is if you play like for a million hours.

  4. I am an active gamer and I have had multiple cases of GTP, and have seen them with my eyes open, or closed. It hasn’t been too serious though, but there have been studies that have ranged back to early releases of tetris when players couldn’t stop seeing the falling blocks when they closed their eyes. My father calls this “The Tetris effect”.

    • Thanks Jacob for your comment! Yes, you father is right, although, GTP cover a broader range of experiences than the Tetris Effect. If you are interested to participate in future studies or to tell me more about your visual experiences please send me an email to angelica.ortizdegortari at

  5. After hours of playing Minecraft, I could hear the music IRL.

  1. Pingback: New study published: Altered Visual Perception in Game Transfer Phenomena | Game Transfer Phenomena

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