Washington Post is running a series of stories on growing up in “The screen age”. In the most recent story “The next level” they go into the case of “Byrne”, his struggles with gaming addition and the impact on his family. Byrne has also experienced Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP).
“After Byrne’s prolonged periods of play, his parents noticed that his temperament was unusually volatile. The muscles in his back and neck felt tense and tight. His eyes would sometimes twitch. Lines of dialogue from the games would pop into his mind unbidden. At school, the class dismissal bell occasionally sounded just like the two-tone chime that signaled a new friend joining a game online — a sort of auditory hallucination that researchers refer to as Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP), in which the boundaries between reality and the game begin to blur.
Nicholas Kardaras, a New York psychotherapist and author who specializes in addiction, still remembers the very first gamer he treated who suffered from GTP: a teenage boy in a Metallica T-shirt who appeared frightened and confused as he sat in Kardaras’s office…”
I’m a bit unsure if Byrne was hearing, seeing or thinking about the dialogues from the game. I have found all these manifestations in my research on GTP.
Hearing voices from the game inside the head, as a sort of inner speech because of internalizing auditory images of speech without pronouncing a sound has been reported with video games that have repetitive dialogues and commands. “Go, Go”, “Welcome back”, “over time, over time”. Probably dialogues from online conversations can also manifest in similar ways.
Gamers have also repeatedly heard music or sound in the head as involuntary auditory imagery, very similar as when a melody that you like (or hate) gets stuck in your head! Additionally, gamers have heard sounds coming from objects associated with the game, as a more genuine form of “auditory hallucination”.
In terms of visual experiences, spontaneous visualizations of images from the game are one of the most common GTP experiences. Gamers have even seen menus that pop up in the corner of their eyes and menus or tags above people’s head.
At times Byrne thought that the dismissal bell at school sounded like a signal from the game. Misinterpretations of real life stimuli (e.g. objects, sounds) that resemble something from the game has been broadly reported. Gamers have interpreted birds as fighting jets, or interpreted doors being shut as spiders crawling.
The links between GTP and gaming addiction has not been clearly established yet, but in one of our latest studies 7% of those that have experienced GTP very frequently and in various forms were significantly more likely to consider having problematic gaming or gaming addiction. They played sessions of 6 hours or longer and 58% of those have experienced distress or/and dysfunction due to GTP.
Read the full story about Byrne here.
A new study on the severity of GTP “An empirical examination of factors associated with Game Transfer Phenomena severity” has been published in the Computer in Human Behaviour Journal with my co-authors Ben Oldfield and Mark D. Griffiths. You can download a free copy of the full article until September following this link.
Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP) (i.e. altered perceptions, spontaneous thoughts and behaviors with game content) occur on a continuum from mild to severe. This study examined the differences between mild, moderate and severe levels of GTP.
A total of 2281 gamers’ participated in an online survey. The majority of gamers experienced a mild level of GTP.
The factors significantly associated with the severe level of GTP were:
(i) being students, (ii) being aged 18 to 22 years, (iii) being professional gamers, (iv) playing videogames every day in sessions of 6 h or more, (iv) playing to escape from the real world, (v) having a sleep disorder, mental disorder or reported dysfunctional gaming, and (vi) having experienced distress or dysfunction due to GTP.
In addition, having used drugs and experiencing flashbacks as side- effects of drug use were significantly less likely to be reported by those with mild level of GTP.
In a regression analysis, predictors of severe GTP included positive appraisals of GTP, distress or dysfunction due to GTP, and tendency to recall dreams. In general, the findings suggest that those with severe level of GTP share characteristics with profiles of gamers with dysfunctional gaming (e.g., problematic and/or addictive gaming).