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Game Transfer Phenomena, Augmented Reality and Pokémon Go

AR and no AR Pogo

It is easy to imagine how Augmented Reality technologies will transform, enhance or distort our everyday perceptions by superimposing vivid synthetic images on real world sceneries.

Localization-based quasi-augmented reality games such as Ingress and more recently Pokémon Go, offer possibilities to get the first insights of Game Transfer Phenomena and Augmented Reality (AR).

I was particularly thrilled to investigate GTP in Pokémon Go, a game of massive appeal and positive attributes.

Four out of five Pokémon Go gamers (80.9%) reported having experienced some type of GTP at some point (n=1,085). This is relatively many but less than in previous studies I have conducted with other video games (e.g., 96%). These findings raise other questions.

Could playing a game, which includes digital images that are superimposed and seemingly merged with sceneries and objects of the physical world be related to gamers’ reports of seeing images from the game after playing or misperceiving objects from the real world with those from the game?

To my surprise, Pokémon Go gamers tend to not play with the AR function enabled. According to a preliminary analysis of one of my explorative surveys on Pokémon Go (n=196), only 38% used the AR function.

Playing with the AR function enabled increases the battery usage, and some gamers also say that the AR function makes it harder to capture Pokémon due to lack of precision.

Interestingly, playing with the AR function was not significantly associated to experiencing almost any of the visual related GTP, only for misperceptions of physical objects.

Moreover, more of those who played with the AR function enabled reported perceptual distortions of objects/environments and less reported seeing images related with Pokémon Go after playing (with closed or open eyes).

It seems that seeing images overlaid on real life context may facilitate confusing objects later on in the physical world with something from the game, this may be explained because our brains tend to interpret stimuli based on previous experiences. Gamers have reported confusing birds with planes from a video game in previous studies.


These findings leave us with speculative thoughts. It appears that the time of exposure to the video game images, the type of images (e.g., brightness, colour), and individual factors may be more important to re-experiencing images from the game after playing than the actual use of the AR feature.

In a previous study, gamers have reported seeing images after playing very repetitive games and playing for prolonged periods of times. Gamers have also seen images of game tags, text boxes and power bars triggered by associations in real world sceneries.

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Another interesting finding was regarding playing the game with or without sound. 57% played Pokémon Go with sound. Playing with the sound on was related to experiencing hearing music and sounds when not playing and also misperceptions of real life sounds with those from the game. This finding shows the importance of the exposure to video game features! How many times has the music got stuck in your head after listening to a song?

What kind of images do gamers re-experience after playing? Afterimages?, hallucinations?, imaginations? How do you qualify your GTP experiences? How does the interplay work between physiological, perceptual and cognitive mechanisms involved in gamers’ sensorial experiences?

In my research, I have identified diverse types of GTP that seem to be explained by related but different mechanisms. We need to research more into this matter.

I wonder what ventures augment reality/mixed reality will bring us? I am excited to keep exploring!

In my next post, I will tell you more about my findings regarding the use of the AR function and playing Pokémon Go with sound!

Further reading:

  1. Ortiz de Gortari, A. B. (2017). Game Transfer Phenomena and the Augmented Reality Game Pokémon Go: The prevalence and the relation with benefits, risks, immersion and motivations. Paper presented at the 22nd Annual CyberPsychology & Cyber Therapy Conference, Wolverhampton, UK.
  2. Ortiz de Gortari A. B., & Griffiths M. D. (2016). Prevalence and Characteristics of Game Transfer Phenomena: A Descriptive Survey StudyInternational Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 32(6), 470-480.
  3. Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014). Altered Visual Perception in Game Transfer Phenomena: An Empirical Self-Report StudyInternational Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 30(2), 95-105.
  4. Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014). Auditory experiences in Game Transfer Phenomena: An empirical self-report studyInternational Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning 4(1), 59-75.
  5. Ortiz de Gortari, A. B., Aronsson, K., & Griffiths, M. D. (2011). Game Transfer Phenomena in video game playing: A qualitative interview studyInternational Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning, 1(3), 15-33.

Participate in the new survey on Game Transfer Phenomena

and make your voice heard!

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Participate in a survey about Pokémon Go!

Update: 20/September-  The Pokémon Go survey is closed but please participate in a new survey!

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Looking for Pokémon Go players for a new study!


Please help us by answering this survey focusing on Pokémon Go & Game Transfer Phenomena.

The aim is to investigate the impact of the Augmented Reality game

Pokémon GO on gamers´ well-being and Game Transfer Phenomena.

You should be at least 18 years old to participate in the study.

Participate in the Survey in English

Participa en el cuestionario en Español

Please share the link to the survey with your contacts.

Read more: Blogs related to Pokémon.

Pokémon GO is reviving old memories and creating new ones

On the way to a dinner, my boyfriend and I decided to catch some Pokémon. After a couple of encounters, we felt we needed to catch them all on our way to the restaurant. Suddenly, some of our old basic primal instincts as hunters and collectors have been brought back thanks to Augmented Reality. Fortunately, we were too hungry to keep going.

We found a Poké stop at a restaurant/bar where I used to meet with my old PhD colleagues. I was quite excited when I realised we could find something there.

By using the real world as a platform, Augmented Reality can make the game coincide with places that are already meaningful to us and this makes the experience even more rewarding.


Later, on the way back home I noticed how tall a pillar outside the theatre was. We had captured our third Pokémon earlier there; a rewarding experience!

Also, I could notice how I found myself paying attention to colourful stimuli while walking back home. Only a few encounters with fantastic creatures were enough to program my mind to pay attention to such stimuli. Selective attention in action!

Suddenly, one of the colours I hate the most, which is purple, became the centre of attention. “Oh, look a woman with purple hair!”, purples flowers; even a child’s toy on a stick reminded me of a Zubat!

This is our collection so far. If you notice five of the Pokémon are purple!


I’m starting to feel like the gamers that in my research on Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP) reported that after playing Mirror’s Edge found themselves paying attention to red objects.

attentional bias_mirrosedge no frame

Occasionally, I was playing around asking my boyfriend “Where is it? Where is it? Take a screenshot take a screenshot!” So, I was literally interacting with an invisible and virtual entity.  How bizarre does this sound, right!? A consensual hallucination without a doubt!

Well, in fact, some gamers do not need Augmented Reality for seeing images from the games in front of their eyes or superimposed onto real life objects. In my research on GTP gamers have stated to have seen health bars or tags above peoples’ head or above animals while others have seen images on the highway and have even followed them.

In my case, the images really existed, although only seen through the mobile screen. No holograms yet! but at least HoloLens is on its way!

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The best was the Pokémon close to a bin at the street of my university with a real world dove as an extra enhancement!Screenshot_20160715-183958

From all the objects around my university, the one I will probably remember the best once I move from Nottingham will be the bin with a Rattata next to it. The bin at my university street has now become a meaningful evocative object for me! I’m not surprised.

In my research on GTP, I have repeatedly found how real life objects that were simulated in the game and typically associated with rewarding experiences have become evocative objects. These objects are capable of triggered spontaneous thoughts, urges, involuntary movements of limbs and even make gamers see or hear video game elements that are not actually there.

For instance, here is an example of a gamer’s GTP reacting to bottle caps after playing Fallout.

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We also had some social encounters as novice explorers and hunters. We met a girl and laughed. Later on, a woman that looked at us through her window shouted: “what have you caught?”

A few blocks later we saw a couple looking at their mobiles. We assumed they were playing but when they passed by they stopped doing it, but then I looked back and the woman and I laughed when I said: “you are also playing!” It was funny. It gave me the impression that the couple was shy to show they were playing. This is interesting in terms of the controversies on the adoption of technology and particularly to play a game in public as adults!

We also meet a neighbour that I earlier in the day had seen going around looking at his mobile. He was indeed playing it as well.

I will come back with more… Time to go to sleep. Wish me good luck because according to one of our latest studies about GTP, experiencing GTP as pleasurable is a predictor of severe GTP, as are other involuntary phenomena such as recalling dreams or experiencing earworms. I may have some Pokémon dreams!

I hope to hear about your Pokémon GO adventures!

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