My experiences with Game Transfer Phenomena

Hi guys, instead of a game review this week, I’m going to talk about one of my favourite PhD studies: Game Transfer Phenomena because I experience it and I think it’s really interesting.

Game Transfer Phenomena is a concept coined by Dr. Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari. It relates to how gaming can effect your actions in the real world. She blogs about it and it includes some comics of situations where Game Transfer Phenomena may occur. You can read all the comics here and they’re pretty good at helping explain in a simple way what Game Transfer Phenomena is.

Game Transfer Phenomena

The comic above shows a “phenomena” that I have experienced several times in the past. It only happens when I play Advance Wars which is a grid based game. After playing for a long time, my brain is tricked into thinking that real life has “turns” and I wait for other people to take their “turn” before I take mine.

Before you ask – it doesn’t last very long, only a temporary lapse of judgement. It’s not like the media love to protray this kind of thing: “gamers can’t tell the difference between a game and real life!!!” It is nothing like that. If you read into the research about it, it’s summarised as:

  • Acting out a game motion in real life (like trying to press X to open a door)
  • Thinking about applying game logic as real world logic (like wanting to pick up bottle caps because they’re currency)
  • Hallucinating game symbols (Like seeing a crosshair in your field of vision)
  • And yes, these might seem like weird nonsense actions, but the other things reported are:

  • They last for a short period of time (usually a few seconds)
  • After occurrence it’s usually followed by “why would I think/do that?!”
  • No confusion as to what is real and what is related to a game, just temporary lapse of judgement
  • In fact, I bet that you have probably experienced some Game Transfer Phenomena yourself. Here is a very simple (and very common) one: getting a song stuck in your head. Even if you haven’t played Tetris in 20 years, no doubt you can remember this song and it will persist to remain “in your head” for a while.

    Some other Game Transfer Phenomena that I’ve experienced:

  • Thinking in “turns” (Advance Wars)
  • Seeing blocks when I close my eyes (Super Mario)
  • Feeling jumpy when I hear crackling like a radio (Silent Hill)
  • An urge to move my hand in a certain way when I hear “battle with the Four Fiends” (Theatrhythm Final Fantasy)
  • Looking at the sky to see if the moon was full because I needed a pictograph of it (Wind Waker)
  • And I’ve seen people on twitter say thing like this!


    (Credit to Steve at SEONo – no you’re not going mental)

    So, there you go, games make us do weird things sometimes and there is a study to show why. Have you ever experienced Game Transfer Phenomena? Care to tell me about it?

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