You can turn the game off, but that won't get it out of your head.
If you've ever cut yourself and waited for regenerating health to kick in, or messed up a huge social engagement and tried to find your last save file, you're not alone. A recent study found that a significant number of gamers carried game mechanics over into the real world via a process called Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP). Researchers found that regular gamers tended to contextualize real-life tasks, from using menus to formulate responses to button-mashing on a controller, even while empty-handed.
The study comes by way of Nottingham Trent University and Stockholm University. Professor Mark Griffiths, along with a team of researchers, interviewed 42 regular gamers between the ages of 15 and 21. During the study, he observed GTP again and again. "Almost all the players reported some type of GTP, but in different ways and with varying degrees of intensity," said Griffiths. The study is not rigorously scientific, but rather, meant to introduce a topic that merits further investigation in the future. "We are now following this up with a further study of a much larger number of gamers."
Common instances of GTP involved players reaching for controllers when none was present, but more extreme examples involved reaching for an imaginary search bar when trying to find a person in a crowd. Griffiths is unsure what further research will uncover, but believes the topic is well worth investigating. "A recurring trend suggests that intensive gaming may lead to negative psychological, emotional or behavioural consequences," he explained, "with enormous implications for software developers, parents, policy makers and mental health professionals."
The link between GTP and negative behavior remains to be seen, but the idea that people contextualize reality based on a frequent hobby sounds reasonable. Hopefully, this preliminary research will spark enough interest for a more cohesive project in the future. Those interested in the full article can read it in the upcoming issue of the International Journal of Cyber Behaviour, Psychology and Learning.
Source: The Press Association