Good games really get inside your head. So much so, claims an upcoming paper, that they might be affecting how you view the world around you.
The phenomenon has been dubbed “game transfer” and according to a draft of a report set to be published in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning, it is characterized as “when video game elements are associated with real life elements, triggering subsequent thoughts, sensations and/or player actions.”
In layman’s terms, it’s when you spend hours playing Metal Gear Solid, then while at the store the next day you view every shelf as a possible place to hide, and every employee as a grunt needing to be held up for dog tags.
According to Mark Griffiths, professor of psychology at Nottingham Trent University, the phenomena is not just common, it’s almost an inherent trait of all gamers. The more involved in the game a player becomes, the more likely they are to experience symptoms.
From interviews with 42 Swedish gamers between the ages of 15 and 21, Griffiths and his colleagues claim that games can cause “intrusive thoughts, sensations, impulses, reflexes, optical illusions, and dissociations.”
That all-too-clinical description sounds a bit more foreboding than the reality though. For instance, one of the 15-year-old respondents described once seeing health bars above the heads of real people. It’s a bizarre occurence, sure, but Griffiths paper also notes that these momentary bursts of games affecting real world perceptions don’t seem to have any affect on a person’s ability to differentiate between what is real and what is fictional.
It’s a neat phenomenon and clearly illustrates how little science understands about how the mind deals with the blurry lines between fictional constructs and reality, but I’m left wondering what exactly is the end game here. I’m glad we now have a word to describe this whole thing, but this betters us how exactly?
(If the answer is “cure for feline leukemia,” I’m going to feel just terrible.)