Playing games can make you hallucinate, study finds

New research concludes that some gamers may be prone to "altered visual perceptions" after playing for hours, but how reliable is the data?

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New research has concluded that some gamers may be prone to experiencing "altered visual perceptions" of reality, similar to hallucinations, after playing for hours. The study, published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, was conducted by "experts" at Nottingham Trent University's International Gaming Research Unit.

But how reliable is the data? The research is based on the analysis of 656 experiences from 483 gamers collected in online forums. Crucially, this data does not include participants' psychological profiles, which could affect results dramatically.

The data showed that some gamers reported "distorted versions of real-world surroundings." Others in the study said they saw game images, like menus, pop up when they were in conversation. Still others said they saw projections of heads-up-displays from racing games depicted in front of their eyes when they were driving on the road.

Nottingham Trent University's study is the first in a series that seeks to explain what it calls "Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP)," or plainly, how playing games can affect a person's sense of sight, sound, and touch after they are done playing. The study's overarching goal is to determine what psychosocial implications there may be stemming from altered perceptions induced by virtual technologies like video games.

"In some playing experiences, video game images appeared without awareness and control of the gamers and, in some cases, the images were uncomfortable, especially when gamers could not sleep or concentrate on something else," researchers said. "These experiences also resulted in irrational thoughts such as gamers questioning their own mental health, getting embarrassed or performing impulsive behaviors in social contexts. However, other gamers clearly thought that these experiences were fun and some even tried to induce them."

Psychology professor Mark Griffiths, who led the study, readily admitted that not knowing participants' psychological backgrounds means the data may not necessarily be representative of the gamer community at large. Still, he said the data is worth examining at greater length.

"Some gamers may be more susceptible than others to experience GTP," he said. "The effects of these experiences appear to be short-lived, but some gamers experience them recurrently. More research is needed to understand the cognitive and psychological implications of GTP."

GTP appears to be similar to the well-known Tetris Effect, a phenomenon some people say they experience where after a long session of the tile-matching game, they continue to see falling blocks in the real-world.

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