back to article Virtual and real worlds collide in gamers' minds

Some gamers are so absorbed by their virtual arenas, that even when they have come back to reality, they continue to act like they're in a videogame, new research suggests. An initial investigation of this so-called Game Transfer Phenomenon, carried out by psychologists at the Nottingham Trent University and Stockholm …


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  1. robtruscott

    some people are to stupid to play computer games...

    I grew up watching Tom and Jerry, Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, Bugs Bunny and all sorts of other violent cartoons but guess what! I never even contemplated hitting someone in the face with a frying pan, running off a cliff and flapping my arms up and down and I've never had any urge to shoot a Lagomorph in the face!! Same with the video games. Why? Because I can separate entertainment from reality just like 99% of society.

    1. LaeMing

      Not sure...

      ...where the report described says anything at all about violence caused by video games. It seems more like the UI leaking out. Do you often find yourself ranting off-topic over things you didn't bother to read in RL too?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I never even contemplated hitting someone in the face with a frying pan"

      Never? I can rarely watch the news without contemplating it at least once.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What a maroon

      Did you point out to him that it wasn't necessary to physically pick up a health pack? All he needed to do was walk over it!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      not confined to young people only ...

      After a considerable period immersed in Fallout 3 I saw a bottlecap on the ground outside my flat and picked it up with glee.

      I claim pre-senile dementia as I am in my 50s ...

      1. Jolyon

        @AC 17:36

        "I claim pre-senile dementia as I am in my 50s"

        *Pre* ?

      2. AbortRetryFail


        Actually, the anecdotes about Fallout3 remind me of when I was in Sainsbury's one time and saw a pack of 50 bobby pins and thought "oh! They're always useful to have" before reality reasserted itself.

        1. Richard 81

          Sheffield has a horrible square ended cathedral in the city centre. Having played a lot of Fallout 3 on a pretty old PC, I imagined that someone must have set the draw distance quite low and that if I walked a bit closer the apparently missing spire would fade into view.

          Not that I'm mad or anything.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon


            I found that after playing GTA and taking out all those flying rats that now have the permanent urge to shoot all pigeons.

            Which is why I now own 3 airguns and there is a dearth of flying rats where I live.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Similar to the bobby pin story, I remember seeing Macaroni and Cheese, and 'Big BBQ' Pork and Beans, and thinking they'd be handy to have in inventory.

            And seeing a shop called 'Arcadia', buying bottles of Merlot and wishing I could sit somewhere like The Fighting McDonagh's Tavern looking out at the ocean....

        2. Daniel B.

          Fallout 3, indeed.

          My stepson started having the "response menu" effect after 3 weeks playing Fallout 3. I also had a similar effect, and the fact that I put a Pip-Boy theme on my BlackBerry didn't help...

    3. Asgard

      I did something similar

      @"Apparently, he thought he'd just seen a health pack and was going to pick it up."

      I did something similar some years back. I once briefly thought I saw a red tipped pipe bomb on the floor out the corner of my vision whilst walking down the street. It was due to me just finishing over 3 hours solid playing a game with just such a weapon in it, which you needed to be fast to avoid. The thing is I've walked out of cinemas before still thinking about a good film. I've also walked around at home thinking about a good chapter of a book.

      The point is, these memories pass quickly. I don't dive for cover at every possible red tipped pipe bomb I think I've just seen!

    4. CD001


      Sort of reminds me of the original Gran Turismo - there was a billboard that went up in a field next to the motorway on my way to work with a huge Gran Turismo advert on it that stated "Remember, you're not playing Gran Turismo".

      ... quite bad when Garbage's "As heaven is wide" came up on the car stereo.

  3. Peladon


    After all, it's not like skewing your sample would run any risk of skewing the results, now would it?

    "An initial investigation... centred on interviews with 42 gamers... all of whom claimed to have either dealt with real-world problems by reaching for a joystick, or to have seen game graphics in the real world."


    "An initial investigation... centred on interviews with 42 randomly selected gamers"

    In other news:

    "An initial investigation... centred on interviews with 42 confirmed voters... indicated that voting by members of the general public was approaching 100%."

    And that's quite apart from the never-ending world championship 'Let's take the #$%^ out of the surveryors', or any question as to whether there was any gain to those interviewed who confirmed they demonstrated what the research was looking for, as opposed to those interviewed who did not.

    Heck, even an afternoon off class for further interviews might work.

    Please note: I do not intend any direct negative nasturtiums in respect of the researchers.

    Never mind. Ignore me. I'm probably having a bad day.

    1. LaeMing

      Your response is largely based on missing the first word of the article.

      1. Peladon


        If I might suggest otherwise?

        I did read the 'Some'. However my response was not intended to interpret the article as saying anybody was suggesting a general preponderance of gamers walking round seeing life bars over people's heads. Rather, I was suggesting that if you limit your review to any sample whose exhibited nature is one you pre-select, you can demonstrate only that the sample is self defining.

        Or not. To each their own :-).

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They lost their minds well before starting to play video games.

  5. David Austin

    Full Report now availiable

    Thanks to our pals at the Daily Mail blowing all this out of proportion, and misrepresenting the report, you can read the full thing, and a rebuttal from the authors right now;

    1. Richard 81

      ...and the way El Reg described it made it sound like bad science, i.e. setting out to do a study using a tiny and biased sample. Whereas it was really a paper that says to other scientists "hey this is interesting, we're going to study it further".

      The Mirror and Daily Fail clearly only cared about a sensationalist negative anti-gaming article, but then that's not anything new.

      1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)


        With respect, I don't think we took a sensationalist angle, or tried to make this first report into more than it is: an initial investigation into a curious phenomenon.

        1. Richard 81

          Ah, I wasn't accusing the Register of being sensationalist, that was aimed squarely at the Mirror and Daily Mail. In a brief article like this though the description of the work made it sound like absolute fluff, which is the conclusion some of the commenters above have obviously come to.

  6. AbortRetryFail

    Not really new

    I remember many years ago playing Doom to much. I was coming out of a lift (in real life, I mean) and someone made some grunting noise and I froze, expecting it was one of the monsters that always made a grunt before pouncing you.

    That's probably the closest thing I've been to what is being described in the article.

    1. The Fuzzy Wotnot


      When Doom came out and I was playing it morning, noon and night, similar sort of thing. I would suddenly think I saw things in my peripheral vision when I was walking to work on my night shift! I stop playing it immediately!

      About 2 years ago I was playing Fallout 3 a hell of a lot and I would walk into shops and start thinking about what I had with me I could barter for supplies, really stupid. Again I just eased off the time I spent on it.

      The mind is a very easy to adjust, our minds are very weak and even someone who thinks they are mentally strong can easily be swayed given the right trigger. Lots of studies used in advertsing all looking for the golden trigger than makes us all crave XYZ when we walk into the local Sainsbury's!

  7. Andydude

    Oh no!

    What's this? People using their imagination? This must be stopped immediately!

  8. evilbob thebob

    I suggest everyone reads this article about the findings: which picks it apart very carefully and sensibly refutes the claims.

  9. BasevaInc

    Hmmm - Sub Matrix

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    similar effect under sleep deprivation

    When I was about 13 or 14 in the mid 80s, and spending a lot of time hacking around on the CP/M-based RM380Zs at school, I was woken early one morning in a very bleary and half-awake-half-asleep (pretty much semi-delirious) state by my cat meowing at me to be fed. I remember saying "Hello" to the cat, and thinking to myself "Ah, he doesn't recognize 'hello' as a built-in command, so he'll be looking to see if it's the name of a command file on the floppy disk"...... It took me a few seconds and the follow-on thought "Wait a minute, how would I change the floppy if it's on a different disk" before the cognitive dissonance woke me up enough to realise I was thinking nonsense from a different context.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Lucky cat!

      It's a damned good thing the cognitive dissonance cut in before you attempted to change its floppies.

  11. alan buxey

    nothing new

    It's called perceptive imagination.

    I try to avoid bananas while driving...thanks Nintendo...the chomps still get me though ;)

  12. Armando 123


    I had something like this, sorta, happen once. I had just bought the first Neverwinter Nights and spent more than a little bit of time playing it. That night, my dreams had snippets of the background noises and voices in it.

    Then again, I've known people to have this happen with songs and movies, so ...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A few years ago I remember driving home from work and catching a grey speck moving in the corner of my eye, initially thinking it was a graphic bug artefact in the redraw.

    It was just a bird flying away from a tree beside the road.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I call bullshit. I know nobody who has mentioned any of these things, other than whilst day dreaming to themselves, but then when I day dream I'm often piloting a giant robot while romancing a cute idol. Also I'm part of a generation that's been playing games for a good 20 years.

    1. LaeMing


      You (and your associates) are obviously not one of the 'some' (not 'all', not even 'most') gamers who the article and the research it cites claims have reported such experiences. Keep up the excellent work!

  15. MegC

    42 gamers

    Come back when you have a real study group, I'd suggest at least 10,000 gamers and a control set of another 10,000 none gamers.

    You could most likely find a group of 42 people where they have solved real world problems by praying to a magical turnip.

    1. LaeMing

      I believe that is exactly what they said they were intending to do next in the article.

      Reading! It's a skill for life!

  16. DavidK

    If Pacman had affected my generation

    We'd be stumbling around darkened rooms, popping pills and listening to repetitive electronic music.

    1. Tomato42

      I see what you did there...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      - Marcus Brigstocke


  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Denial is futile

    Only those in denial fail to see the obvious.

  18. Francis Boyle


    every gaming site have a "Signs you've been playing to much X" thread?

  19. glenalec

    Been there, done that.

    Not with games, but with Macintosh UI. Once screwed up a piece of paper and tosed it into the trash basket, realising as it flew that I wanted it back. My brain spent a good 2 seconds groping for the Undo menu item (those familiar with Macintosh -- can't speak for MacOS, I had moved to Linux by then -- will know that was a futile gesture anyway - you recover the trash via opening it, not an undo command).

    Arround the same time, I was gettting up to 4 parallel dreams in separate 'windows'. Unlike what would happen if watching 4 movies in RL, the audio from them was percieved as distinct and separate streams, rather than an uninteligable mix!

    I eased up on the computer work and spent a bit more time outside!

  20. Rab Sssss

    I can bullshit as well

    Can remeber one night on exersize where i watched a bush stand up and run up and down a hill for 10 mins or so.

    Lack of sleep and stress was the cause (granted a prev training group failed to report a 6 foot pink rabbit apprently, the guy wearing the suit was a bit narked at the waste of the rental cost).

  21. Clive Galway

    Daily Mail comments for the article

    I posted a link to the researchers' reaction on the comments section of the Daily Fail article.

    Interestingly, it says at the top "The comments below have not been moderated".

    However, when you submit a comment it says that they are subject to admin approval (Like this site) and my comment did not appear straight away, suggesting that it *is* moderated.

    Surely they are not allowed to say the comments have not been moderated if they have? That's giving the impression that the forum is free speech when it isn't.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just games

    I once spent an entire day fighting with Excel, trying to get it to do exactly what I needed but hitting constant obstacles. That evening, tired and sick to death of Excel, I was making a sandwich and dropped a slice of bread on the kitchen floor. For a second I was mentally searching for an Undo so I could go back to the state before it was dropped. This was how I'd been making slow progress with my spreadsheet problems all day. Then there was a moment of 'disconnected shock' as I realised I had no undo because it was physical stuff, not screen stuff!

  23. easyk

    too much counterstrike

    When walking through the halls at work I would pretend to pull my knife out so I could walk faster.

  24. Anonymous Coward 101

    I was once shot five times in the guts

    I saw red for a few seconds, but made then made a full recovery - no medical treatment or even health packs necessary.

    1. Tomato42

      and hardcore gamers say it's unrealistic

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just games

    I frequently wish Cmd-Z worked in the real world, although probably I wish more often it worked properly in MS Office for Mac.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Self reporting ftl

    A pretty useless study when you just ask people for stories and accept them at face value. I'm sure theres good evidence for psychic phenomena, ghosts etc if you were to just ask random people to tell you a story "from personal experience" that might relate to the area in question. You'll get even better results if you pre-select your study group eg question 42 priests on 'the power of prayer' ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      I'm going to stand myself corrected, as it seems that its moslty bad reporting at fault here, and the paper itself isnt so bad.

      Theres a BIG difference between thinking of something, especially in an abstract or idle manner, and believing-in or trying-to-do something, as was implied in at least one shoddy reporting example.

  27. hugo tyson


    Yeah, in the early '80s playing too much Battlezone on an actual pub-type game that took money (!), walking back home (sober, daylight) I heard a light aircraft, and started turning left and right on the spot searching for the incoming missile. Didn't last long. But all this is no different from feeling jumpy and nervous in the deserted car-park after a zombie movie or whatever, or paranoid and depressed after watching The Wall....

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon


      "paranoid and depressed after watching The Wall"

      Which reminds me, I'm overdue my decennial viewing.

      Time to dig the bong out of the loft.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh come on, who else hasn't....

    ....imagined using the graphical Crossbow from Half Life Multiplayer when walking around the real world to get the satisfying 'whump' head shot into the imaginary opponent camping in the distance?

  29. Willington

    I once had Elite wireframe spaceships giving me a light show in the sky while I was walking home one dark night after a 36 hour session on the Spectrum but I've not had anything similar since I stopped doing so many amphetamines and hallucinogenics.

  30. MJI Silver badge

    Had a few

    Definately thought about climbing buildings after playing an Assassins Creed game.

    Couple of times I thought I saw a baddy while driving along (more than 1 game - not seen many Helghast around here).

    Definately leak into dreams, spent ages searching for ammo last night in blown up buildings, until brain realised it was getting silly.

    And once I considered rolling up stairs!

  31. The Infamous Grouse

    Old phenomenon

    Surely at some time every gamer must have suffered Tetris Burnout, where the sight of an urban skyline has the brain scrambling for the right shapes and orientations to neatly fill the gaps? I've definitely experienced that, as have many people I've mentioned it to.

    I also used to work with a chap who got into gaming in his 50s with Medal Of Honor Allied Assault. He once sheepishly admitted that when his wife expressed puzzlement at his apparent interest in upper-storey building windows during a shopping trip, he had to confess that he was looking for snipers.

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