Video games cause ‘pseudo hallucinatory-like experiences’ (Wired UK)


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Those explosions and horrifying zombie moans you hear late at
night in bed, or while driving your car, are totally normal. Well,
maybe “normal” is not the right term, but a team of pychologists
from Nottingham Trent University has at least explained it. It is
something hardcore gamers will experience, sometimes for days after
they have played anything featuring said blasts and groans.

The research, published in the International Journal of Cyber Behaviour,
Psychology and Learning
proves, according to coauthor Angelica
Ortiz De Gortari, that “video game playing can induce pseudo
hallucinatory-like experiences”.

The team, which works in the university’s International Gaming
Research Unit, focused on first-person accounts penned by 1,244
discussed on video game forums. They found that 12 percent of those
people had at one point or another experienced auditory echoes of
the games they played. The majority of those echoes were made up of
sound effects, music and characters’ voices, and did not need
triggers to come to life.

Some of the 155 gamers in question heard them through the night,
and others for two days in a row after playing for a longer
stretch. But it didn’t matter what the individual hearing them was
doing — it was not something tied to a dreamlike state before bed,
but something they would hear during the day and while going about
their usual lives and routines.

The gamers would complete phrases they heard in their minds,
confuse real life sounds for those in the video game and sometimes
hear music while involuntarily moving their fingers (presumably, as
though playing the game). “Occasionally, the vividness of the sound
evoked thoughts and emotions that resulted in behaviours and
copying strategies,” write the authors.

The entire paper relates to something called Game Transfer
Phenomena, a niche and new realm of research being pioneered by the
International Gaming Research Unit. For some years now, the
department has explored the theory, collecting anecdotal evidence
that suggests their subjects, after playing a game for a long time,
could transfer content from the game into their real lives,
momentarily. It’s something a lot of people will be familiar with,
but had not been the subject of deep academic analysis and was in
fact a condition only recently named by the department, led by
professor Mark Griffiths.

The group has recorded stories of auditory, visual and tactile
echoes experienced by avid gamers. Speaking to the Guardian in 2011, Griffiths said, “We had the
example of a teacher who dropped his pen and immediately reached
for a joypad button to retrieve it, as though he were in a game”.
He speaks about it as a conditioned response — do something enough
times, and in the real world, if anything similar happens, the game
memory will be triggered and mirrored into the real world
context.

Plenty of other academic studies have categorised the phenomena,
though the current one is the first to analyse auditory cues in
depth. In 2005, one paper showed how more cortisol was delivered
in the body when techno music played in violent video games — it
induced a physiological stress response. In another, a team found
that video games manipulated to show more realistic blood and play
more realistic screams induced higher physiological arousal.

This is of course, what a good video game is sometimes designed
to do. In an action title for example, if you’re not feeling the
excitement, and heart rates are placid, you’re probably bored in
some cases. Of course, anecdotes of someone hearing the word
“death” whispered to them for days, as the Nottingham team found,
is highly disconcerting, and they report that some subjects said
they felt scared, maddened, and like they were “going crazy”.

These types of studies are generally reserved for the most
intense gamers out there, however, and the authors do note that the
symptoms are hardly a permanent fixture to be worried about.

“Game Transfer Phenomena appears to be commonplace among
excessive gamers and most of these phenomena are short-lasting,
temporary, and resolve of their own accord,” said Griffiths, in a
statement. “For some gamers, the phenomena are conditioned
responses, therefore the best way for the tiny minority that may
have longer lasting phenomena is to simply cut down the amount they
play.”

Ortiz De Gortari notes, importantly, that it is work like her’s
and her team’s that can help shed light on this phenomena for avid
gamers troubled by the experiences. She says: “These experiences
can sometimes result in illogical thoughts and behaviours. It’s
important to help gamers understand their experiences since
re-experiencing sounds and voices may provoke distress, especially
when associated with dangerous situations in the game.”

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29 July 2014 | 5:17 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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