Can Video Games Cause Hallucinations?

New study charts accounts of "Game Transfer Phenomenon", where gamers experience gaming hallucinations in real life situations.

A strange study has recently surfaced looking at the effects of video games on gamers' mental health. A study by Nottingham Trent University published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction has found that some gamers are prone to suffering from something known as "Game Transfer Phenomenon" (GTP).

Going LocoRoco?

Analysing over 656 accounts from 483 gamers across 54 online forums, the International Gaming Research Unit at the university has collected experiences that gamers have posted about. These range from hearing game music suddenly or even seeing pop-up menus and "heads-up" displays appear out of nowhere whilst driving.

But how and why does this happen?

"Visual illusions can easily trick the brain and staring at visual stimuli can cause 'after-images' or 'ghost images'. The novelty of this new that GTP were triggered by associations between video game experiences and objects and activities in real life contexts. The findings also raise questions about the effects of the exposure to certain visual effects used in video games."

The effects, as stated by forums users, can sometimes be quite fun. But there is also a more destructive side such as losing sleep, questing mental health, or even succumbing to impulsive and embarrassing behaviour in social situations.

Don't Believe Everything You Read on the Internet

Whilst it does provide some interesting reading, it's something that we must take with a pinch of salt, as the study is basing itself purely on personal accounts posted on forums, which are prone to lies and exaggerations. It does seem a bit too much like something out of the frames of Cory Rydell and Grey Carter's comic Critical Miss, where main character, Erin, has hallucinations of video game characters after a car accident.

Even if the posts are genuine, one thing the study acknowledges is that there are no means of determining whether these gamers have underlying psychological problems, which could be causing or exaggerating the phenomenon, and therefore it isn't something as unique to video games as it might seem.

"...[the study] does pose questions about how we engage with video games, as there could be unexpected and unpleasant side effects..."

But it does pose questions about how we engage with video games, as there could be unexpected and unpleasant side effects such as GTP. Such effects pose important questions to how a possible rise of Virtual Reality games can affect us, especially given the highly immersive nature of the medium.

Have any of you experienced GTP? If so, was it a pleasant or unpleasant experience?

Header image courtesy of Corey Rydell and Grey Carter of

Featured Columnist

Bearded British game-bear. Likes his JRPGs accompanied with a G&T. Lives in London, UK. Also writes a lot about theatre and film. *jazz hands*

Published Jan. 17th 2014
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  • Game Oracle
    Nicely written article, by the way.
  • Game Oracle
    Interesting. I did read the study, and think the results aren't necessarily scientifically sound. In the future, we might find this to be more of a problem, with some people, with particular mental architecture, especially with augmented and virtual realities becoming more of a reality, each day in the interactive entertainment industry.

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