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Study: Playing games can bleed into real-life perception, behavior

Playing games can affect our behavior and visual perception in real life, according to a new study published last month in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.

The study came from psychologist Mark D. Griffiths and doctoral researcher Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari, both of Nottingham Trent University in Nottingham, U.K. The authors collected testimonials posted in online forums about the aftereffects of gaming in order to study them and explain why they occur.

Griffiths and Ortiz de Gortari gathered a total of 656 posts from 483 different gamers from 54 forums. One individual described playing Dance Dance Revolution and seeing scrolling arrows when they closed their eyes. Another said the Mass Effect dialogue wheel would pop up in their mind when they talked to someone in real life. And one person said they sometimes confused airplanes in the sky with UAVs after sessions of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Based on the posts, the researchers concluded, "Intensive playing can result in misperceptions and visual distortions of real-life objects and environments, stereotypical visual experiences that arise from mind visualization and pseudo- hallucinatory experiences with video game content." They refer to such experiences as "visual game transfer phenomena" (VGTP). According to Griffiths and Ortiz de Gortari, VGTP can occur while playing, right after playing or at some point in the future, and "suggests in the most of the cases a relationship between the video games' visual effects and the gamers' altered visual perceptions."

The authors acknowledged the limitations of their methods in the study, such as the fact that the data was self-reported by the players and that they did not provide any demographic information. Griffiths and Ortiz de Gortari did not present any conclusions about the possible hazards of VGTP, such as experiencing it while driving; they said only that further research is needed.

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