Game Transfer Phenomena

Authored by Hugh Soames

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Michael Por

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What is Game Transfer Phenomena?

Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP), also commonly referred to as the “Tetris Effect,” is a perception that occurs after extended video game play that causes distortions in the gamer’s reality, including auditory delusions, intentional thoughts that are focused on gaming, and unintentional disillusions and behaviors. There is little research surrounding Game Transfer Phenomena as it is relatively new since the technology age began. As the need for and consumption of personal technology has increased over the last few decades, so have the people affected by GTP

Studies that have been done have shown that gamers experiencing Game Transfer Phenomena is common, and the gamers have experienced altered perceptions after excessive game play. Very little research is available about GTP, but those who have experienced it have reported many different symptoms and disillusions related to screen time and game play.1Ortiz de Gortari, Angelica B. “ACM Digital Library.” ACM Digital Library, Accessed 11 Oct. 2022.

Historically, humans have tried enhancing their experiences using technology. Video games are another tool to aid in that enhancement. Video games require attention to specific details while responding to excessive stimuli. This is most common with augmented/hybrid reality games, where the player enters a virtual world or game as a virtual representation. Gamers become easily absorbed in the game, putting their thoughts, feelings, and any other physical things on pause.

Because modern games are technologically advanced, they offer a higher-level realism which may cause differentiating between game and reality more difficult for those who experience Game Transfer Phenomena. Emotional immersion is significant during game play as it creates a more enhanced experience for the gamer.

What does Game Transfer Phenomena feel like?

Playing certain games has shown to improve mental acuity, as the part of the brain that is playing the games is also connected to intelligence and cognitive flexibility. This could conclude that Game Transfer Phenomena could have positive aspects. However, violent or fighting games may have the opposite effect causing the gamer to act more aggressively or become more irritable outside of the game.2Ortiz de Gortari, Angelica B. “Game Transfer Phenomena: Origin, Development, and Contributions to the Video Game Research Field.” Game Transfer Phenomena: Origin, Development, and Contributions to the Video Game Research Field, Accessed 11 Oct. 2022.


It has also been known to cause “sea legs,” a physical effect that occurs after sitting for extended periods of time staring at a screen or concentrating on gaming. Standing up quickly or looking at something other than the video game on the screen can create an unstable or unbalanced physical effect for the gamer.


Game Transfer can manifest as seeing or hearing game elements while not gaming. Game Transfer can also include game elements appearing in altered states of consciousness, dreaming, day dreaming, or zoning out.


Game Transfer Phenomena can include experiences such as:


  • Intrusive experiences – sensory alterations, causing the inability to function in one’s surroundings. This can manifest as seeing a similar element from the game in reality and strategizing how to approach or defeat it.


  • Automatic responses – based on video game content, the player will respond to real life situations based on the video game elements, including physical reflexes and misinterpreting real life elements. This can manifest as finger or thumb movements, body spasms, and hearing game elements such as music or sound effects and not being able to discern them from reality.


Intentional Game Transfer exists when a gamer voluntary plays excessively and intentionally incorporates gaming elements into real life situations. This can include using gaming language, imitating characters or game play, using video games to interact with others, and intentional daydreaming.


Game Transfer Phenomena can occur when the gamer is no longer engaged in game play. This can include activities designed to distract or zone out like sleeping or watching television. These occurrences are not exclusive to GTP. Game Transfer Phenomena can also cause fatigue, anxiety, and stress.

Who is at risk of Game Transfer Phenomena

Young players, children and adolescents are more at risk for Game Transfer Phenomena because excessive game play can be used as a form as escapism. However, there is no definitive research that can pinpoint an exact group who is more vulnerable to Game Transfer Phenomena.


Those who are at risk or are already suffering from video game addiction potentially have higher chances of experiencing Game Transfer Phenomena. This is because excessive game play can trigger involuntary, or sometimes intentional, video game images or sounds to exist outside of regular game play.


The concern for children or adolescent gamers who may be at risk for Game Transfer Phenomena is that they may not be able to discern between reality and game play when they experience GTP symptoms, such as sounds or images in reality that actually belong in the game. This can affect children and adolescents and cause greater struggles developmentally. It is important if you notice your child may be experiencing Game Transfer Phenomena or is showing signs of video game addiction to seek help from a certified professional.

Is Game Transfer Phenomena a sign of gaming addiction?

Game Transfer Phenomena can be experienced by anyone at anytime for any length of time and can occur in a variety of video game genres. Although long sessions of game play are not necessary for experiencing Game Transfer Phenomena, excessive game play can often trigger it.


Game Transfer Phenomena can become problematic when it interferes with regular life activities. The consequences will depend on the individual circumstances surrounding the gamer and what types of experiences they have after game play. In a recent study, a gamer admitted to experiencing Game Transfer Phenomena in the form of game images while not playing and those images occurring while driving. The challenge occurs when GTP interferes in real life and becomes a safety concern. It is up to the gamer to stay in control and continue to perform as usual.


In the same study, most gamers reported having game images and sounds occurring while not engaged in game play; most were able to differentiate between real images and sounds and those they were experiencing. Some gamers did admit to interacting and responding to the sounds and images while knowing they were not real.


Video game addiction is not a recognized mental illness. However, it can be harmful to those suffering from it. Game Transfer Phenomena can easily become a symptom or indicator of video game addiction, due to its apparent links to game play of any length from casual to excessive.


Can Game Transfer Phenomena be a sign or symptom of video addiction? In cases where video game addiction is not a concern or game play is casual, then it is unlikely that it is a sign of addiction. However, increased excessive game play opens the gamer up to more opportunities to experience GTP, either involuntarily or intentionally, and that can be a definitive indicator of video game addiction. More research still needs to be done on the links between video game addiction and Game Transfer Phenomena. More research will allow for a better understanding of the phenomena and offer opportunity for treatments when necessary.

Treatment for Game Transfer Phenomena

Treatment for Game Transfer Phenomena is speculative, as it is not considered a mental health illness. Many gamers who have experienced Game transfer Phenomena have reported it lasting anywhere from a few moments to several hours after game play. Individuals who suffer from video game addiction may be more likely to experience this and should seek treatment from a certified professional for their video game addiction. It will be imperative to make your clinician aware of the auditory and sensory changes you experience due to GTP so that they can search for an underlying cause in addition to excessive video game playing.  12 step programs for Video Game Addiction are available and could help.


In addition to seeking treatment for video game addiction, there are several things you can do to manage your symptoms of Game Transfer Phenomena:


  • Limit game and screen time – while the amount of screen time and game time has not been directly linked to Game Transfer Phenomena, too much screen time can be harmful to your physical and emotional health.
  • Take frequent breaks – If you are playing video games for hours at a time, take breaks. Stand up, stretch, go for a walk, do something that engages a different part of your brain for a few minutes.
  • Engage in other activities, unrelated to gaming – Exercise, read a book, spend quality time with loved ones.
  • Seek treatment – if you are experiencing excessive effects from Game Transfer Phenomena or video game addiction, reach out to a certified professional for a diagnosis and treatment.


Game Transfer Phenomena is relatively recent in the age of technology. As we become more reliant on technology for communication, work, and entertainment, it becomes increasingly easier to have sensory or hallucinatory effects due to excessive video game play. Although there is no definitive cause for GTP, more research is becoming available and with the help of anecdotal evidence will allow for other treatments to become available.  Digital Detox could help in some cases.


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  • 1
    Ortiz de Gortari, Angelica B. “ACM Digital Library.” ACM Digital Library, Accessed 11 Oct. 2022.
  • 2
    Ortiz de Gortari, Angelica B. “Game Transfer Phenomena: Origin, Development, and Contributions to the Video Game Research Field.” Game Transfer Phenomena: Origin, Development, and Contributions to the Video Game Research Field, Accessed 11 Oct. 2022.
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