Gaming study coverage shows media struggles with reality

It’s hardly a surprise to learn that a survey about video games has been grossly misrepresented by mainstream media sources. But it’s still sad.

Three researchers from Nottingham Trent University in the UK and Stockholm University in Sweden recently published a study based on interviews with 42 Swedish gamers aged between 15 and 21. It noted that many of the players experienced what the researchers dubbed “Game Transfer Phenomena”: a wide-ranging condition where “video game element are associated with real life elements triggering subsequent thoughts, sensations and/or player actions.”

Among some of the findings:

  • around half the participants have thought about game mechanics in a real life situation, such as using a gravity gun to recover an object out of reach;
  • some players were reminded of game images in real life;
  • one player reported visualizing health bars above his teammates head while playing a football game;
  • some players intentionally referred to games in real life, such as referring to leveling up.

The most notable part of the research was that the vast majority of quoted responses come from people well aware of the difference between gaming and reality, and many of the mental associations between the two were serious. There were just two cited examples of “Game Transfer Phenomena” affecting behavior rather than thoughts: one player failed in an attempt to move in “bullet time”, while another reported that a friend had accelerated “quite a lot” while driving after a Burnout 3 session.

All in all then, about the strongest conclusions you can make from the research is that video games are mentally and emotionally engaging, and that people with serious mental health issues and a total lack of grip on reality probably shouldn’t be playing games extensively and then let out in the world unsupervised. The paper clearly explains that “Game Transfer Phenomena” is an interesting psychological effect worthy of deeper investigation, rather than a serious threat to safety.

Well, unless that is you are a national newspaper such as the Daily Mail, which opened its account by reporting:

Some video game players are transferring their screen experiences into the real world – prompting thoughts of ‘violent solutions’ to their problems, say researchers. Fans of computers can become so immersed in their virtual environment they do things in the real world as if they were still playing.

The piece then continues by immediately referring to a sailor who shot dead an officer “to copy the violent video game Grand Theft Auto.”

Meanwhile the Mail’s sister paper headlined its account “Gamers can’t tell real world from fantasy, say researchers.”

Not only does study author Mark Griffiths point out he said nothing of the sort, but he believes the journalists intentionally misrepresented the research. He told gaming site SPOnG that he told the reporter from the Metro that the findings were largely positive, but the reporter said ” I don’t want to know about that, I want to know the negative stuff.”

At this point, it’s only fair that I confess that I too have suffered from such a condition, specifically Pagemaker Transfer Phenomena. Yes, after lengthy sessions working on the desktop publishing program for a newspaper, I have found myself noticing a slightly off-center poster on a bedroom wall and, in my imagination at least, instinctively using the select, horizontal line, snap-to-line and rotate tools to correct this error.

(Image credit: Stanislav Stankovic)





16 Responses to Gaming study coverage shows media struggles with reality

  1. why would anyone choose to live in this boring as fuck world to begin with. im not saying gamers are all shut-in type people i play league of legends, D&D (table top) , final fantasy , and many other games ; in fact these games inspired me to go on an "adventure" when my parents were too busy arguing to take notice that our family was falling apart. so let me see live in a world where a 5 year old is more mature than his parents or in a world where he can actually do something in that world to help make it better. i will admit there are some people who take things too far but look in any culture or ethnicity or group ; there are always extremists. take the Taliban for instance, they are extremists, that does not mean that all Muslims are terrorists. if anything gamers are more open to other races and ideologies than any other group of people in the world but you'll never hear about it because anytime gamers are mentioned in the media it is always some kid whose grown up in a shitty home who happened to play video games as a way to deal with the pain and one day the kid cant take it anymore and does something about it and the blame never falls on the parents, who were never there for the kid nor does it fall on the kids at school who isolate and pick on the kid it is automatically blamed on the video games, why?. playing video games is a way to do things you cant in the real world. it is a vice .. like women with there shopping habits . it makes them feel good but does anyone say anything about that ? hardly . Or a redneck asshole who likes to go hunting ?. i would trust a gamer with a gun over a drunken self righteous hick any day. no to mention gamers are some of the most loyal people you could ever meet ; we are a community and if we could we would change the world into a far better place than this shitty hole we call earth.
    For the past 60 years fantasy has paved the way for everything we have: cell phones , computers , tablets ,all the things we take for granted was first thought of in fantasy by people who dared to dream. so why not dream ? live in a fantasy world and dream of things that can make our world a better place and some day just as cell phones were once a dream maybe just maybe we can turn our dreams of a better world into reality.

  2. Because I'm sure that no mathematician has ever considered the perfect way to parallel park.. no football player has thought of a way to punt the yippy dog next door.. Need I go on? We all apply aspects of our personal / professional lives to the other. Often, just staying as images in our heads – it's how we see the world.

      • Yeah, like the shadows of a tree compared to those of a building, or the shortest route to take while walking in the park, by cutting corners and making right triangles…

  3. "People with a total lack of grip on reality"… like the Daily Mail editors? Much like everything that paper prints, this is not news. Everyone knows the tabloids never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

  4. so this must mean when people who watch certain tv programmes quote lines that they aren’t living in the real world… bollocks, to me its just expressing myself using a part of society that not everyone uses. my cultural identity. if they dont like it they can frak themselves lol. i know many people who say things they heard in eastenders or the only way is essex and its just accepted. i dont care if people think im weird if i quote glados or wow, or star wars… i do think that society should accept that gaming or scifi has its own culture and then if they critise, we can do them for prejudice.

    • There's a reason people act like they do, these days. There's a reason for everything.
      And I'd bet a lot, that these reason are duo to excessive T.V watching, and playing games…But who am i to talk, i play WoW and AoC…:p

  5. Just to nail it, one more time. Videos games ARE bad. Worse in large quantities, bad in small quantities. There's a reason so many "Nerds" play games. It is far most an escape from reality, whether you subliminally are aware or not.
    However. I can see why the government would encourage to not play games. It is hard to brainwash a nation that live their lives in a virtual world….

    • Dude, we live in an age where most people (at least smart geek ass like common GAS reader) knows that nothing is just black or white. By the way, manichaeism is far more deadly than video games.

  6. @ Franck Peter

    Really man, go troll else where. You've replied to many posts now, which are all in they're own right, clever, insightful and truthful, and you retort with what?

    Everyone else was thinking it, I just said it.

  7. Did ANY news agency (other than gamer news agency) accurately pass along the findings of this report?

    I'm so sick of this kind of misreporting. I see it all the time, on TV and in major news outlets. They're basically abusing the trust their readership puts in them. Ugh.