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)