Study of 'Game Transfer Phenomena' Examines Why Some Get Tetris-on-the-Brain

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If you've ever closed your eyes and seen tetrominoes falling into place, or Angry Birds slamming into stone walls, you're experiencing "game transfer phenomena," and it involves more than mentally playing a game long after it's finished.


The first ever academic paper on this condition is due to be published in the International Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning, say the authors behind the study, Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari of Nottingham Trent University and Karin Aronsson of Stockholm University. Game transfer phenomena happen "when video game elements are associated with real life elements, triggering subsequent thoughts, sensations and/or player actions.''

Jesse Singal, writing for The Boston Globe's op-ed page, notes the paper's findings and his own experience with game transfer phenomena, most recently in Portal 2. "When I stopped playing - especially at night - the symptoms kicked in. Sleep was almost impossible. I could still feel and see myself moving around the game's corridors and rooms, especially when I closed my eyes." Singal said he felt as if his brain was still trying to solve the game's puzzles.

The paper is based on gamers' interpretations of their own experiences, and its authors say the issue needs a more rigorous examination. Some may be more susceptible to game transfer phenomena than others. "None of this is a reason to stop playing video games or yank your kids away from them," Singal writes.

"But it is yet another reminder that our immersion in technology is far outpacing our ability to find out what it might be doing to us," he concludes.

Illustration for article titled Study of 'Game Transfer Phenomena' Examines Why Some Get Tetris-on-the-Brain

Gamer Brain [The Boston Globe]



It reminds me of my time as a chess player taking part in numerous tournaments. Chess affects how you order thoughts in your mind and prioritize information, and those effects often help people to think more logically and take into account the long-term impact of their actions. Done casually, it simply shows up as short bursts of problem solving with a chess mindset, but after a while, it really does affect your everyday focus.

I also used to attempt score records on the original Gameboy version of Tetris, and that certainly impacts both how you think and see things. Though, to me, it was best for bringing order to chaos. In that way, it helped level my emotions and encourage working things out. Life can be so full of chaos, and as some military studies have shown, a game like Tetris can help relieve some of the confusion and trauma that comes with certain situations in life. I appreciate its therapeutic uses, and whether or not we realize it, a game like that does affect how we piece together information.

Some of the best training comes when you aren't even aware you are being trained. Games impact us in various ways which deserve further study, and despite the intrigue of short-term phenomena like this, I am most interested in the fascinating long-term impact of games on our lives. :)