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A connection between "game transfer phenomena" and PTSD?

Posted by Jesse Singal  May 16, 2011 09:30 AM

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In Saturda'ys Globe I had a column on "game transfer phenomena," a term coined by a team of researchers in an upcoming paper that refers to the weird effects some people (like me, for instance) experience after playing video games — things like sensations of motion or persistent visual images from the game.

The gaming blog Kotaku linked to the column, and many commenters there shared their own experiences with GTP. Many of them are interesting, but the one that caught my eye the most came from Xzyx987X:

I've experienced something similar to this phenomenon myself. Especially after playing a game I was really into with a high level of intensity. I wonder if people who are more susceptible to this phenomenon might also be more susceptible to post traumatic stress disorder.

It's a really good question, because it makes intuitive sense. Admittedly this is a bit pop-neurological, but we do know that different people living through the same traumatic event come away with differing levels of PTSD. So maybe there's some obsessional tendency in the brain to endlessly replay recent, important-seeming events (when you've been playing an intense video games for six hours, your brain can be forgiven for thinking what's on the screen is important) — a tendency some people have more than others. The more you have it, the more susceptible you are to GTP or PTSD.

The authors of the GTP paper make it clear just how early they are in their analysis of this phenomena, and encourage other researchers to pick up on it. It will be very interesting to see where this all leads, especially as gaming continues to explode in popularity.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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