Examining the cognitive and physical components associated with game transfer phenomena in virtual reality

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Abstract

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) games have become popular recreational activities in recent years. With the advent of smartphone-based AR and VR games, attempts are being made to gamify our daily lives. Modern video games, especially AR and VR games, can provide immersive experiences for players. However, it can also cause a variety of medical and psychological issues especially if these games are played frequently. Thus, in this paper, I aim to examine the relationship between Game Transfer Phenomenon and Virtual reality games, investigate the factors that can cause Game Transfer Phenomenon and understand the specific types of issues that people experiencing Game Transfer Phenomena can face. Game Transfer Phenomena has been an active research topic because it is directly associated with health. To accomplish my aims I created a survey consisting of 15 questions and distributed it to the gaming community via Meta, Slack and Discord. After collecting all the data I used SPSS software to analyse the data. I found that Virtual reality games are more immersive as compared to non virtual reality games and can hence lead to a greater intensity of Game Transfer Phenomena. People who play virtual reality games most frequently experience automatic mental processes. When it comes to the frequency of gaming, the research data showed that playing games 2-4 times a week generated the highest GTP.

Research Questions

  • What types of GTP do people usually have?
  • Do different levels of immersion affect GTP?
  • Is VR game usage correlated to GTP level?
  • What Kinds of VR games cause GTP?

Literature Review

Introduction of Game Transfer Phenomena

Playing video games, especially location-based augmented reality (AR) games and Virtual reality (VR) games, has become a popular leisure activity in recent years. Due to the increased use of AR and VR games, the after-effects of playing these games have been depicted in various studies and have even been famously coined the Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP) by Dr Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari1. Game Transfer Phenomena tries to explain how virtual experiences are translated to the real world. The operational definition of Game Transfer Phenomena is “Game Transfer Phenomena involves the transfer of video game experiences into the real world. These experiences can be triggered by the association between real-life stimuli and video game elements, resulting in the subsequent alteration of mental process, sensory perception, impulses or reflexes, automatic behaviours, and/or players’ actions based on the content of video games”2.  Due to the exponential rise in the use of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality games and its associated effects I believe that it is imperative to gain a deeper understanding into the effects of Game Transfer Phenomena, the types of Game Transfer Phenomena, the factors associated with increased intensity of Game Transfer Phenomena and its correlation to highly immersive technologies such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Gaining a deeper understanding into Game Transfer Phenomena is critical to minimising its negative effects and creating a positive impact on society.

Types of Game Transfer Phenomena

According to a survey of 2362 hardcore gamers conducted by Angelica B Ortiz and Mark D. Griffiths in 2016, the effects of Game Transfer Phenomena can be categorised into 5 categories or types of GTP3 . The 5 types of Game Transfer Phenomena are Altered Visual Perceptions, Altered Auditory Perceptions, Automatic thoughts, Altered Body Perceptions and Behaviours and Actions. Altered Visual Perceptions can include effects such as seeing images related to the game with closed eyes or seeing distorted environments and/or objects. Altered Auditory Perceptions can include effects such as hearing a sound from a video game when not playing it or misinterpreting a sound in real life as something from a video game. Automatic Thoughts can include effects such as wanting or feeling the urge to do something in real life after seeing something that provided reminders of the video game, momentarily mixing up video game events with actual real-life events. Altered Body Perceptions include effects such as experiencing bodily sensations of movement  as if in a video game or experiencing tactile sensations associated with a videogame. Behaviours and actions can include effects such as singing, shouting or saying something from a video game in real life unintentionally4.

VR Correlates with Game Transfer Phenomena

Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment; this means that users can interact with 3D objects rather than viewing them on a screen. Location-based augmented reality(AR) games are games that use GPS technology to integrate the contents of the game with the user’s real-world environment. Usually, these games involve a high level of immersion as compared to traditional computer games by stimulating more senses than what traditional computer-based video games do as suggested by Dr Angelica B Ortiz and Mark Griffiths’s research2 as well as Blascovich and Bailenson’s research published in 20115. Furthermore, as the level of immersion increases our brains might be unable to differentiate between the physical and virtual worlds5,6,7 resulting in greater levels of Game Transfer Phenomena. Another reason why Augmented Reality has higher immersion and game transfer phenomena levels is that digital images are overlaid on physical world environments8. Finally, as Dr Angelica B Ortiz De Gortari stated in a previous research paper in 2007 many VR experiences create lasting emotional imprints on a  player (for example clearing a level in a game) which for some players are as memorable as real-life events9.

Materials and Methods

Procedure

My research procedure is divided into four parts. First, I conducted a pilot interview with VR players in which I interviewed 3 to 4 people to understand how they are affected by GTP and to determine our target audience. After the interviews, I started to create questionnaires based on peer-reviewed inventory. The survey was then distributed to the gaming community via Meta, Slack and Discord. Finally, after data collection, I used SPSS to analyze the data. The following figure shows the research procedure as a whole.

Figure 2 | Research procedure

Participants

The survey was distributed through various social media platforms and online forums. 26 participants originally filled up the survey as shown in Table 1; however, after data cleaning the number was adjusted to 24 participants: VR for 13 and non-VR for 11. Out of the 24 participants, 18 out of 24 are male, 5 out of 24 are female and one did not respond to the question. Most of the participants were Asians. The average age of participants in both conditions was the early 20s.

Table 1 | Participants demographics

Survey

The survey consisted of 15 questions aimed at extracting detailed quantitative and qualitative data from participants. First of all, I measured the level of immersiveness with a range of 1-10, “How immersed do you feel while playing games?” Most importantly, I measured the Game Transfer Phenomenon based on Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari’s inventory10. The GTP scales consisted of 10 items and 5 Likert scales. There are three parts of the GTP questions: Altered perceptions (e.g., seeing, auditory, body perceptions), Automatic mental processes (e.g., connecting mentality to real life), Behaviours and actions (e.g., conducting actions or receiving signs unintentionally). As GTP is the main topic for this study, I spent more time using the peer-reviewed inventory. For the following survey, I also measured motivation to examine why people play virtual reality games. There were 10 items such as advancement, mechanics, competition, socialising, relationship, teamwork, discovery, role-playing, customization and escapism11. Lastly, I measured the frequency of playing VR games and the various genres the participants play.

Table 2 | Game Transfer Phenomena for all participants

Results

Types of GTP experienced by individuals

Table 2 shows how frequent participants on average experience different types of Game Transfer Phenomena from a range of 1-5. This table includes responses from all participants. The most frequent type of Game Transfer Phenomena experienced by participants was ‘wanting or feeling the urge to do something in real-life after seeing something that provided reminders of the video game’ and the second most common type of GTP experienced was ‘seeing videogame images with eyes open. The least frequent type of GTP experienced was ‘experiencing bodily sensations of movement as if in a video game’.

Figure 2  shows the GTP between two conditions (VR vs. non-VR). A total of GTP showed the differences between VR (M=2.01) and non-VR players (M=1.52). The category of wanting or feeling the urge to do something in real life after seeing something that provided reminders of the video game was the highest (M=2.77) among the participants who played VR whereas the lowest score was experiencing bodily sensations of movement as if in a video game (M=1.38). However, non-VR conditions showed differently. The highest score for the non-VR condition was seeing video game images with eyes open (M=2.09) whereas the lowest score was Acting differently in real-life situations because of something unintentionally experienced in a video game (M=1.09).

Figure 2 |Comparison of VR and non-VR on GTP

The impact of immersion levels on GTP

Figure 3 shows the relation between immersion level and GTP. The range of immersion levels was measured from 1-10 and the GTP intensity level was measured from 0-5.  It showed that the participants who played VR (M = 6.84) were more immersive than the participants who played non-VR games (M=4.75). The GTP level was also higher in the VR condition (M= 2.0) compared to the non-VR condition (M = 1.52) out of 5. Both conditions were still below 2.5, which means that they did not show the significant effects of GTP.

Figure 3 | Comparison of immersion level and GTP in VR and non-VR conditions

Relationship between VR game usage and GTP levels

Figure 4 shows the relationship between the frequency of those who play VR games and the average GTP level among only VR players. The results showed that most of the participants played VR once a week (n=9). Also, it did not show the linear correlation between frequent playing time and GTP in VR (see figure 3). However, it presented reasonable data. The participants who play VR once a week showed the lowest GTP (M=1.97) whereas the participants who play VR 2 to 4 times a week have the highest GTP (M=2.15). It is partially supported by the assumption that the fewer people play VR games, the lower GTP they will feel.

Figure 4 | Comparison of average GTP levels based on the frequency of gameplay in VR condition

The effect of different kinds of VR games on GTP levels

Table 3 depicts the average GTP level (ranging from 1-5) for each of the different types of VR games only counting VR participants.  As indicated by the table, puzzlers and part games have the highest average GTP level (2.5 out of 5). Shooting games came second with an average GTP level of 2.4. The game that resulted in the lowest average GTP level was sports with an average GTP level of 1.7.

Table 3 | Game type and GTP among VR players

Motivation for playing VR and non-VR games

I measured the motivation why the participants play either VR or non-VR games. The participants could select multiple answers for this question. Mechanics which means having an interest in analyzing the underlying rules and systems to optimise character performance was shown as the highest motivation among VR players whereas discovery which means finding and knowing things that most other players don’t know about was presented as the highest motivation in non-VR players. Interestingly, no one mentioned relationships as a motivation among VR participants and role-playing and Customization in non-VR players. Overall, the responses from VR participants were evenly distributed.

Figure 5 | Motivation of the participants to play VR or non-VR

Discussion

VR_GTP and Automatic Mental Processes

Through the research, I investigated virtual reality game transfer phenomena (VR_GTP). It seems there is a significant difference in GTP between VR and non-VR. It means that VR can generate a higher GTP level when they play VR games. In particular, VR showed automatic mental processes the most, which is wanting or feeling the urge to do something in real life after seeing something that provided reminders of the video game usually people have.

This result is aligned with the social learning theory by Albert Bandura12. Albert Bandura’s social learning theory states that people learn by observing new behaviours and then imitating them . One famous study that helps elucidate this theory is the 1961 Bobo Doll experiment. In this experiment children were divided into a control group and an experimental group. The experimental group was shown a video of adults aggressively hitting an inflatable doll. When both groups were allowed to play with the doll, the children in the experimental group started displaying similar aggressive behaviour as demonstrated in the video whereas the children in the control group did not display this aggressive behaviour. This shows that people learn and imitate new behaviours after observing them (after seeing someone perform an action in a video game, we might try to imitate the action in the real-world)13. The more they are exposed to the media, the more they follow the behaviour of the media they watch, especially violent or aggressive media. In a similar vein, the puzzlers and part games and shooting genres were shown to have the most GTP among VR players. my results did not support the same results as a study conducted by Angelica B Ortiz de Gortari, Ben Oldfield and Mark D Griffiths10. In their study, when playing puzzle and first-person shooter video games, people had relatively lower GTP severity levels.

VR_GTP and Immersion

My results showed both immersion and GTP were higher in the VR condition. Thus, based on the result, we can interpret that immersion level is closely related to GTP. This supported our research questions that there are correlations between VR, GTP and immersion. This research is meaningful because there is not much research regarding GTP and immersion even though there are many studies examining the immersiveness of VR1415. In Biocca and Delaney’s research paper14, they described immersion as an immersive illusion of presence, of being inside a simulated world. The immersion is implicitly related to GTP or illusion. Karen E. Dill-ShackleFold7 supported my findings that the consequences of virtual immersion go beyond virtual space and can influence how we perceive and interact with the real world. Another explanation is offered by Ortiz and Griffiths2 and Blascovich and Bailenson5. According to these studies, as the level of immersion increases our brains might be unable to differentiate between the physical and virtual realm, leading to a greater intensity of GTP.  Therefore, it is important to acknowledge that there is a high possibility to generate high immersion and GTP in VR game experiences.

VR_GTP and Frequency

Research data showed the middle amount of time (e.g., 2-4 times per week) generated the highest GTP. It can be interpreted that too much or too little playing time did not critically affect GTP. It is the opposite argument of a study conducted by Angelica B Ortiz de Gortari, Ben Oldfield and Mark D Griffiths10. They showed that the more severe GTP participants, the more frequently they played every day. The second highest among the severe GTP participants was 2-4 times a week. Even though it did not exactly match with the previous study, both our research and Ortiz and Griffiths10, explicitly agree that playing VR leads to GTP. We may reconsider the data analysis with more sample data in the future.

Limitations

While extracting conclusions from the survey data it is important to acknowledge certain limitations and shortcomings that the data might have. For example, the survey data was distributed and limited to only 26 participants. The low number of participants could affect the results of the survey and be insufficient to derive any major conclusions. However, the data from the survey was enough to identify the research potential and importance of understanding GTP and its correlation to VR games.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Game Transfer Phenomena is the transfer of video game experiences into the real world and can be triggered by an association between real-life stimuli and video game elements as supported by my research. Game Transfer Phenomena can have a cognitive and physical impact on VR players. With the increasing trend to play Virtual Reality, this paper takes an important role in examining the cognitive and physical components of Game Transfer Phenomenon and Virtual reality. To investigate the extent of the impact GTP has, I decided to create a questionnaire based on a peer-reviewed inventory. Even though only 24 people responded to my survey, it was enough to identify the research potential of VR and its correlation to GTP. This research revealed that VR_GTP is related to high immersion level, puzzler and part and shooting games, frequency (e.g.,2-4 times per week), wanting or feeling the urge to do something in real life, and mechanics as motivation. The research of each subject needs to be scrutinized further with a higher volume of participants. Lastly, to make a positive impact on society regarding playing VR games, it is time to think about how to manage VR_GTP and make guidelines for VR players, especially young generations.

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