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Are videogames making you hear things?

2 min read


It seems that people who play games for extended hours are starting to suffer from auditory hallucinations after the fact. Yes, gamers are prone to hearing things – and there’s been a whole study about the phenomena.

According to new research from Nottingham Trent University’s International Gaming Research Unit, players will often hear sounds – like explosions, gunfire, screams and Mario going “Yahooo!” – from games long after they’ve stopped playing them.

The whole thing’s called “game transfer phenomena,” and its the same psychological effect that causes players to see bits of games when they close their eyes. Games like Tetris are notorious for this, and I have memories of a NES game called Flipull causing me to see things in the back of my eyelids. This is the first the the effect has been analysed when it comes to auditory hallucinations.

The whole study, however, was built around anecdotal evidence, making it very nearly useless. For the study, the Nottingham Trent team visited games forums ands sites and polled 1244  gamers about their experiences with game transfer phenomena. 12 per cent of respondents claim to have heard video game sounds outside of a video game environment.

“There were lots of examples of players hearing the game music, in the same way as you continue to hear music in your head when you’ve stopped listening,” said psychology researcher and study lead Angelica Ortiz De Gortari “Some players heard voices, some heard game sounds. Often it happens when you’re trying to fall asleep – players would look for their computer or console because they thought they’d left the game on

De Gortari theorises that it’s all bout how the brain assigns sensory inputs.

These sounds have a meaning, a purpose in the video games – and their meaning affects how players can respond in real life,” she said. “Players hear the sound in their head or ears, or they externalise it. The research tells us about how the brain forms associations, and how easily they can be confused. It shows a lack of control over auditory experiences – they can be disturbing, annoying or even funny.”

It’s poor research on the whole, but it does bring up an interesting point of conversation. Have you heard video game sounds outside of the world of videogames? Do you hear Mario’s coins, or Clickers ticking when you’re having your morning coffee?

[Thanks to Soulless_Ginger for the tip]

Last Updated: July 31, 2014

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