Media reports Gamer Hallucinations

There is a new paper in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction discussing video games and how some gamers report seeing elements of games in the real world. It was written by Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari and Mark D. Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University in the UK. And covers topics ranging from the Guitar Hero effect to seeing UI, and menus.


The two took to internet gaming forums and collected 656 experiences from 483 gamers. All of them describing seeing things from games while in the “real world.” The types of experiences varied though and were broken up into several categories.

  • Mind Visualizations. These would include daydreaming, flashbacks, picturing video game elements in real life situations, or imagining themselves doing things as they would in video games.
  • Retinal Sensations. These are described as game elements that are seen in the back of ones eyelids.
  • Seeing Video Game Elements Projected. Seeing video game elements with open eyes or projected. This includes seeing things out of the corner of the eye, hallucinations, and more. They would be game elements floating or seeing game elements superimposed on real life objects and environments.
  • Multisensorial Experiences. These are described as visualizations that were accompanied other sensory input. Seeing things while hearing certain game music or while moving.
  • Across Sensorial Experiences. These experiences are different as the are triggered by other sensory experiences and were considered induced synesthesia.
  • Perception Distortions. In these experiences perception of real life objects were directly associated with video game content. This includes altered perception of time.
  • Visual Misperceptions. This is defined as perceiving real life objects as something from a video game. It includes times when gamers confused real life stimuli for something in a game. And even gamers who saw everything in terms of blocks. Or those who made analogies between real life and video game elements.


These hallucinatory events most often took place after extended periods of gaming. Defined in this paper as more than 3 hours. After playing Guitar Hero for extended periods of time gamers report dizziness and wavy vision. This is known as the Guitar Hero Effect. Another example of hallucinations given is a World of Warcraft player who saw health bars above the heads of fellow football players during a game.

Tetris also guilty of causing experiences. Players will think about different ways that shapes and objects fit together, this is known as the Tetris Effect. The article also mentions Minecraft Sickness, and perhaps most famous of them all the Call of Duty Effect.

The study was conducted to get a better understanding of how video games alter the mind. And lead to a better understanding of what a safe level of gaming is. Unfortunately the media has already grabbed onto this story and turned it into something negative and completely insane. The study itself states that gamers often don’t find these to be negative experiences and some even try to replicate them after they happen the first time. But non-gaming related media are latching onto it and using it as another example of why gamers and gaming is a societal issue. Below is an article featured on the front page of the Metro Herald with big bold text at the top saying “Gamers hallucinate and get flashbacks

Gamers Hallucinate

Have you ever experienced anything like this? Think they’re just full of it? Let us know in the comments below.

About Shannon Doyle

Shannon first discovered MMOs in 1999 when she picked up the newly launched Everquest. This started a lifelong love affair with online gaming that has taken her around the world and brought her to While she still pines for the streets of Paragon, the City of Heroes, today she spends most of her gaming time walking across Tyria in Guild Wars 2, roleplaying with anyone who says hello.