Wednesday 3 June 2015

Nod to NTU videogame research in CSI: Cyber episode

There have been several studies into Game Transfer Phenomena (generic image)
There have been several studies into Game Transfer Phenomena (generic image)

It's not every day your research is mentioned in a major TV drama – but that's what happened to NTU academics Dr Angelica Ortiz De Gortari and Professor Mark Griffiths, whose work formed the basis of an episode of American crime show CSI: Cyber.

The pair, based in the School of Social Sciences, have carried out a series of studies investigating ‘game transfer phenomena' (GTP) whereby videogamers' virtual experiences are seemingly transferred into the real world.

Examples include gamers reaching for a search button when looking for someone in a crowd, seeing energy boxes appear above people's heads, and sounds from videogames – such as explosions, screams and music – being heard long after gamers have finished playing.

The CSI: Cyber episode – which features Patricia Arquette and James Van Der Beek – aired in the US on May 13 and shows video gamers performing activities from a game in real-life contexts. The characters mentioned GTP, a term which Angelica coined herself, to explain the behaviour of a gamer who thought he could jump from one roof to another.

As one FBI agent said: "We just witnessed a prime example of Game Transfer Phenomena, or what we call "GTP under the influence". There's a documented history of videogamers experiencing involuntary impulses to perform gaming actions in the real world. The more they play the game, the more they are in the game, in real life. Corey thought that he could jump to that other balcony to escape because he'd done it so many times in the game."

Angelica became aware of the episode when she noticed an increase in visitors to her GTP blog. Mark also saw a spike in visitors to GTP-related articles in his personal blog.

Angelica said: "I couldn't believe it. I was already excited when I saw the text on the screen saying "Game Transfer Phenomena" but close to the end of the episode when the FBI agents were talking about it, I almost fell from my chair. It made me reflect about the implications of how research findings can be used for different purposes and agenda – and the responsibility we have as researchers about reporting our findings and in the way we report them.

"Beside the controversy that it can generate portraying gamers potentially harming themselves, the storyline does resemble gamers' reports to a certain degree. Although gamers typically only experience thoughts and urges to do something, including climbing and jumping from buildings, and rarely perform the action.

"The duality between reality and fantasy has always been popular and controversial, which is probably why GTP appealed to the drama so much. According to the stats in my blog, some people who viewed the episode have been checking if the concept of GTP is real or fabricated."

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