Gamers at risk of gaming disorder and hallucinations, research shows

Teens who play video games for hours on end are being warned about a condition where gamers see or hear things from the games in real life that aren’t really there

Research shows prolonged gaming can lead to health problems.
Research shows prolonged gaming can lead to health problems.


Diehard gamers are at risk of a disorder that causes them to hallucinate images or sounds from the games they play in real life, research shows.

Teenagers that play video games for hours on end have reported seeing “health bars” above people’s heads and hearing narration when they go about their daily lives.

A recent meeting of Australian and New Zealand psychiatrists discussed the condition, known as Gaming transfer phenomenon, or GTP, which can cause gamers to see things that aren’t really there.

The condition is thought to be related to video game addiction or gaming disorder (GD) where gamers can’t stop playing video games and will even skip meals so they can keep playing.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) said they believed about 10 per cent of young people had GD and that cases had exploded since the pandemic.

Perth’s Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) opened a clinic dealing with cases of GD in 2021.

People with GTP said they saw images from the games they played in real life.
People with GTP said they saw images from the games they played in real life.

Psychiatrist Kavita Seth said the problems begin when gamers are playing to the point where they are unable to stop themselves and become angry if someone else tries to stop them.

“They prioritise it over sleep, over having meals, going to school, completing school homework, completing social activities,” Dr Seth said.

Some GD patients can develop GTP when gamers start seeing elements of the game, or hearing audio, long after they put down the controller.

Psychologist Dr Angelica Ortiz de Gortari claims to have come up with the name “GTP” during a study in 2010.

She said a 17-year-old gamer that featured in the study started seeing “health bars” in real life.

“When I really was a hardcore player in WoW (World of Warcraft), when I got my adrenaline pumping, I started seeing health bars above people’s heads,” the gamer said.

Experts say gaming should be done in healthy doses.
Experts say gaming should be done in healthy doses.

Another gamer, Daniel Owens, described his experience with insomnia when playing Portal 2.

“It was to the point that it interrupted my sleeping patterns,” he said. “It felt as if my body went to sleep but my mind was still working. It seems to happen in games with frequent sidekick interaction or a narrator.

“I remember specifically on another occasion, after Super Mario Sunshine came out, that I could not sleep for a full night for nearly a week after playing it. That was the worst.

“I’ve never had anything bleed into my waking life, though, but could see that possibly happening to a person that plays video games more frequently.”

Gaming often feels like you are entering another world.
Gaming often feels like you are entering another world.

Dr de Gortari said some of the key factors in prolonged game-play such as sensory overload and entering a trance state played a part in the condition.

She said GTP is a good reason to reflect on how well the human mind will cope as technology continues to advance.



  • hallucinate: when the brain creates images or sounds that aren’t real and can’t be seen by others
  • psychiatrists: doctors that treat mental illnesses and disorders
  • phenomenon: an event that can be seen
  • addiction: a very strong urge to do something that is hard to control or stop
  • adrenaline: a hormone released in the body when feeling a strong emotion like anger or fear that give a person a jolt of energy
  • insomnia: a condition where a person can’t sleep or has trouble sleeping enough
  • sidekick: a character that helps the main character
  • prolonged: a long period of time
  • sensory overload: when something around us overstimulates us and our brains struggle to process all the information given by our five senses

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1. What does GTP stand for?
2. What are two symptoms of GTP?
3. What is gaming disorder?
4. What did the 17-year-old gamer in Dr de Gortari’s study ‘see’ above people’s heads?
5. What symptom did Daniel Owens experience?


1. Virtual reality classroom
If you and your classmates got to decorate a classroom in your school as a gaming world, how would you decorate it? Think about all the elements you could reproduce in an appropriate manner for other kids in the school to experience.

Write down your ideas below and what resources you need to make it happen;

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Digital Technologies, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
What do you think some of the early signs of gaming disorder might be, list them below;

If a friend was displaying some of these signs, what could you do to help them?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking

Exploring Gaming transfer phenomenon (GTP)
1. Read the article about Gaming transfer phenomenon (GTP) and its effects on diehard gamers.

2. Take a moment to think about your own experiences with video games. Have you ever played video games for a long time, like hours on end?

3. Now, imagine you are a psychologist studying the effects of video games on young people. Write a short journal entry or a discussion response to the following questions:
a. Have you ever experienced GTP or know someone who has? If yes, what did you or they see or hear in real life that was related to the games you played?
b. How do you think playing video games for long periods can affect your daily life and activities like sleeping, eating, and studying?
c. Do you think it’s important to find a balance between playing video games and other activities? Why or why not?
d. If you were to give advice to someone who loves playing video games, what would you tell them about managing their gaming time?
e. How do you feel about the idea of technology advancing and its potential effects on our minds and behaviour? Do you think we should be mindful of how much time we spend with technology?

4. (Optional) If you have a friend or family member who also enjoys playing video games, share your journal entry or discussion response with them. Ask them about their experiences and thoughts on the topic.

5. Remember to be honest in your response and share your own opinions. There are no right or wrong answers, and this is a chance for you to express your thoughts about video games and their impact on daily life.

Have fun exploring the world of video games and discussing their effects!