Unwanted visual intrusions are characteristic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). One innovative intervention for inhibiting unwanted intrusions is playing the Tetris videogame, described as a “cognitive vaccine” in preventing intrusions after traumatic events (Holmes et al., 2009). Playing Tetris consumes heavy visuospatial working memory resources that potentially compete with cognitive resources required for elaboration of visual imagery. Since Holmes et al.'s (2009) study, other studies have used Tetris to inhibit intrusive imagery (Holmes et al., 2010; Skorka-Brown et al., 2014, 2015; James et al., 2015a,b). However, these have not assessed the role of videogame content after playing in relation to Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP) (Ortiz de Gortari and Griffiths, 2014a,b,c, 2015a,b).
GTP research has investigated non-volitional experiences (e.g., altered sensorial perceptions and automatic mental processes/behaviors) mostly experienced after gaming. Gamers often report sensorial (visual/auditory) intrusions after playing (e.g., visual and auditory imagery, hallucinations) (Ortiz de Gortari et al., 2011; Ortiz de Gortari and Griffiths, 2014a,b). In a survey of 2362 gamers, most (77%) had visualized images from a variety of videogames (including tile-puzzle games) with closed-eyes, and one-third (31%) had visualized images with open-eyes (Ortiz de Gortari and Griffiths, 2015b). Other studies have experimentally induced videogame-related visualizations at sleep onset (Stickgold et al., 2000; Wamsley et al., 2010; Kusse et al., 2012).
James et al. (2015a,b) study was the first to make explicit reference to GTP (referred to as the “Tetris effect” [TE]). Ortiz de Gortari and Griffiths (2012) argued the TE term is misleading as it suggests repetition is the core of transfer effects. However, other factors are involved. Research concerning GTP makes the distinction between sensorial modalities facilitating the assessment of non-volitional phenomena with videogame content that occur along the continuum from mild to severe (Ortiz de Gortari and Griffiths, under review). Moreover, the descriptive constructs of GTP are empirically based on analysis of 3500 + gamers and have been examined via confirmatory factor analysis demonstrating good reliability and validity (Ortiz de Gortari et al., 2015).
James et al. (2015a,b) tested if playing Tetris offered a protective mechanism against re-experiencing traumatic events. Healthy participants (n = 56) were randomly assigned to either playing Tetris for 11 min, or doing nothing before exposure to a 12-min traumatic film. Image-base memories about the film were then registered in a 1-week dairy. However, playing Tetris as a proactive interference task before watching the film did not show significant results. James and colleagues offered different explanations including: (i) duration of the task in relation to film length, (ii) temporal contingencies between the tasks, (iii) differences between the task types, (iv) videogame types used, and (v) reactivation of gameplay during the film for aided interference. These explanations are discussed in relation to GTP literature.