Empirical study on Game Transfer Phenomena
in a location-based augmented reality game
Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari a, b
a University of Liège, Psychology and Neuroscience of Cognition Research Unit, Quartier Agora,
place des Orateurs 1 (B33), 4000 Liège, Belgium
b University of Bergen, Centre for the Science of Learning and Technology, Christies gate 13,
Vektergården, Bergen, Norway
Research on Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP) has demonstrated that playing video games can
lead to re-experiencing images, sounds, tactile sensations, spontaneous thoughts and actions,
sometimes triggered by physical objects/events associated with the game. Location-based
augmented reality games posit interesting questions regarding GTP, particularly because they
use physical locations, they overlay digital images in physical contexts and the gameplay shifts
between the virtual and the physical world. This study aims to investigate the prevalence of
GTP and the role of immersion, augmented reality and sound in a sample of English- (EnS)
and Spanish- (SpS) speaking gamers of the game Pokémon Go (PoGo). A total of 1,313 gamers
(Mage = 31.47) were recruited online. GTP was less common than in previous studies; however,
82.4% had experienced GTP at least once. The SpS showed higher prevalence of GTP and
played more intensively. Automatic mental processes predominated in the EnS, while
behaviours and actions were more common in the SpS. The absence or presence of video game
features seems important for the way GTP manifests. For instance, tactile hallucinations were
more prevalent, while sensations of self-motion were less reported. Playing with Augmented
Reality (AR) and sounds showed significant correlations with various GTP types, but not with
re-experiencing images from the game. More gamers who reported the sensation that Pokémon
Affiliation where the study was conducted.
were physically present or looked for Pokémons outside the screen while playing, as
connotations of immersion, had experienced GTP. Experiencing GTP while playing may be
more common in location-based augmented reality games, compared to other games.
Keywords: Game Transfer Phenomena, Pokémon Go, location-based games, augmented
reality games, immersion, auditory cues.
Ortiz de Gortari, A. B. (2017). Empirical study on Game
Transfer Phenomena in a location-based augmented reality game.
Telematics and Informatics. doi:
Empirical study on Game Transfer Phenomena in a location-based augmented reality
“I saw a pigeon standing on the street and had a momentary urge to
throw something at it [to capture it].”
“A fire truck was coming down the street, and there was a Pokémon
spawned [appeared] in the street. I thought... ‘I hope the fire truck
doesn’t hit the Meowth [Pokémon]’. And then I realized what a
strange thought that was.”
The ways of playing video games are in constant evolution; and the tendency is to make video
games more accessible, enjoyable and immersive (Deterding, Dixon, Khaled, & Nacke, 2011).
Location-based augmented reality mobile games use a real-time generated map of the actual
physical world around the player (supported by GPS technology and the camera of the device).
These games overlay digital images on physical world contexts that are captured through the
mobile device camera (Werner, 2017). The location-based augmented reality mobile game
Pokémon Go (PoGo) (Niantic, 2016) is one of the first of its kind and can be played with the
augmented reality (AR) function turned on or off. The gameplay in PoGo consists of capturing
Pokémon (small creatures), finding items at “PokeStops” (i.e., a “stop” or station related to
Pokémon) that can be used, for example, when capturing Pokémon, and holding/fighting for
“gyms” (Tabacchi, Caci, Cardaci, & Perticone, 2017).
Research into Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP) has demonstrated that playing video
games can lead to re-experiencing images, sounds, tactile sensations, spontaneous thoughts and
actions, sometimes triggered by physical objects/events associated with the game. GTP has
been reported with both new and old video games, in over 400 unique titles (Ortiz de Gortari,
2016a) and even in the PoGo predecessor, the location-based augmented reality game (Sifonis,
2016) Ingress (Niantic, 2013). Most gamers have experienced GTP at least at some point in
their life, and most have experienced GTP more than once and/or several types (Ortiz de Gortari
& Griffiths, 2016; Ortiz de Gortari, Oldfield, & Griffiths, 2016).
Location-based augmented reality mobile games posit interesting questions regarding
GTP. The most important factors are: i) overlaying of images in physical contexts, ii) location
where the game is played, iii) shifting between modes, and iv) using or not using features of
Overlaying of images in physical contexts via the augmented reality feature:
Studies about GTP have shown that gamers experience hallucinatory-like phenomena in
various sensory modalities with video game content (e.g., seeing images, hearing sounds,
tactile and proprioceptive sensations, misperceptions of real-life objects that share similarities
with elements in the game, and perceptual distortions of objects and environments) (Ortiz de
Gortari & Griffiths, 2014a). It was therefore interesting to investigate if playing PoGo, which
uses AR technology, had some effect on these particular experiences (see Fig 1).
Fig 1. Comparison of Pokémon Go with the AR function on and off (Trinnah, n.d)
Location where the game is played: Automatic associations between video game-
related elements and physical stimuli are expected when the gameplay requires exploring
public locations. GTP tend to occur in day-to-day context (Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths, 2016),
sometimes when triggered by game-related cues (i.e., physical objects or events that have been
portrayed or simulated in the game) (Ortiz de Gortari, Aronsson, & Griffiths, 2011; Ortiz de
Gortari & Griffiths, 2014b). For instance, sounds have been heard when passing by an
environment similar to one in the game, menus and maps have popped up in the corner of the
vision when in conversation, or urges to climb buildings have been reported when seeing
buildings that resemble those from the game (See Figure2).
Fig 2. Pokémon Go gameplay in an urban zone and map (Ortiz de Gortari, 2016b).
Shifting between modes: Playing location-based augmented reality games requires
constantly shifting between the virtual and the physical world while exploring physical
locations (See Figure 1). Digital images are overlaid on physical world environments when
using the AR function, although the game is anyway viewed on the mobile screen. Most video
games played on a console, computer, mobile via a screen or VR headset, may easily lead to
sensorial neural adaptations (e.g., motion after-effects) (Dyson, 2010; Ortiz de Gortari &
Griffiths, 2014a) since they do not involve shifting modes. The exposure to the video game
elements is intermittent and usually for longer periods of time compared to location-based
augmented reality mobile games (see Fig 2).
Moreover, besides the potential, the degree of embodiment in the current location-based
augmented reality games is limited in comparison to immersive computer/console games (e.g.,
feeling virtual entities as a part of the self) (Yee & Bailenson, 2007). The avatar mainly acts as
a mediator of the game experience, if there is an avatar at all. Another interesting factor to
examine closely related GTP experiences is the immersion in location-based augmented reality
games that may be characterised by cognitive mix-ups while playing, derived from the shifting
between the physical and the virtual view and the overlaying of digital images.
It would also be interesting to investigate if digital images actually are experienced as
being physically present considering the flexibility of locations and places where the images
can be overlaid (e.g., body parts) (see Figure 3).This is in addition to well-known phenomena
that denote immersion such as losing track of time and forgetting what is happening around
oneself while playing (Ermi & Mäyrä, 2005). The variables investigated in this study in this
regard were “looking outside the screen for digital elements” and “feeling that digital elements
from the game are present in the physical world”.
Fig 3. Pokémon Go image overlaying a person’s leg (Ortiz de Gortari, 2016c).
The features of the game: i) Visual and auditory cues. The use of visual and auditory
cues implemented so far in most mobile games tend not to be as rich or play as important a role
as in games on other platforms (e.g., high definition visual effects, surround sound effects)
(Craig, 2013). However, future AR games promise to implement audio cues and aural realism
(Shah, 2017). ii) Touch interface. Playing games on a smartphone requires the user to be in
direct contact with the touch surface of the screen, as well as feeling vibrating outputs and other
haptic effects that some games use. This may facilitate re-experiencing tactile
sensations/hallucinations after playing. In fact, re-experiencing vibrations from mobile phones
have been reported in various studies (Drouin, Kaiser, & Miller, 2012; Lin, Lin, Li, Huang, &
In summary, this paper provide the initial insights to answer the following questions: i)
If gamers are seeing images after playing video games (seeing images with open eyes or with
closed eyes), misperceiving real-life objects by those in the game, can playing an augmented
reality game, that actually overlays digital images on physical contexts facilitate these
experiences? ii) could there be a relation between experiencing GTP and feeling that video
game characters (in this case Pokémon) are physically present in the real world? iii) if GTP
tends to be triggered by physical object simulated in the real world and location-based
augmented reality games use the real world as a platform what is the prevalence of GTP in
comparison to playing conventional (non-location-based augmented reality) video games?
This study aims to investigate the prevalence of GTP in a sample of English- and
Spanish-speaking gamers that play the location-based augmented reality game Pokémon Go
(PoGo), to gain insights on the differences and similarities of GTP associated with different
gaming platforms. The study also aims to examine the relation between the various forms of
GTP, immersion, playing in AR mode and playing with sound.
A total of 1,313 Pokémon Go players answered an online survey either in English (n=1,085)
or Spanish (n=228), (MeanAge=31.47, Sd=10.03, range 18-87). Almost half of the participants
were female (49.4%) and the majority were employed (61.9%). There were fewer students in
the English-speaking sample (EnS) (17.2%) than in the Spanish-speaking sample (SpS)
(39.1%). In the EnS the most predominant countries of residence were USA (40.4%), Sweden
(22.6%), UK (11.7%), Canada (7.8%) and Australia (3.4%). In the SpS (17.4%) they were
Mexico (52%), Chile (16%) and Colombia (15%).
This study used a cross-sectional design where two independent data sets were collected using
a questionnaire in two languages. An online survey was completed by adult PoGo gamers
recruited via online forums and from several Facebook groups about PoGo. Most Facebook
groups had over 500 members, and they were either in English, Spanish or Swedish. The
recruitment and the data handling were conducted according to the guidelines of the ethical
board of the Norwegian Center for Research Data (NSD). Participants’ IP addresses were not
collected, and no personal information was obtained. Eligible individuals, those who confirmed
that they were 18-years-old or older, proceeded to answer the online questionnaire once they
had signed the consent form.
Demographics. These items include age, gender, occupation and country of residence.
Game Transfer Phenomena Scale (GTPS). The GTPS comprises a total of 20 items in a 5-point Likert scale of
frequency. The scale assesses five dimensions of GTP:
Altered visual perceptions: mind visualisation or seeing video game-related images with
closed eyes or open eyes, perceiving real-world objects distorted or misperceiving real-world
objects or environments as something from a video game.
Altered auditory perceptions: hearing music, sounds or voices related to video games,
perceiving real-world auditory cues distorted or misperceiving them as something from a video
Body and other altered perceptions: sensations of self-motion (e.g., fingers, movement of
the body), tactile sensations (e.g., pressing the screen, vibrations), body changes (feeling
shorter/smaller, etc.) or feeling as if the mind disconnects from the body, perceiving time
distorted (e.g., feels like time goes slower or faster after playing), which should not be confused
with losing track of time when playing.
Automatic mental processes: urges triggered by associations to perform an action from a
video game in situations beyond the game; still being in the mindset of a video game; thoughts
about using video game elements in situations beyond the game; source monitoring errors when
confusing video game events or characters with those in the real world.
Behaviours and actions: verbal outbursts, involuntary movements of fingers or arms in
response to video game-related cues, performing an activity influenced by a video game or
unintentionally acting differently due to something experienced while playing.
For this study, the items of the original GTP scale were adapted to PoGo and the
examples were modified accordingly in the English and Spanish languages. Examples
included: “saw the map, poké balls, or some character from Pokémon Go with my eyes
closed”, “saw an object or animal in the real world and thought for a moment it was a character
from Pokémon Go”, “approached landmarks/statues/fountains, etc., expecting to find
Pokéballs when not playing”, “kept looking for Pokéstops after stopping playing”, “heard the
Game Transfer Phenomena with other video games. This was a single question of
frequency, to examine if the gamers had experienced GTP with video games other than PoGo.
Gaming habits. Three items were created for measuring the participants’ gaming habits and
experience of playing video games: i) hours per week playing video games other than PoGo,
ii) level of expertise playing video games (beginner, intermediate, advanced, professional), iii)
having played Pokémon games before (fan, play at some point, never played them ).
PoGo habits. These variables included questions about: i) months playing PoGo, ii) times
playing per day, iii) hours playing per week, and iv) session length.
PoGo characteristics. Two questions measured the frequency of playing PoGo with the AR
mode and sound activated. An additional question asked what device PoGo was usually played
on (mobile phone or tablet).
Levels of immersion while playing PoGo. Four items were created to measure immersion in
PoGo using a frequency scale (i.e., never, rarely, sometimes, often, always): i) forget about the
surroundings (“When I’m playing I forget what is going on around me”), ii) lose track of time
(“I lose track of time when playing Pokémon Go”), iii) mix-ups (“While playing Pokémon Go
I make the mistake of starting to look for Pokémon outside the screen”), and iv) have the
sensation that a Pokémon was real (“I have the sensation that Pokémon are present in the real
world”). The Cronbach’s Alpha for these items was .683. The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure
verified the sampling adequacy for the analysis. KMO= .685. All the KMO values for
individual items were >.766, which is above the acceptable limit of 0.5. The Bartlett’s test of
sphericity X2(6) = 894.246 p<.001, indicates that the relation between the items was
sufficiently larger for PCA.
The first step in the data analysis was to create a new dichotomous variable to measure the
prevalence of GTP. The variable labelled “GTP” included all participants who had experienced
GTP at least once, independently of the frequency (i.e., “once”, “many times”, etc.); the label
“No_GTP” contained those that had never experienced GTP (i.e., answered “never” to all GTP
items). To determine the levels of severity of GTP in the sample, three groups (low, moderate
and severe) were created based on 80-points of the GTP scale (Ortiz de Gortari, et al., 2016).
Initially, the data was analysed in the full population and then across the two sub-samples.
Following the analysis of descriptive statistics, chi-square tests and Pearson’s correlation
coefficients were conducted to examine the prevalence of GTP in the full population and in the
sub-samples, and the association between GTP, immersion and PoGo features. Additional
analyses were conducted to obtain insight into the differences in the prevalence of GTP
between the sub-samples, and exploratory factor analysis was conducted for creating the
measure of immersion in PoGo. Not all participants answered every question, therefore the
total sample size may be different in the analysis of different variables.
Most of the participants had played Pokémon games before. Some were fans of Pokémon
(42.4%), and some had played Pokémon games before at some point (23.9%). Most of the
participants had played video games other than PoGo (88.3%). Most of the participants
considered themselves intermediate (41.8%) or advanced gamers (40.3%), followed by
beginners (12.2%) and professionals (5.7%). The average over the last 12 months for hours
playing video games in general per week was 11.9 hours (Sd= 16.275, range 0 - 130). The
average hours per week invested exclusively in playing PoGo were 15.06 (Sd=16.337, range 1
- 100). Most participants tended to play PoGo 2-3 times per day (45.9%) or more than 5 times
per day (23.7%). However, a small number also played 0-1 times per day (16.3%) or 4-5 times
per day (14.1%). The length of their sessions tended to be 31 to 60 minutes (37.3%) or less
than 30 minutes (30.4%). Another small number of participants played 61 to 90 minutes
(12.8%), 1.5 to 2 hours (10.1%) and more than 2 hours (9.4%). The majority had reached
between levels 21 and 30 in PoGo (66.5%) or 31 to 40 (26.1%). Most of the sample (99.1%)
played PoGo on a mobile phone rather than on a tablet.
Prevalence of GTP experiences with Pokémon Go
The prevalence of GTP in the full sample was 82.4%. Regarding the severity of GTP (i.e.,
frequency and the types of GTP), the majority showed low levels of GTP (96%); other levels
were moderate (3.7%) and severe (0.3%). The most prevalent GTP reported were automatic
mental processes (64.0%), and altered visual perceptions (50.0%). These were followed by
behaviours and actions (46%), altered auditory perceptions (35.7%) and altered body
perceptions (27.4%). The most prevalent items of GTP were: i) wanted or felt the urge to do
something in real life after seeing something that reminded the gamer of PoGo when he/she
was not playing (52.8%), ii) involuntarily sung, shouted, or said something with contents of
PoGo (41.3%), iii) visualised or seen images from PoGo with closed eyes (38.8%), iv) still
being in the mindset of PoGo (33.2%), v) hearing music from PoGo (24.3%), and vi) feeling
tactile sensations as when playing (21.9%) (see Table 1 for the prevalence of different GTP
types in PoGo). Those who had experienced GTP with PoGo were significantly more likely
also to have experienced GTP with other video games (39% vs 13.9%) (χ²  = 53.223, p <
PLEASE INSERT TABLE 1 HERE
Comparing the prevalence of GTP between the sub-samples
Those in the SpS were significantly less likely to not have experienced GTP (89.5%) compared
with those in the EnS (83.5%) (χ² (1) = 9.504, p < 0.01). Low levels of severity were found in
most participants in both samples (EnS 96.5%, SpS 94.1%). More in the SpS had moderate
GTP (SpS 5.4%, EnS 3.3%) and severe GTP (SpS 0.5%, EnS 0.2%). No significant
associations were found regarding the levels of severity of GTP in the sub-samples (χ² (1) =
2.461, p >0.05).
Regarding the GTP sub-scales, the prevalence in the EnS was as follows: automatic
mental processes (63.4%), altered visual perceptions (50.3%), behaviour and actions (41.1%),
altered auditory perceptions (31.9%), altered body and other perceptions (25.7%). In the SpS
the prevalence was: behaviour and actions (69.3%), automatic mental processes (66.7%),
altered auditory perceptions (53.7%), altered visual perceptions (48.7%), and altered body
Regarding the sub-scales of GTP, those in the SpS were significantly more likely to
have experienced altered body perceptions (EnS 25.7%, SpS 35.1%) (χ² (1) = 8.333, p >0.001),
and behaviours and actions (EnS 41.1%, SpS 69.3%) (χ² (1) = 60.285, p >0.001), while those
in the EnS were significantly less likely to have experienced altered auditory perceptions (EnS
31.9%, SpS 53.7%) (χ² (1) = 39.076, p >0.001).
A closer examination of the types of GTP showed that the SpS had higher prevalence
for most of the GTP types compared to the EnS. Only “still being in the mindset of the game”
was less likely to be experienced by the SpS (EnS 34.7%, SpS 26.3%), (χ² (1) = 5.906, p <
0.001). Those in the SpS were significantly less likely to not hear music from PoGo (EnS 21%,
SpS 39.9%), (χ² (1) = 8.110, p < 0.001). Also, those in the SpS were significantly more likely
to have experienced seeing PoGo-related images with open eyes (EnS 15.1% SpS 22.8%), (χ²
(1) = 8.110, p < 0.01), hearing sounds (EnS 15.4%, SpS 29.4%), (χ² (1) = 25.194, p < 0.001)
or hearing PoGo-related voices (EnS 10.4%, SpS 18.9%), (χ² (1) = 12.834, p < 0.001), having
mistaken sounds in the physical world with those from the game (EnS 14.9%, SpS 29.1%),(χ²
(1) = 26.156, p < 0.001), having illusions of body movement (6.5% EnS, 11.4%), (χ² (1) =
6.504, p < 0.05), having tactile sensations (EnS 20.6%, SpS 28.1%), (χ² (1) = 6.233, p < 0.05),
thinking of using a video game element in the physical world (EnS 16.6%, SpS 30.3%), (χ² (1)
= 22.921, p < 0.001), making mix-ups between game and physical world events (EnS 7.6%,
SpS 25%), (χ² (1) = 59.541, p < 0.001), saying, shouting or saying something involuntarily
(EnS 36.5%, SpS 64%), (χ² (1) = 58.942, p < 0.001), moving arms or fingers involuntarily in
response to game-related cues (EnS 4.4%, SpS 7.9%), (χ² (1) = 4.754, p < 0.05), and performing
an activity influenced by the game (EnS 10.1%, SpS 16.7%), (χ² (1) = 6.233, p < 0.01) (see
Table 1 for the full results).
Demographics (gender and age) and gaming habits-related variables (hours playing per
week, session length and times playing per day) were examined to find possible explanations
of the differences in the prevalence of GTP between the sub-samples.
Demographics, GTP and differences between the sub-samples
No significant associations were found between GTP and gender (male 48.2%, and female
50.6%) (χ² (2) = 1.376, p > 0.05). However, there were differences in the sub-samples (χ² (2)
= 93.769, p < 0.001). There were more females in the EnS (EnS 56.5% vs. SpS 23.2%) and in
the SpS there were more males (SpS 76.8%, EnS 43.5%). Age was significantly associated
with GTP (χ² (12) = 28.104, p > 0.01). Those who were 18 - 21 years old were less likely to
not have experienced GTP (6.9% vs 13.7%) and 58 - 61-year-olds were more likely to not have
experienced GTP (2.6% vs. 0.8%). There also were significant differences between the sub-
samples regarding age (χ² (12) = 104.195, p > 0.001). Those who were 18 - 21-years-old were
significantly more likely to be in the SpS (10.4% vs. 25.6%) and significantly less likely to be
in the EnS. Moreover, those who were 42 - 45-years-old (6.1% vs. 0.8%), 46 - 49-years-old
(5.2% vs. 0.8%), 50 - 53-years-old (3.7% vs. 0.8%), and 54 - 57-years-old (2.9% vs. 0%) were
less likely to be in the SpS.
Gaming habits, GTP and differences between the sub-samples
Hours playing per week were significantly associated with GTP (χ² (3) = 7.975, p < 0.05), and
differences were found between the sub-samples. Those who played 36 hours or more per week
were significantly more likely to be from the SpS (EnS 3.6%, SpS 8.2%). Session length was
not significantly associated with GTP (χ² (2) = 8.456, p < 0.05), but differences were found
between the sub-samples. Those who played sessions shorter than 30 minutes were
significantly less likely to be from the SpS (23.5% EnS, 32.2% SpS) and those who played
sessions longer than 2 hours were significantly more likely to be from the SpS (EnS 8%, SpS
14.5%) (χ² (2) = 12.874, p <0.05). The number of times playing per day was significantly
associated with GTP (χ² (3) = 9.125, p > 0.05). Those who played 0 to 1 times per day were
significantly more likely to not have experienced GTP (23.5% vs. 15.1%). No significant
differences were found between the sub-samples (χ² (3) = 551, p < 0.05). Those who had PoGo
levels of between 1 and 10 (2.7% vs. 0.7%) or 11 and 20 (14.1% vs. 4.1%) were significantly
more likely to be in the SpS. Those who had the highest levels, 31 to 40 (16.4% vs. 28.7%),
were significantly less likely to be in the SpS compared with the EnS (χ² (3) = 43.693, p
GTP and PoGo features
Playing PoGo with AR enabled and playing the game with the sound on were investigated
exclusively in the SpS (n=196). Only 37.8% played using the AR mode at some point (n=196)
and more than half played with sound at some point 56.6% (n=145).
More gamers who played using the AR mode have experienced GTP overall but using
the AR mode was not significantly associated with GTP (χ² (1) = 2.035, p < 0.05). Nor was
playing with the AR mode significantly associated with any of the GTP sub-scales. However,
significant associations were found when chi-square tests were conducted with AR and the
types of GTP.
Those who played using the AR mode were significantly more likely to i) have
misperceived objects (χ² (1) = 4.434, p >0.05), ii) felt the body differently after playing (χ² (1)
= 4.516, p >0.05), iii) heard music from the game (χ² (1) = 3.889, p >0.05), iv) heard sounds
from the game ( χ² (1) = 3.844, p >0.05), or v) misperceived a sound in real life with something
from the game (χ² (1) = 4.510, p >0.05).
Playing with sound was significantly associated with most of the GTP sub-scales. Those
who played with the sound on were significantly more likely to: have experienced overall
altered perceptions (χ² (1) = 7.123, p >0.01), altered visual perceptions (χ² (1) = 4.366 p >0.05),
altered auditory perceptions (χ² (1) = 11.224 p >0.01), and altered body perceptions (χ² (1) =
7.095 p >0.01). A closer look at the GTP types showed that those who played with the sound
on were significantly more likely to i) have experienced bodily sensations of movement as if
playing (χ² (1) = 5.243 p >0.05), ii) felt the body differently after playing (χ² (1) = 4.891 p
>0.05), heard music (χ² (1) = 10.035, p >0.01), iii) heard sounds ( χ² (1) = 6.666, p >0.05), iv)
mistaken a sound in real life with some sound from the game (χ² (1) = 13.307, p >0.01), v) have
thought about using something from Pokémon Go in real life (χ² (1) = 5.326, p >0.05), vi)
mixed up video game events with actual real-life events (χ² (1) = 7.167, p >0.01), and vii)
experienced movements of arms or fingers involuntarily in response to a game-related cue (χ²
(1) = 4.577, p >0.05) (see Tables 2 and 3 for the full results).
PLEASE INSERT TABLE 2 HERE
PLEASE INSERT TABLE 3 HERE
Analysis was conducted with chi-square tests in the full sample with each of the immersion
variables (e.g., looking for Pokémon outside the screen while playing) since some of the
variables used as measures of immersion highlighted the special properties of AR.
Forgetting what is happening around you while playing PoGo was significantly
associated with GTP (χ²(1) = 52.305, p < 0.001). Those who did not forget what was going on
around them were less likely to have experienced GTP (71.8% vs 88.3%) and those who did
forget were less likely to not have experienced GTP (11.7% vs 28.2).
Losing track of time while playing PoGo was significantly associated with GTP (χ²(1)
= 31.964, p < 0.001). Those who lost track of time were significantly less likely to not have
experienced GTP (13.4% vs. 27.2%) while those who did not lost track of time were
significantly less likely to have experienced GTP (72.8% vs.86.6%).
Looking for Pokémon outside the screen by mistake while playing was significantly
associated with GTP (χ²(1) = 22.011, p < 0.001). Those who looked outside the screen for
Pokémon while playing were significantly less likely to not have experienced GTP (4.9% vs.
Having the sensation that Pokémon was present in the real world was significantly
associated with GTP (χ²(4) = 31.539, p < 0.001). Those who had the sensation that Pokémon
were present in the real world were more likely to have experienced GTP (97.5% vs 80.2%)
while those who had not had the sensation Pokémon were present were more likely to not have
experienced GTP (19.8 % vs. 2.5%).
Further analysis was conducted to examine correlations between a composite
immersion variable (created by summarising all immersion related variables) (See information
about the reliability and factor analysis in the Measures section).
Immersion was positively moderately correlated with GTP in the full sample. In the
EnS the correlation between immersion and GTP was moderate, while in the SpS the
correlation was strong. In the full sample, immersion was moderately correlated with all sub-
scales of GTP except auditory, which was weakly correlated. In the EnS all the correlations
between immersion and the sub-scales were moderate except auditory, which was weakly
correlated. In the SpS most correlations between immersion and the sub-scales were moderate;
only altered perceptions overall, and behaviours and actions were strongly correlated (see Table
Further analyses were conducted to determine if there were significant differences
between the correlations of GTP and immersion in the sub-samples, by comparing the
correlations (r values) in each sub-sample after transforming into Z-scores. The difference
between these correlations was statistically significant in most of the sub-scales; only automatic
mental processes did not show statistically significant differences (see Table 4).
PLEASE INSERT TABLE 4 HERE
Video game features and immersion
The AR feature was only weakly correlated with forgetting what is happening around oneself
while playing, and looking for a Pokémon outside the screen. Hearing sounds from PoGo was
also weakly correlated with all the variables of immersion (see Table 5 for the full results of
PLEASE INSERT TABLE 5 HERE
This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of GTP in a sample of English- and Spanish-
speaking PoGo gamers, examine the effects of immersion, and the impact of playing with the
AR function enabled and playing with sound on the different manifestations of GTP.
Most participants played video games other than PoGo, and most have played Pokémon
games before PoGo, which resembles the typical profile of the PoGo gamers according to the
video game industry (Walker, 2016). Moreover, the typical frequent mobile phone gamer tends
to be female, 39-years-old, who spends an average of 15 hours per month playing on the mobile
phone (Hwong, 2017). In the current study, half of the participants were female gamers, and
their average age was 31-years-old. Most studies about GTP (including this) have not found
any significant differences between genders in the prevalence of GTP (Dindar & Ortiz de
Gortari, 2017; Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths, 2016), although one study conducted with another
location-based augmented reality game (Ingress) found that females experienced a larger
incidence of GTP (Sifonis, 2016).
Prevalence of GTP
Those who had experienced GTP with PoGo were significantly more likely also to have
experienced GTP with other video games. More than four of five participants experienced GTP
when playing PoGo at some point, but the prevalence of GTP was lower in comparison to
previous studies. A relatively low prevalence was reported for all GTP sub-scales (sensorial
perceptions, mental processes and behaviours) in both sub-samples, although the prevalence in
the SpS was significantly higher than in the EnS (SpS 89.6% vs. EnS 80.9%). The majority
showed low severity levels of GTP in the full sample and in both sub-samples. Ortiz de Gortari
and Griffiths (2016) reported a prevalence of GTP of 96.6%. Similarly, a study with a Turkish
sample reported 99% of prevalence of GTP (Dindar & Ortiz de Gortari, 2017). Lastly, in a
study on the “predecessor” to PoGo, Ingress (Niantic, 2013) an incidence of 96.6% of GTP
was found (Sifonis, 2016).
Previous studies have found that playing frequently (e.g., every day) and in long
sessions (e.g., 3 hours or longer) are relevant for GTP, and severe GTP (Ortiz de Gortari &
Griffiths, 2015; Ortiz de Gortari, et al., 2016). Therefore these variables were also investigated
in this study, to try to understand the differences between the sub-samples. The results showed
that in general, the SpS tend to play more intensively than the EnS. More gamers in the SpS
tend to play 36 hours or more per week, and fewer in the SpS played sessions shorter than 30
minutes. Moreover, there were ager number of younger gamers (18 - 22-years-old) in the SpS
than in the EnS. Previous studies have found that younger adults (Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths,
2016) and minors (15+) (Dindar & Ortiz de Gortari, 2017) are more likely to experience GTP.
Many of the predominant types of GTP found in relation to playing PoGo, are the same
as those found to be more predominant in previous studies (e.g., visualised/saw images with
closed eyes, heard music from the game, sang, shouted or said something from the game
unintentionally) (Dindar & Ortiz de Gortari, 2017; Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths, 2016). The two
most prevalent forms or manifestations of GTP in both sub-samples and the full sample were
“wanted or felt the urge to do something after seeing some game-related cue” and “sang,
shouted or said something related to the game unintentionally”. However, significant
differences were observed between the EnS and SpS. The most common modality of GTP in
the full sample and in the EnS was automatic mental processes, while in the SpS it was
behaviours and actions. The least common modality in the full sample and in both sub-samples
was altered body perceptions. These findings are similar to previous studies (Dindar & Ortiz
de Gortari, 2017; Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths, 2016). “Still being in the mindset of the game”
was the only GTP type that was significantly more likely to be reported by the EnS. These
findings are also similar to a previous study that compared GTP experiences between an
English-speaking sample and a Spanish-speaking sample (Ortiz de Gortari, 2015a).
Regarding the level of severity of GTP, most in the full sample and in both sub-
samples showed low levels of GTP (a few forms of manifestation of GTP and low frequency
of experiences), similar to previous studies (Ortiz de Gortari, et al., 2016).
Comparing the prevalence of the GTP types
Visualizing or seeing images with closed eyes was the most common visual experience, and
experiencing perceptual distortions of objects and environments was the least common in the
full sample and in the sub-samples. The low prevalence of perceptual distortions might be
explained by the lack of visual effects (SFX) (e.g., slow motion, changes of colours, textures
and patterns) in PoGo. Another explanation for the low prevalence of perceptual distortions
and the rather low prevalence of seeing images with open/closed eyes can be the relatively
short exposure to visual elements when playing PoGo since gamers are constantly changing
their view from the device to the real world. The length of the playing sessions, including for
those who experienced GTP, tends to be 90 minutes or shorter. Only seeing images with open
eyes was significantly more likely to be experienced by those in the SpS. Interestingly, a
previous study (that did not focus on any particular video game) found that the Spanish-
speaking sample had a larger prevalence of seeing images with open eyes in comparison with
an English-speaking sample (Ortiz de Gortari, 2015a). Studies on hallucinations in
schizophrenia have found cross-cultural differences (Bauer et al., 2011).
Re-experiencing music from video games, has been found to be the most predominant auditory
experience, while the least prevalent has been hearing voices (Dindar & Ortiz de Gortari, 2017;
Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths, 2016). This was confirmed in the current study. Regarding the
sub-samples, the SpS showed higher prevalence in all the auditory experiences. In the location-
based augmented reality game Ingress, Sifonis (2016) reported that auditory-related GTP
experiences were the least reported by those who had played the game. Similarly, in the present
study, auditory-related experiences were less common than in previous studies (Dindar & Ortiz
de Gortari, 2017; Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths, 2016). This may be explained because PoGo
tends to be played without sound and the aural cues in PoGo are less rich and not as salient as
in other video games. Many gamers stated that they played the game with the sound turned off
in the EnS while slightly more than one third in the SpS never played with the sound turned
on. As expected, those who played PoGo with the sound on in the SpS were significantly more
likely to report replays of music or sounds from the game. The sound feature was significantly
associated with most of the GTP modalities and many forms of manifestation. Engaging in
musical activities has been found to be related to the likelihood of music-related imagery
(Liikkanen, 2012). Interestingly, conversations with gamers have revealed that even though
they did not play with the sound turned on any longer; they had the illusion of hearing the
auditory cues from the game while playing it, to the degree that is annoying.
Body and other altered sensorial perceptions
The most prevalent body-related GTP among PoGo gamers was feeling tactile sensations or
tactile hallucinations (e.g., feeling vibrations or feeling the fingers pressing the screen), in
contrast from previous studies, where the most prevalent body-related experience was illusions
of bodily movement as being in the game – related to the vestibular system (similar to the “Mal
de Débarquement” that occurs after exposure to passive motions mostly when travelling by sea
(Ombergen, Rompaey, Maes, Heyning, & Wuyts, 2016). The importance of the interaction
with tangible surfaces appears evident, and this finding was expected because playing PoGo
requires touching the device’s screen and feeling vibrations such as alerts for when Pokémon
are nearby. Studies have reported tactile hallucinations and sensations associated with vibration
alerts from mobile phones (Drouin, et al., 2012; Lin, et al., 2013). Gamers have also reported
feeling vibrations and touch sensations of gamepad buttons when not playing (Ortiz de Gortari
& Griffiths, 2014a; Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths, 2016). The spectrum of these types of
experiences may broaden with the future use of haptic devices (e.g., gaming vests such as KOR-
FX or Control VR) (Ortiz de Gortari, 2015b). Comparable to a previous study (Ortiz de Gortari,
2015a), the SpS showed a significantly higher prevalence of sensations of bodily movements
and tactile sensations in GTP-related experiences.
Automatic mental processes
Wanted or felt the urge to do something as in the game, triggered by some stimuli in the
physical world, was the most prevalent GTP item in the automatic mental processes sub-scale
in the full sample. Automatic mental processes was not significantly associated with any
particular sub-sample, similar to a previous study (Ortiz de Gortari, 2015a), and it was the most
prevalent in the EnS and the second most prevalent in the SpS. The high prevalence of this
experience shows the importance of associations between video game elements and physical
world game-related stimuli for some GTP to occur (Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths, 2016).
However, in location-based augmented reality games, the previous exposure to physical objects
and locations may be even more relevant than in other video games because the gameplay takes
place in the physical world and re-encountering physical places/objects (e.g., landmarks) can
easily act as a trigger for spontaneous phenomena. Moreover, more than one in four of the
PoGo gamers reported still being in the mindset of the game after stopping playing; those in
the EnS were significantly more likely to have experienced it. Location-based games may
facilitate this type of GTP, since once gamers stopped playing they continued interacting in the
physical world which was used as the base of the gameplay. This may be experienced as to
keep applying the rules of the game (e.g., kept paying attention to coloured objects in the same
way as paying attention to colourful Pokémon that appear, kept looking for PokeStops or gyms,
Behaviours and actions
Lastly, the most common GTP regarding actions and behaviours was have sung, shouted, or
said something with the game contents (e.g., caught yourself referring to real life animals with
similar Pokémon names like saying “Pidgey” instead of pigeons, humming the song of
Pokémon Go involuntarily); this was also the most prevalent behaviour-related GTP found in
previous studies (Dindar & Ortiz de Gortari, 2017; Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths, 2016). Once
again, it was more common in the SpS than in the EnS (Ortiz de Gortari, 2015a). The only
behaviour-related experience not different between the sub-samples was: acted differently in
real life situations because of encountering something related to PoGo.
Use of video game features
The most interesting question concerning the use of the AR function in PoGo, was to know if
seeing digital creatures overlaid on the real world using the AR function was related to seeing
images from the game after playing (Ortiz de Gortari, et al., 2011; Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths,
2014a). GTP overall or GTP in any of the sub-scales (visual, auditory experiences) was not
significantly associated with the AR function. However, GTP items in various sensory
modalities (e.g., felt body differently after playing, re-experienced music or sounds,
misinterpreted a sound) were associated with the AR function. But, the only item associated
with AR among the visual experiences was visual misperceptions, but not visualisations or
seeing images (i.e., seeing images with closed or open eyes) as was expected. On the one hand,
this suggests that the overlaying of digital images, even when the images are seen via the
device’s screen rather than in a more natural way (i.e., looking at them directly using AR
glasses), facilitates confusions or misperceptions of the objects later on. Discriminating errors
tend to occur when stimuli are interpreted based on previous experiences, especially when the
stimuli have characteristics in common (Summerfield, Egner, Mangels, & Hirsch, 2006). On
the other hand, the absence of associations between re-experiencing seeing images with
open/closed eyes, suggest the relevance of other factors not involve with the use of AR. These
can be for instances i) the time of exposure to video game images, ii) view fixation on the
screen, iii) the type of images (e.g., brightness, colour) and iv) individual factors.
Furthermore, as expected, auditory experiences such as hearing replays of music, sound
and misperceptions of sound were more likely to be reported by those who tend to play the
game with the sound turned on. It is interesting to notice that even though the sound features
in PoGo are not salient, the background music and the few sound effects are enough so that
almost one out of five in the SpS experienced replays of music or sounds. Re-experiencing
voices was not related to the sound feature which is explained by the lack of voices in PoGo.
These results confirm the importance of the video game features for the type and content of the
GTP experiences, which has been argued in previous studies on GTP (Ortiz de Gortari, 2016a;
Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths, 2014b).
Feeling the body differently after playing was also significantly associated with the AR
function and playing with the sound turned on. Lastly, it was also found that more of those who
played with sound have experienced wanting to use something from the game (e.g., want to
use a Poké Ball to catch a fly, have committed errors by mixing up video game events with
actual events that have happened in the physical world, and have confused sounds in the
physical world with those from PoGo). Music and sound have been found to be effective to
induce mood and physiological responses (Gerra et al., 1998; Tafalla, 2007) and change of
behaviour (Kallinen, 2002; Kuribayashi & Nittono, 2015).
The relation between GTP and experiencing immersion while playing was found to be
associated with GTP (Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths, 2015). In the current study, experiencing
immersion while playing PoGo was positively correlated with overall GTP and all the sub-
scales in the full sample; however, the strength of the correlations varied along the sub-scales
and between the sub-samples. A closer examination of each of the immersion variables: i)
losing track of time, ii) forgetting what is happening around you, iii) looking for Pokémon
outside the screen, and iv) feeling the physical presence of a Pokémon, showed in the full
sample that more of those who reported forgetting what was happening around them when
playing and losing track of time (Jennett et al., 2008) tend to have experienced GTP.
Additionally, those who found themselves looking for Pokémon outside the screen were more
likely to have experienced GTP. For instance, a participant commented: “While playing the
game I will often look up at the landscape as if I would be able to see a Pokémon!”. Looking
for Pokémon outside the screen denotes immersion in the game and appears to resemble typical
slips of action (Norman, 1981). Slips of action can also commonly occur when switching
between devices, such as wanting to scroll on a screen that is not a touchscreen, after having
touched and scrolled on the screen of a mobile phone or tablet. This experience resembles when
gamers found themselves looking for video game elements in real life contexts when not
playing (Ortiz de Gortari, et al., 2011; Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths, 2014b). In this study, this
variable was considered as a factor of immersion rather than GTP because it happens while
playing. Future studies should consider the differences between computer/console games and
other games (e.g., location-based AR games) when assessing GTP, and take into account at
what point GTP manifests (i.e., while playing or after playing). Moreover, those who reported
having the sensation that Pokémon were physically present were more likely to have
experienced GTP. This may be explained by individual characteristics related to the proneness
Regarding the relation between immersion and PoGO features (i.e., sound and AR
function), it was found that sound was more relevant for the immersion variables investigated.
This finding shows the importance of auditory cues even in location-based augmented reality
games. Playing PoGo with sound was weakly positively correlated with forgetting what is
happening around oneself while playing, losing track of time, looking for a Pokémon outside
the screen and having the sensation that a Pokémon is physically present.
Using the AR function was only correlated with forgetting what is happening while
playing and as expected it was correlated with looking for a Pokémon outside the screen, but
surprisingly it was not correlated with having the sensation that a Pokémon was physically
Future studies should investigate the relationship between using the AR and sound
features, forgetting what is happening around and losing track of time, and incidents associated
with PoGo that had been reported in the media and in various studies (Kari, 2016).
This study is not without limitations. First, the participants were recruited from online groups
dedicated to Pokémon Go on Facebook, and the results may only be representative of those
inclined to join affiliations online. Also, as in the majority of studies with self-reports, this
study might suffer from sampling bias (e.g., social desirability bias, recall bias, etc.). Research
has shown that proficient gamers or those who are more involved in the game are more
motivated to participate in online surveys (Khazaal et al., 2014). Second, the scale instrument
to assess GTP, the GTPS (Ortiz de Gortari, Pontes and Griffiths, 2016) was originally
developed in the context of computer and console video games, though the items can easily be
adapted to the context of particular games. However, some items show limitations when it
comes to investigating AR games because GTP has been conceptualized as post-play
experiences since the experiences tend to occur after playing (Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths,
2016), while in location-based augmented reality games GTP experiences appear to occur
while playing. Third, playing the game using the AR function and with sound activated was
only investigated in one sub-sample, the SpS. This implies that only those who play with the
AR function enabled should be considered playing an AR game; otherwise, the game should
only be considered a location-based game. In this study, it is unknown how many of the EnS
played with the AR function or with sound. Future studies into AR games should include this
question if they are examining AR games that allow playing without the AR mode. The relation
between GTP, AR, and playing with sound should be investigated in a larger sample. Fourth,
the comparison between the samples is only based on the language, which does not allow
establishing specific comparisons regarding cross-cultural backgrounds. Future studies should
compare gamers with different cultural backgrounds rather than only establishing comparisons
based on language.
Conclusions and further research
Findings in this study suggest that GTP is prevalent in location-based mobile games with
optional augmented reality features.
The findings also suggest that being immersed in the game is important for gamers to
experience GTP. Moreover, the various types of GTP that were more likely to be reported by
the PoGo gamers (e.g., tactile sensations rather than sensations of self-motion) than when
playing video games in other platforms, shows the importance of the platform where the game
is played (i.e., smartphone with touchscreen), the video game features embedded in the game
and the way the game is played (e.g., playing the game with or without sound for re-
experiencing music from the game).
Regarding the use of AR and sound, it was interesting to find that both AR and sound
were significantly associated with feeling the body differently even though PoGo does not
appear to induce embodiment to the same degree as most other video games are capable of
(Hofer, Hüsser, & Prabhu, 2017).
Furthermore, it is also important to notice that using the AR function was only
significantly associated with visual misperceptions but not with seeing game-related images
with open or closed eyes or with visualising game-related content. Future studies should try to
explain the different physiological and cognitive mechanisms involved in seeing images and
experiencing misperceptions associated with AR. Also, it is important to keep in mind that
even though most PoGo gamers tend to not use the AR function, playing PoGo require the
gamers to search for digital creatures (non-tangible or non-existent) in physical contexts,
facilitating mix-ups or confusions between the virtual and the physical world.
Interestingly, some gamers reported feeling the sense of presence of digital characters,
particularly those who had experienced GTP, which shows the enormous potential of
augmented reality/mixed-reality technologies to change our perception of reality, enhancing it
or distorting it.
Another interesting finding (even though the prevalence of GTP was lower in PoGo)
was that the types of GTP that were less or more common in the sub-samples were also the
same types as in the English- and Spanish-speaking samples in a previous study that
investigated GTP without focusing on any particular game (Ortiz de Gortari, 2015a). In this
study, the differences between the sub-samples appear to be explained by video game habits
and demographical factors (e.g., session length, age), but cross-cultural differences should be
investigated in the future with gamers from different cultural backgrounds.
Future studies should also investigate the prevalence of GTP that occur while playing
in addition to those that occur after playing. This study suggests that GTP that is experienced
while playing (reported by 16.3% in a previous study) (Ortiz de Gortari & Griffiths, 2016) may
be predominant when playing AR games and/or location-based games compared to other video
games. The gameplay in these types of games takes place in the physical world which may
facilitate automatic associations between in-game elements and physical elements,
misperceptions, source monitoring errors, absent-mindedness, slips of actions (e.g., looking for
video game elements beyond the game screen while playing), and cognitive perseverations,
phenomena that can be potentially use for positive means (e.g., therapeutic use of AR games
or for learning). Cognitive failures are part of everyday life but denote deficits in attention and
memory, and can lead to accidents and minor injuries, particularly when they occur in public
contexts (Simpson, Wadsworth, Moss, & Smith, 2005). Therefore, it is important to be vigilant
for the challenges AR technologies posit, to be able to harvest the benefits for personal use,
education and health that these technologies offer; technologies that instead of immersing us
in a virtual world, blend digital elements with the physical world.
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Frequencies and chi-square of GTP sub-scales and items in the full sample and sub-samples
I. Altered perceptions overall
Altered visual perceptions sub-scale
Visualized/seen PoGo images with closed eyes
Seen PoGo images with my eyes open
Seen distorted real-life environments and/or
Misperceived a real-life object as something from
Altered body perceptions sub-scale
Bodily sensations of movement as if I was in a
Tactile (touch) sensation associated with PoGo
Perceived body differently after playing PoGo
I have felt as though the mind has disconnected
from the body
Altered auditory perceptions sub-scale
Re-experienced music from PoGo
Re-experienced sounds from PoGo
Re-experienced voices from PoGo
Misinterpreted sound IRL with something from
II. Automatic mental processes scale
Wanted or felt the urge to do something in real life
triggered by a PoGo-related cue
I have experienced still being in the mindset of
PoGo after playing
Thinking about using something from PoGo when
Mixed up PoGo events with actual real-life events
III. Behaviours and actions scale
Sang, shouted or said something from PoGo
Movement of arms or fingers involuntarily in
response to a PoGo related cue
Acted out behaviour or performed an activity
influenced by PoGo
Acted differently in real-life situations because of
something experienced in PoGo unintentionally
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Chi-square of the use of AR mode and sound and the different GTP sub-scales
GTP overall prevalence
Altered perceptions overall
Altered visual perceptions
Altered auditory perceptions
Altered body perceptions
Automatic mental processes
Behaviours and actions
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Chi-square of the use of AR and sound and the different GTP types
images with closed eyes
Seen PoGo images with my
Seen distorted real-life
environments and/or objects
Misperceived a real-life
object as something from
Bodily sensations of
movement as if I was in
Tactile (touch) sensation
associated with a PoGo
Perceived body differently
after playing PoGo
I have felt as though the
mind has disconnected from
Re-experienced music from
Re-experienced sounds from
Re-experienced voices from
Misinterpreted sound IRL for
something from PoGo
Wanted or felt the urge to do
something in real life
triggered by a PoGo-related
I have experienced still being
in the mindset of PoGo after
Thinking about using
something from PoGo when
Mixed up PoGo events with
actual real-life events
Sang, shouted or said
something from PoGo
Movement of arms or fingers
involuntarily in response to a
PoGo related cue
Acted out behaviour or
performed an activity
influenced by PoGo
Acted differently in real-life
situations because of
something experienced in
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Correlations between immersion and GTP in the full sample and the sub-samples
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
*. Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).
APO=Altered perceptions overall, AVP=Altered visual sensorial perceptions, AAP=Altered
Auditory perceptions, ABP=Altered Body perceptions, AMP=Automatic mental processes,
BAA=Behaviours and actions.
Correlations between immersion and the use of AR and sound in SpS
Forgetting what is happening around oneself while playing
Losing track of time
Looking for Pokémon outside the screen
Having the sensation that Pokémon is physically present
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
*. Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).