Psychological, mental and health implications/ effects

Psychological, mental and health implications/ effects

This research thread is domain and user focused, I decided to research into this area of study because it went hand in hand with the social and ethical concerns. From doing some primary and secondary research, people fear that VR can be so immersive and feel so real it has the potential to transform human behaviour, especially with horror VR, people fear it may inflict mental illness, violence, heart attacks, panic attacks, and so on.

As mentioned in a previous case study, VR can be so immersive, users leave their sense of self in the game and virtual world. Philosophy Doctors Madary and Metzinger point to evidence of “a lasting psychological impact after subjects return to the physical world.” They recommend “careful screening of subjects to minimize the risks of aggravating an existing psychological disorder or an undetected psychiatric vulnerability.”[15](Parkin, 2016)

I conducted some research on upcoming horror VR games because I thought it would be interesting to see their development due to considering all these issues that have been risen over the past couple of years. ‘Ben Tester is one of the developers of Don’t Knock Twice, a VR horror experience scheduled for release in 2017. He says developers are in a strange predicament where it’s now possible to make a game that’s too scary’ [16](Gareth, 2016). To overcome this they included traditional adventure gameplay like puzzle solving to aid storytelling to remind players they are still playing a game and break up all the tension from the horror. “We want to make a great horror game that people will remember for sure but we don’t want to make it so uncomfortable that it makes it unplayable,” Tester explains. “In Don’t Knock Twice, we want to avoid the player going through a constant stream of scares one after another and instead, create an interesting and atmospheric environment which will creep out any horror enthusiast. It’s about finding the right balance between having a solid gaming experience and immersing the player in a terrifying horror situation.” [17](Gareth, 2016)

Another case study I looked into was a recent study of lab rats at the UCLA Keck Center for Neurophysics. They had revealed negative side effects including “cybersickness” and abnormal patterns of activity in rat brains, including 60 percent of neurons that simply shut down in virtual reality, this can be very concerning because this brings up the question of what could this be doing to human brains.

To finalise this thread I looked into the study of psychological responses from users playing VR horror games, I found previous research and studies where researchers have used sensors to monitor users heart rates, galvanic skin response and the movements of facial muscles, researchers analyse these to measure levels of fear on users. I also discovered that game developers use these techniques in their user testing process to be informed of how scary their games are to predict how successful they would be. [18](Heaven, 2015)


[15]Parkin, S. (2016) THE COMING HORROR OF VIRTUAL REALITY. Available at: (Accessed: 28 November 2016).

[16]Gareth (2016) Could VR horror be too… Horrifying? Available at: (Accessed: 29 November 2016).

[17]Gareth (2016) Could VR horror be too… Horrifying? Available at: (Accessed: 29 November 2016).

[18]heaven, douglas (2015) How the scariest video games use our own minds to terrify us. Available at: (Accessed: 29 November 2016).


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