Playing this game makes my eyes see things differently afterward. What's the cause?
October 28, 2007 6:25 PM   Subscribe

Playing this game makes my eyes see things differently afterward. What's the cause?

I've been playing this game called Colored Lines for a good part of the day. The first time I played for about 20 minutes and noticed that right afterward all the letters on the screen looked much sharper as if it is a completely different font. Initially I had thought that the game might have somehow triggered the computer to change the system font but then I looked down at my keyboard and noticed the same effect on the letterings. It is the strangest feeling and I really would like to know how this game is causing my brain to seeing things differently.
Btw I've been playing it for hours and still have not beaten the game. Let me know if you did.
posted by herbiehancock00 to Science & Nature (7 answers total)
why don't you describe exactly what goes on in the game, colors, motion etc, rather than encourage people to play it. I am not saying this is the case but your question does read a bit like you are shilling for the game.

Otherwise, get your eyes checked is the only advice I can offer without more details.
posted by edgeways at 6:37 PM on October 28, 2007

IANAO, but I suspect this is a form of afterimage. After staring intently at a brightly colored screen for a long period, the cone cells in your eyes become desensitized. As your ability to distinguish hue diminishes, your ability to distinguish brightness feels (but probably isn't) stronger. So things with high brightness contrast, like lettered text, seem sharper.

Just a hypothesis, any optometrists out there please feel encouraged to make me look dumb.
posted by Riki tiki at 6:46 PM on October 28, 2007

Played it for ~ 5 minutes, got no effect past normal bright-screen-dark-room. Also, not a very fun game past the first few minutes, IMO.
posted by devilsbrigade at 6:57 PM on October 28, 2007

Well, the day I bought Guitar Hero everything around me was 'breathing' when I looked away from the TV – this was with my eyes not exactly focused but locked on the guitar neck onscreen for the better part of two hours. My gaze eventually felt similar to the divergent vision needed to see Magic Eye images.
posted by avocet at 8:17 PM on October 28, 2007

I am an undergrad who's taken exactly one course of perceptual psychology. Take what I say with a grain of salt.

At various stages in your visual system, starting from the retina in your eye, various neurons respond most strongly to stimuli of a particular width. If you spend a long time looking at lines of a particular width, the neurons for that particular width get progressively less active. (I'm not familiar with all the mechanisms for this adaptation, but I've understood that one reason is that they simply start running out of their reservoirs for the molecules they use for passing information forward.)

Here's a demonstration, although it might not work for you as expected until you first let your "eyes rest" for a while. (The lines at the top left should initially look much wider than at the bottom left, while the lines in the right column should initially be of equal width, about halfway between those on the left.)

One thing that happens as you go further along the visual system is that the neurons for a particular frequency send inhibitory signals to the neurons of nearby frequencies, and you effectively have competition where only the neurons that respond to the almost exact frequency of the stimulus end up getting their signal through to the next stage.

While playing the game, you've been adapting your visual system to the width of the lines on the board, which happens to be somewhat close to the width of the lines of the font on your display, as well as on your keyboard. As you look at the letters, you would normally have many neurons responding with varying strengths to the width of the lines, and inhibiting each other, but now you have effectively knocked some of them out for a while, leaving the most responsive neurons less inhibited. Roughly put, those neurons are now telling the rest of your brain that there "really, really, definitely are one-pixel-wide lines ahead!".

There's also comparable adaptation to the orientation of lines. Because the lines are all oriented either horizontally or vertically, some sort of adaptation effects would be seen affecting differently oriented lines of letters in different ways, resulting in the fonts looking not only sharper, but malformed. However, the details are beyond me at this point.
posted by Anything at 8:20 PM on October 28, 2007

Mod note: removed link to game in question, feel free to put it in your profile if you want people to take a look at it
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:30 PM on October 28, 2007

I played the game for a short time and I think I got the same effect: everything looks really *square* and sharp and right-angled?

It's exactly the same feeling I got when I used to play this other game that involved colored circles (I can't find that one anymore, and don't even remember what it was called). So maybe it's something to do with all the circles?
posted by estherbester at 10:47 PM on October 28, 2007

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