Re-Immersion: Another Look At The Ways Players Become At One With Your Game
A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post entitled Immersion: It’s All In The Details. In that article I described immersion as a suspension of disbelief such that you can pretend that you are somewhere else rather than where you really are. In my introductory game design class, I explain that immersion “creates the illusion that you are another person or in another place” and that a game designer can create an immersive experience through theme, story, character, graphics, and audio.
However, while putting together a more advanced game design class that I will begin teaching in December, I realized that there are actually many forms of immersion. Here is a brief rundown of the different ways that players can become at one with your game experience:
- Emotional Immersion: In many character or story-driven games, players can become emotionally attached to the avatars they are portraying, to the storyline unfolding in the game, or even the game world in which their actions take place. In fact, players can become emotionally attached to any game where they exercise creative control or obtain ownership over game elements. Even the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, the anticipation of a game event, the tension of potential danger, and the humor of funny situations can immerse players into the game they are playing.
- Cognitive Immersion: Strategy and puzzle games can demand focused thinking from a player, as well as any game that involves strategic or tactical planning. When our full mental energies are devoted to overcoming a game’s challenges and achieving its goals, we become cognitively immersed in the game, even to the point of thinking about the game even when we are not playing.
- Spatial Immersion: Avatar movement is a mechanic common to many games, and when the camera is designed for first-person perspective (and even, to a lesser extent, third-person perspective), players can feel like they are located within the game world themselves.
- Sensory Immersion: Game art and audio can combine to flood our senses with sensations of great beauty and harmony, or construct environments around us of dread and ugliness.
- Kinesthetic Immersion: When a game’s controls are finely balanced with an character’s actions and reactions, it may feel that we are interacting within the world ourselves and not through an avatar.
As game designers, our role is to create experiences for the player, but that experience is not strictly a visual or emotional one. There are many ways that we can draw a player into our game world and leave the real world behind, if only for a little while.