Immersion into Gaming

One of the most outstanding critiques of Blackbar and Redshift & Portalmetal is the inability to immerse oneself into the game during gameplay. Though I agree with the bulk of the critique for these games, I have two problems with this particular critique. First, immersion as a term (in reference to gaming) needs to be clarified. Second, the primary reasoning given for this lack of immersion has been the inability to identify as the main character which I plan to argue is not enough.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines immersion as “complete involvement in some interest or activity.” The lack of immersion in and of itself should not be discussed as a drawback, but instead the result of a series of drawbacks. Through our discussions, we have clearly identified one of the drawbacks leading to a lack of immersion. The inability to immerse oneself into the game has been used interchangeably with the inability to identify as the main character. However, whether or not it is necessary to identify as the character being played to feel immersed in a game is questionable. This is exemplified by games without characters. I’d argue that players of games like candy crush most definitely feel immersed in their gaming experience. I’d assert the blame should be put on the gameplay independent of the user’s experience with character.

2 thoughts on “Immersion into Gaming

  1. Couldn’t agree more on the definitional issue. By the way, in the particular case of Redshift/Portalmetal, I’d say the bigger issue was that the game reads more like a bloody slam poem than a game, as well as that the only way you can explain what it is to someone is roughly “Hey look, that’s a pretty cool game about being transgender”. If the fact that the game is “progressive” is its main selling point, yeah, it’s probably lacking in just about every other department.

  2. I think that ‘immersion’ is less poorly defined, and more misused. The term immersion is often used as a measure of how well a game holds our attention, not how well it maintained suspension of disbelief.

    The mixed use of the term means that we lose important distinctions between the two meanings. Immersion as suspension of disbelief can be important to the design of a game, but is hardly fundamental. Breaking suspension of disbelief and moving outside the magic circle can be used to great effect within a game – see the Saint’s Row series.

    Immersion as the ability to get and hold player attention is much more fundamental to the game experience. Games which can’t hold the players attention are fundamentally broken, because they are fundamentally unable to speak to the player.

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