DMC3 08: Games and Immersion

DMC3: Session 08: Games and Immersion
Ti 16.11. klo 13:00-15.30

Intro to Immersion

This session will look at some of the issues and technologies with gaming that enables the player to convincingly enter and participate in a virtual world.

“Immersion is the state of consciousness where an immersant's awareness of physical self is diminished or lost by being surrounded in an engrossing total environment; often artificial. This mental state is frequently accompanied with spatial excess, intense focus, a distorted sense of time, and effortless action. The term is widely used for describing immersive virtual reality, installation art and video games, but it is not clear if people are using the same word consistently. The term is also cited as a frequently-used buzzword, in which case its meaning is intentionally vague, but carries the connotation of being particularly engrossing.”


According to Ernest Adams in 2003, as author and consultant on game design,
Immersion can be separated into three main categories:


“Tactical immersion is immersion in the moment-by-moment act of playing the game, and is typically found in fast action games. It's what people call being "in the zone" or "in the groove."

It's physical and immediate. When you're tactically immersed in a game, your higher brain functions are largely shut down and you become a pair of eyes directly communicating with your fingers. It's an almost meditation-like state..

To create tactical immersion, you must offer your players a flawless user interface, one that responds rapidly, intuitively, and above all reliably.”


“Strategic immersion, on the other hand, is a cerebral kind of involvement with the game. It's about seeking a path to victory, or at least to optimize a situation..

In order to achieve strategic immersion, a game must offer enjoyable mental challenges.”


“Narrative immersion in games is much the same as it is in books or movies. A player gets immersed in a narrative when he or she starts to care about the characters and wants to know how the story is going to end..

What creates narrative immersion is good storytelling.”


Quoted from Wikipedia article on Immersion..

“Staffan Björk and Jussi Holopainen (2005), in 'Patterns In Game Design', divide immersion into similar categories, but call them sensory-motoric immersion, cognitive immersion and emotional immersion, respectively. In addition to these, they add three new categories:


Spatial immersion occurs when a player feels the simulated world is perceptually convincing. The player feels that he or she is really "there" and that a simulated world looks and feels "real".


Psychological immersion occurs when a player confuses the game with real life.


The experience of entering into the three-dimensional environment, and being intellectually stimulated by it. The player experiences a unity of time and space as the player fuses with the image medium, which affects impression and awareness.”

Patterns In Game Design


Steve Woyach: Immersion Through Video Games (2008)

“Immersion is the process by which a media element entices a person to suspend their disbelief and accept what they are viewing on a screen or page as actual reality.

Through non-linear dramatic elements and interaction between the player and the computer, a video game achieves a level of reality that demands very little suspension of disbelief and is therefore a more compelling experience.

Further advances in artificial intelligence and new ways of modeling interactive environments serve to make the environment more immersive, until suspension of disbelief is no longer necessary. It is only a matter of time before the dream of a perfectly immersive environment is a reality.”


Jane McGonigal: All Game Play is Performance/Game Play is All Performance (2005)

Jane McGonigal, in her manifesto 'All Game Play is Performance/Game Play is All Performance', published in anticipation of delivering the keynote address for 'Playful: The State of the Art Game'. May 2005, considers:

“All game play is performance, all digital games belong to theater — but there is more.

The current leading edge of digital game design — the avant game — represents a particular kind of
performance: all performance.

As digital games become more immersive, more pervasive, more persistent, and more massive, they
clearly and convincingly approach Gesamtkunstwerk, Richard Wagner’s classical ideal of “total
performance,” the theatrical event that encompasses all art practice in a single unified experience.

To what field of art do digital games belong? The visual arts? Yes — think game graphics. The
literary arts? Yes — think interactive storytelling. The media arts? Yes — think code, audio
production, and A.I. processors. The plastic arts? Sure — think game hardware and innovative
interfaces. Architectural arts? Indeed — think real-world game environments.

Digital games belong to all of these art fields simultaneously. And the platform that connects them is performance. It is through the players’ collective performance that games create a total aesthetic

Gamers create Gesamtkunstwerk.”


Alternative Reality Games (Narrative, Psychological Immersion)

Sean Stewart: The Beast/A.I. Web Mystery (2001)

“1. The narrative would be broken into fragments, which the players would be required to reassemble. That is, the players, like the advanced robots at the end of the movie, would be doing something essentially archaeological, combing through the welter of life in the 22nd century, to piece a story together out of fragments.

2. The game wouldof necessitybe fundamentally cooperative and collective, because of the nature of the internet. His belief, which we all shared, was that if we put a clue in a Turkish newspaper at dawn, it would be under discussion in a high school kids basement in Iowa by dinner time.

3. The game would be cooler if nobody knew who was doing it, or why. Therefore, secrecy was very tight. Almost nobody at Microsoft would know what the hell we were doing. Jordan had brought in old pal Pete Fenlon to subcontract writers, artists, and web designers, for the sake of speed and staying under MS's own internal radar.

4. The game would be cooler if it came at you, through as many different conduits as possible. Websites. E-mails. Phone calls. Newspaper clippings. Faxes. SMS messaging. TV spots. Smoke signals. Whalesong.

In an earlier conversation, Jordan had been sitting around mulling the idea over with Elan Lee, when his phone rang. He glanced at Elan, grinning. "Wouldn't it be cool if that was the game calling?"

Not only would that make it cool, it would make it more real. The idea was that the fiction should jump the dike. A book you can close, a movie happens in a theater—but the Game should evade those boundaries. If our imaginary world called you on your real phone, wasn't it at least as real as the telemarketers doing the same thing? Realer, because you would have seen pictures of the imaginary people calling you. You'd know things about their childhood, their hopes and disappointments, their taste in food.

"What's your idea of the game experience?" someone asked Elan.
(Thoughtfully). "The instant you click on a link, your phone should start to ring, your car should only drive in reverse, and none of your friends should remember your name."

These starting points, we all agreed, led to another, axiomatic premise: the Game would never admit it was a game. It had to believe it was real, all the way to the ground.

The mantrathis is not a gamehad another meaning particularly important to me. I didn't want this to be a strictly intellectual experience. I didn't want you to be able to view the characters as…game tokens. I wanted it to work like art. I wanted people to care, to laugh, to cryto be engaged the way a novel engages. To put all this ingenuity into the storytelling method, and then to tell a stupid storythat would be an unbearable waste.

If the game was claiming to be real, the characters in it had to be real too.

So there was the project: create an entire self-contained world on the web, say a thousand pages deep, and then tell a story through it, advancing the plot with weekly updates, concealing each new piece of narrative in such a way that it would take clever teamwork to dig it out. Create a vast array of assetscustom photos, movies, audio recordings, scripts, corporate blurbage, logos, graphic treatments, web sites, flash moviesand deploy them through a net of (untraceable) web sites, phone calls, fax systems, leaks, press releases, phony newspaper ads, and so on ad infinitum. (The first draft of Dan Carver's art asset sheet had 666 items. He dubbed it The Beast, and the Game's nickname was born.)”


Electronic Arts: Majestic (2001)

“Majestic was a science fiction thriller based on a Majestic 12 shadow government conspiracy theory. As an ARG, the game was played by phone, email, AOL Instant Messenger, fax, and by visiting special websites. Gameplay frequently involved the player receiving clues that they would use to solve puzzles and unravel the story. All the messages were automated, with limited dialogue options, but AIM provided some interactive conversations.

As an option to warn unsuspecting members in the same house you could enable a warning at the beginning of each phone call, and a small message on the top of all faxes. When this option was enabled, each phone call would begin with a woman saying "This is a phone call from the video game Majestic", before the regular, prerecorded message.

The game's tagline, "It plays you", emphasized the nature of ARGs and the game's suspense. One of the first things the player experienced in Majestic was news that the game had stopped, yet they would receive messages suggesting that there was a conspiracy behind the stoppage.

The game comprised five episodes: A pilot episode was free to try but the four remaining episodes required players to join's Platinum Service, which cost $9.95 USD per month. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, EA paused the service because of the game's subject matter. EA discontinued Majestic on April 30, 2002 citing too few players. There were 5 episodes per Season. The game was cancelled before Season 2 could be released.”


Sean Stewart: I Love Bees (2004)

“Set in the fictional world of the HALO video game, ilovebees was an original radio drama that was broken into pieces and delivered to players over an unlikely broadcast medium: payphones ringing in all 50 states and countries around the world.

i love bees was a giant multi-player, multi-platform story, immersing players in the world of Halo2 in the four months leading up to the title's record-shattering $125M opening day.”


“Jordan Weisman, game designer, describes the creative vision for his company’s groundbreaking
alternate reality, massively multiplayer, pervasive games The Beast (2001) and I Love Bees (2004):
“Install base: Everyone. The entire public. Platform: The world. The entire electronic sphere. If we
could make your toaster print something we would. Anything with an electric current running
through it. A single story, a single gaming experience, with no boundaries. A game that is life itself.”

(Quote from Jane McGonigal's All Game Play is Performance: The State of the Art Game)


Sean Stewart:

“Building an ARG is like running a role-playing game in your kitchen for 2 million of your closest friends. Like a role-playing game, we get players to actually enter the world of our story and interact with it, both online and in the real world.

The Beast was an online story told in a world a thousand web pages deep, where players discovered the plot and interacted with characters over phone, fax, email and website.

For I Love Bees, players decoded GPS locations and raced all over the United States to piece together more than 5 hours of radio drama being broadcast in 45 second snippets over payphones.

For me at this time, the hallmarks of an ARG are:
A story which is broken into pieces which the audience must find and assemble
The story is not bound by medium or platform: we use text, video, audio, flash, print ads, billboards, phone calls, and email to deliver parts of the plot.
This audience is massive and COLLECTIVE: it takes advantage of communication tech to work together
The audience is not only bought into the world because THEY are the ones responsible for exploring it, the audience also meaningfully affects how the story progresses. It is built in a way that allows players to have a key role in creating the fiction.”


'This Is Not a Game': Immersive Aesthetics and Collective Play
Jane McGonigal

“The increasing convergence and mobility of digital network technologies have given rise to new, massively-scaled modes of social interaction where the physical and virtual worlds meet.

This paper explores one product of these extreme networks, the emergent genre of immersive entertainment, as a potential tool for harnessing collective action.

Through an analysis of the structure and rhetoric of immersive games, I explore how immersive aesthetics can generate a new sense of social agency in game players, and how collaborative play techniques can instruct real-world problem-solving.”

"unfiction" and "collective detecting,"

Jane McGonigal's webpages

Sean Stewart: Bard 5.0: The Evolution of Storytelling—at TEDx Edmonton 3/13/10

Elan Lee & Sean Stewart: ARGFest 2007 - Keynote Address ~ Play My Game! (1 of 2) (2 of 2)


Sean Stewart with N.I.N: Year Zero (2007)


Further reading:

Immersive gaming and alternate reality games
Tim Finin, 27 December 2007
UMBC Ebiquity Blog

Secret Websites, Coded Messages: The New World of Immersive Games
By Frank Rose Email 12.20.07



Spatial/Strategic/Psychological Immersion

Blast Theory: Can You See Me Now, 2001-

“Can You See Me Now?

Can You See Me Now? is a game that happens simultaneously online and on the streets. Players from anywhere in the world can play online in a virtual city against members of Blast Theory. Tracked by satellites, Blast Theory's runners appear online next to your player on a map of the city. On the streets, handheld computers showing the positions of online players guide the runners in tracking you down.
With up to 20 people playing online at a time, players can exchange tactics and send messages to Blast Theory. An audio stream from Blast Theory's walkie talkies allowed you to eavesdrop on your pursuers: getting lost, cold and out of breath on the streets of the city.”

“Can You See Me Now? is a collaboration between Blast Theory and the Mixed Reality Lab, University of Nottingham. It was commissioned for Shooting Live Artists - a strategic initiative by Arts Council England, BBC Online and Culture Company - in 2001 and was first shown at the festival in Sheffield on 30 November and 1 December that year. Subsequent presentations in Europe have been supported by The British Council and UK presentations in 2004 and 2005 are supported through Arts Council England's Grants for the Arts programme.”

WATCH: Tokyo 2005


Blast Theory: Rider Spoke, 2007-

“Rider Spoke is a work for cyclists combining theatre with game play and state of the art technology. The project continues Blast Theory’s enquiry into performance in the age of personal communication. Developing from works such as Uncle Roy All Around You (2003) the piece invites the audience to cycle through the streets of the city, equipped with a handheld computer. They search for a hiding place and record a short message there. And then they search for the hiding places of others.

The piece continues Blast Theory’s fascination with how games and new communication technologies are creating new hybrid social spaces in which the private and the public are intertwined. It poses further questions about where theatre may be sited and what form it may take. It invites the public to be co-authors of the piece and a visible manifestation of it as they cycle through the city. It is precisely dependent on its local context and invites the audience to explore that context for its emotional and intellectual resonances.

In keeping with much of the group's work Rider Spoke has a high threshold for the audience: you must be willing to cycle, alone at night, through the city. And this sets the stage for a very personal and intimate form of participation. Instead of "User Generated Content", the artists' have approached the project as inviting "Publicly Created Contributions".”

“Rider Spoke has been developed in collaboration with the Mixed Reality Lab at University of Nottingham, Sony Net Services and the Fraunhofer Institute as part of the European research project IPerG (Integrated Project on Pervasive Gaming).”



Pervasive Gaming Research 2004-2008

“IPerG was a EU funded project (FP6 - 004457) which started on 1 September 2004 and came to an end on 29 February 2008.
The aim of IPerG has been the creation of entirely new game experiences, which are tightly interwoven with our everyday lives through the objects, devices and people that surround us and the places we inhabit. The approach has been through the exploration of several showcase games which come under the description of “pervasive games” - a radically new game form that extends gaming experiences out into the physical world.”

“Treasure Hunts where the players are trying to find certain objects in unlimited gamespace. The target of the hunt may be a planted prize, finding a certain location, or take a photograph of the hunter performing a task, etc. Often the prize or target is not valuable; the discovery is a reward in itself..

Alternative Reality Games that take the substance of everyday life and weave it into narratives that layer additional meaning, depth, and interaction upon the real world.. (for example The Beast, I Love Bees)

Pervasive Live Action Role-playing Games (LARPS)

..where the participants physically act out as a character in an environment that has at least partially been propped to look like the story setting..

Urban Adventure Games

..combine stories and puzzles with urban spaces. These games take the player to areas with some historical or cultural significance to solve puzzles, follow stories and learn also learn tidbits about the history of the place. Solving a puzzle typically provides further instructions on how to find other locations.. (for example Rider Spoke)

Smart Street Sports usually played in outside in urban areas or on university campuses where competing requires both physical exercise and cold tactical thinking. In some games all players move in the physical space, supported by GPS devices, cellular phones and other handheld computers, while others combine physical gameplay with virtual one..

Massively-multiplayer mobile games

These games are mobile phone games that rely on large number of players playing the game for long periods of time.”


Physically Immersive Game Interfaces

“Unlike traditional FPS games where the user usually sits and controls the game using a joystick/keyboard/mouse, our immersive game system forces the user to move his or her entire body to aim, run, jump, crouch etc,” Tedjokusumo told “Our immersive system can also be used to train for shooting accuracy, and the result will be very close to the real world performance.”

In the virtual reality system, players wear head-mounted displays and play the game in a rectangular room without obstacles. The head-mounted display provides each player with an image of the scene in front of them, which is the equivalent to the view on a computer or TV screen. Each player also carries a wand, which can be set up to be used as either a gun or a sword. Both the head-mounted display and the wand are tracked by a tracking system inside the room, and players receive feedback in real time. As players move through the room, they can find and pick up virtual game items, such as bullets, armor, weapons and health. Besides walking, players can also jump to dodge enemy bullets, and the player’s avatar mirrors the player’s actions.

The augmented reality system is similar to the virtual reality system, except that a player’s head-mounted display has a camera mounted in front to capture the player’s real-world view, and the game can be played in any open environment. The researchers built a game engine to calibrate the real-world data with the gaming environment (which includes the player’s weapon, other virtual game items, and sound effects). In this system, players move around in the real world using a virtual gun or sword to shoot or slash other players.”

Immersive Game System Allows Physical Interaction Between Players

“Immersive Multiplayer Games With Tangible and Physical Interaction.” Jefry Tedjokusumo, Steven ZhiYing Zhou, and Stefan Winkler. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics - Part A: Systems and Humans.


Immersive Video Wear: Vuzix VR920


Motion Controllers

Dr Li Bai
School of Computer Science
University of Nottingham

“Commercial companies have released a variety of novel, immersive controllers which have the potential to revolutionise the way we play games and enhance the user experience, by creating a more realistic, immersive environment.”


Nintendo Wii+Nunchuk (Nov. 2006)

“allows the user to interact with and manipulate items on screen via gesture recognition and pointing through the use of accelerometer and optical sensor technology”

PS3 Move (Sept. 2010)

“Based on a handheld motion controller wand, PlayStation Move uses the PlayStation Eye camera to track the wand's position, and inertial sensors in the wand to detect its motion.”

Big 3 Gun Shooting

Xbox Kinect (Nov. 2010)

“The Kinect system software allows users to operate the Xbox 360 Dashboard console user interface using voice commands and hand gestures. Techniques such as voice recognition and facial recognition are used for automatically identifying users.”


Kinectrospective: A Brief History of Controller-Free Gaming
By: Will Greenwald

“While Microsoft does get points for innovation, Kinect for Xbox 360 isn't the first attempt to make gaming a hands-free affair. Here's a quick look at how gaming without controls has evolved over the last 20 years.”,2817,2372058,00.asp


'Natural' interfaces

Dr Li Bai
School of Computer Science
University of Nottingham

“Naturalness" is used to describe a subjective evaluation of interaction, meaning being "free from artificiality, affectation, or constraint". Natural interaction technologies utilise all human senses (vision, speech, touch, feel, emotion, thoughts etc.), allowing the user to interact with them the way they do with other people. This provides a more intuitive, engaging, and natural experience for the user.”


Quantic Dream: Heavy Rain (2010)

“Heavy Rain's story is a dramatic thriller modeled after film noir, featuring four protagonists involved with the mystery of the Origami Killer, a serial killer who uses extended periods of rainfall to drown his victims. Ethan Mars is a father who is trying to save his son from being the next victim, while investigative journalist Madison Paige, FBI profiler Norman Jayden, and private detective Scott Shelby are each trying to track down clues to the Origami Killer's identity.

The player interacts with the game by performing actions highlighted on screen related to motions on the controller, and in some cases, performing a series of quick time events during fast-paced action sequences. The player's decisions and actions during the game will affect the narrative; the main characters can be killed, and certain actions may lead to different scenes and endings.”

Heavy Rain Website


In-game control

Heavy Rain (PlayStation 3) Demo - Controls Tutorial

From September 2010.. Support for Playstation Move..

Playstation Blog: Heavy Rain on PlayStation Move Comes 9/22

E3 10: Heavy Rain PlayStation Move Trailer

Heavy Rain HD Gameplay - 720p


Emotional Immersion

3D Modelling & Motion Capture

Qualisys Motion Capture of a Horse and rider (2009)

Recording of motion-captures, behaviours and objects..

Example of Ken Alderman (aka Stroker Serpentine), Second Life Entrepreneur

WATCH 05.00-08.45 / Another Perfect World Documentary (30min preview)

(Law suit against piracy since 2007)


Dr Li Bai, University of Nottingham:

“The ability to construct accurate and believable 3D models for use within the gaming environment is essential.

3D reconstruction processes would allow games players to place themselves and friends directly within the gaming world. Familiarity with the appearance of ingame characters would allow a greater degree of immersion that with generic character models.”


Lionhead: Milo (2009)

E3 2009: Project Natal Milo demo


Virtual World Documentaries

Another Perfect World (2009) by Femke Wolting & Jorien van Nes/Submarine (NL)

“Another Perfect World is a documentary about digital utopias, about online worlds created as places for work, play, friendship and love.

People have always created utopias, worlds that reflect the greatest, most enlightened and noble ideas of the period in which they live. The utopias of the future will be created online, in digital worlds capable of rendering photo-realistic depictions of whatever the mind can imagine with technologies that allow people from around the world to join in. We now have the chance to build a new world from scratch.

If you were going to do so, on which principles would you establish it? What is more important: freedom of expression; an active marketplace to encourage social interaction; or laws to define the limits of social relations?”

WATCH 05.00-08.45 / : Another Perfect World Documentary (30min preview)

Second Skin (2008) by Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza/Pure West (US)

“Second Skin takes an intimate, disturbing look at three sets of computer gamers whose lives have been transformed by the emerging genre of computer games called Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs).

World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Everquest allow millions of users to simultaneously interact in virtual spaces.

Second Skin introduces us to couples who have fallen in love without ever meeting, disabled players whose lives have been given new purpose, those struggling with addiction, Chinese gold-farming sweatshop workers, wealthy entrepreneurs and legendary guild leaders–all living within a world that doesn’t quite exist.

Second Skin focuses on a couple who met in a virtual world, an addict whose life was ruined by MMOs, and a group of MMO gamers who spend most of their lives inside virtual worlds.”

Second skin part 1

Full documentary 1hr 31 mins

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