The Importance of Immersion in Gaming

Games are probably the ultimate form of escapism. They have an element of interactivity that no other medium has, and that gives them the potential to really bring the player into a world they can participate in. This kind of immersion is what sets games apart from films or books.

It’s disappointing to see how often developers get it wrong.

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You’ll get developers who think realism is all you need to immerse a player. They think that if the graphics all look like real life that the player will think it is. They couldn’t be more wrong. Things need to behave realistically too. It doesn’t matter how life-like your setting is, if the characters don’t move or respond to your actions naturally, you might as well not have bothered. It works for films like Avatar because they have real people acting out a script, not automated characters that need to adapt to everything the player does.

The Importance of Immersion in Gaming

Controls are another area where developers have tried and failed to achieve immersion. Motion controls, such as the Wii remote and the upcoming Playstation Move seem like a good idea at first: players imitate the actions they want to perform in game with the controllers. But, in reality, it just makes the controls awkward and frustrating. Motions only superficially resemble the actions and without some form of physical feedback, swinging a controller will not feel like hitting something with a sword. Ideally, with controls, you want the player to be able to think about what they want to do in the game and just do it. This is more than possible with just simple buttons. Gimmicky motion controls are not needed.

Voice acting can make or break a game’s immersiveness. Unfortunately, voice acting is usually an afterthought and the actors aren’t given much context, just some lines to read out. A line that sounds odd in context can throw you out of the experience. Actors for films need to know the context and their motivation to give a good performance, so why aren’t more developers giving their voice actors the same privileges?

I have seen games do it right, though, and they should be praised for it! Recent Call of Duty games have been very immersive, with smooth controls and situation that put your character in a sort of “controllable helplessness”. Your character will be in a situation where they can’t move, you can still look around (and shoot stuff if you still have your gun). It’s a simple trick, but just by not taking control away from the player, you avoid breaking the game’s flow, making the tense moments all the more impressive.

The climbing and free-running in the Assassin’s Creed games is also deserving of mention. There’s no repetitive button tapping, just hold down one button and point where you want to go. Your character just takes the appropriate action to climb, vault or swing over what’s in the way. They’ve programmed it marvellously so that you get a sense of the freedom you have to go anywhere, whatever walls or obstacles obstruct your path. You can just get lost in the city.

If you can lose yourself in a game like that, you know you’re having fun! Immersion separates games from films and it’s also what separates an average game from a great game!

The Importance of Immersion in Gaming
Foo Fighters – Rope Video Clips. Duration : 4.33 Mins.

Music video by Foo Fighters performing Rope. (C) 2011 Roswell Records, Inc. under license to RCA Records, a unit of Sony Music Entertainment

Keywords: Foo, Fighters, Rope, RCA, Records, Label, Rock

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