Immersion: The tale of experiencing a video game

Have you ever been so immersed in a game that you feel as though you are the character you are playing as? As in, you feel as though you are in the world you are exploring, and not just at a computer. Have you ever felt so invested in a game that as events unfold in the game, you have emotional, and/or physical responses, as if you are experiencing it directly?

Immersion is a powerful force and as I have matured as a gamer (and in life) it is a force that I have stumbled onto, and which has shifted the way I play through and enjoy games.

As I mentioned, this feeling of truly experiencing a video game and the ability to transport myself into the game I are playing is something I have developed. I have no recollection of this as a child, and I’m not entirely sure when it started. But suddenly playing games such as Pokémon, I really feel like I am on an adventure to learn and catch ‘em all (and have fun, that never changes), and not just in it to win the game as I used to be.

I have been inspired to write about this because I recently bought and played through The Witness. First of all, the game is brilliant. Everything about it is simple, but executed perfectly, cleverly, and creatively, and I love it. The reason it inspired me is that from the get go through to the end of the game, I felt fully immersed and in awe of the world around me.

You start alone, stranded on this beautiful island, and I felt like I was there. When I turned my head and looked around in the game, I felt as though I was physically doing that, and experiencing the world around me. I felt inclined to explore, and discover all the secrets and features hidden throughout. There is no dialogue or cutscenes, the whole game is witnessed (pun intended) through your eyes. In effect, the world tells the story, and it was up to me to interpret it.

I didn’t feel like I was playing a game, I felt like I was experiencing it.

This experience that is The Witness was far more rich and deep than anything I have played before it. As I moved from area to area, my mood and feeling changed with it. From the joy of being in an autumn forest one minute, to the curiosity of going through a dark cave the next. Exploring the world was immensely satisfying, and the puzzles were so inventive and smart I could spend hours doing either and it would be a joy. Plus who can’t appreciate no load times.

While this is a perfect example, it isn’t the only game where it feels more like an experience than a game (which is a good thing). Horror games such as Slender and Outcast put you in some of the scariest environments possible, and I scare easily, so that was more of a “pissing-myself-in-fear” experience rather than exhilarating as some of my friends find them. Also Half-life and Portal both do a great job at immersing you in the story and the world, and make experiences such as firefights and flying through portals that much more visceral and heart-racing. These are just a few example, there are many, many more but I won’t name them here.

Surely this is what a lot developers strive for in their games. All the time and imagination that goes into crafting a world for you, the gamer, to explore and play in is designed to immerse you, and make you feel for it. Without a doubt, some games achieve this better than others, and when it’s executed well as in The Witness, the result is magical.

But I am just one person, I would love to hear from you. What games do you really connect with? And how is the experience different from other games? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and if you enjoyed this post, be sure to give it a like. Until next time, stay beautiful 🙂