This talk considers what exactly it is that makes digital games so uniquely involving and offers a new, more precise, and game-specific formulation of this form of game engagement. One of the most commonly yet vaguely deployed concepts in the industry and academia alike is immersion, a player’s sensation of inhabiting the space represented onscreen. This term has been greatly overused diminishing its analytical value and confusing its meaning both in terms of analysis and design.
The lecture considers the layers of experience that lead to this sense of virtual world habitation. While this concept has been generally regarded as a single form of experience the perspective forwarded here views it as a combination of six dimensions, or aspects, of player involvement. I will propose a framework based on qualitative research to describe these phenomena: the player involvement model.
This model encompasses two constituent temporal phases: the macro, representing offline involvement, and the micro, representing moment-to-moment involvement during gameplay, as well as six dimensions of player involvement: kinesthetic, spatial, shared, narrative, affective, and ludic. The intensified and internalized experiential blend can culminate in incorporation, a concept I will propose as an alternative to the problematic immersion. Incorporation, I argue, is a more accurate metaphor, providing a robust foundation for future research and design.
Gordon Calleja is associate professor and director at the Institute of Digital Games at the University of Malta. Gordon is also game designer and writer at Mighty Box, an independent game studio in Malta.
His recent publications include: In-Game:From Immersion to Incorporation, an academic analysis of player involvement and immersion published by MIT Press; Will Love Tear Us Apart, an art game adaptation of Joy Division’s track that was nominated for several international awards; Posthuman,a narrative board game and its digital cousin, Posthuman:Sanctuary which adapts the board game through a blend of a rogue-like mechanics and interactive fiction and most recently Vengeance, a board game adaptation of revenge movies.