Game Loop is a very relaxed un-conference where everyone votes on topics and the top 25 or so happens during the day. The talk was approved and I went in super jazzed that local devs and soon-to-be developers had at least some interest in theatre and game immersion. What surprised me when I started to introduce basic kinds of game immersion and their counter parts in theatre, was how many people didn't know the basic kinds of immersion. I quickly got through why theatre is a viable industry to pull from and a few examples of how development or design principles ( audience placement, method acting, theatre games, etc.) can be applied to games. All head nods and interest. What came next was confusing and encouraging.
The discussion and questions turned to deeper explanations of what immersion is. People were asking if games only use one kind (no). Its often layered, and good games that really grab you take you through those layers so smoothly that you barely notice it. I was asked why if general immersion is just being sucked into a game, why there are more defined types then. "Well, when you are designing an experience you need to break it down into different parts and see where users are being removed from the game. Then you account for sections that aren't working and find a way to work around it. Naming and defining different kinds of immersion let you better track your research and share it with others."
For a while the talk when into a hate fest of the worst things games do to break immersion. It was interesting to hear how much save points, cut scenes, and monitization opportunities came up over and over. The feverish way that people continually tried to define their experience and debate what kind of immersion should happen when was amazing, but also belied a fundamental misunderstanding of why immersion is an important thing to consider. One person actually said they didn't believe that this was a real thing.....
I can assure everyone that immersion is a real thing. Its what we generically call "getting sucked into a game". Instead of just trying to see if your game is sucking everyone in, we can as game developers, look at our games from a slightly or more refined view and ask "what kind of immersion am I looking for here?" If I wanted someone to be viscerally immersed but they are playing a puzzle game, I might be (way) off the mark. This kind of eye can refine what we do and can take as much or as little effort as we want to put into it. Knowing specifically what it is we are trying to do will eliminate some of the ambiguity of development and make the process easier. That's why knowing types of immersion is important.
So I did not get to discuss the confluence of theatre and game immersion as much as I wanted to. I did get a better grasp of the level of knowledge my audience might have when I approach the topic again. I also know there is some fervent interest in the topic and the research will continue!