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Incorporation thus operates on a double axis: Put it another way, incorporation occurs when the game world is present to the player while the player is simultaneously present, via the avatar, to the virtual environment p. Possiamo studiare i giochi e dimenticarci dei giocatori? Per Calleja si tratta di scegliere un baricentro su cui basare la propria riflessione piuttosto che una trincea teorica.


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It is only in ergodic media that we find this kind of agency, and only in virtual environ ments of the sort we have discussed that such a presence in the virtual world is possible. Game Studies , 11 3. This is especially problematic for the study of games since, as a number of theorists have argued, the experiential phenomenon referred to by the terms is a crucial part of the player experience Ermi and Mayra, ; King and Krzywinska, ; Tamborini and Skalski, ; Brown and Cairns, ; Jennett et al.

Of the two terms, immersion is particularly awkward because it has also been applied to the experience of non-ergodic media such as painting Grau, , literature Nell, , and cinema Bazin, , all of which provide forms of engagement that are qualitatively different from those of game environments.

A term was needed to account for the awareness of the potential to act within two spaces: Will we be able to couple our artificial devices naturally and comfortably to work together with the sensory mechanisms of human organisms? Immersion 19 The issues that Minsky raised became important not only in the field of telerobotics, but more generally in virtual reality technology, where fostering a strong sense of telepresence had long been a high priority.

These concerns were seen as central not just to issues regarding interface design, but more importantly to the design of virtual reality environments themselves. The group sought to determine the best ways of defining and measuring presence in order to inform the design of virtual reality environments and the corresponding hardware.

In-Game: From Immersion to Incorporation

The history of presence research, however, is replete with definitional conflicts. Aside from the general consensus that presence concerns the sensation of being inside a virtual environment, there have been considerable disagreements over the definitions of main terms in the field. Richard Held and Nathaniel Durlach , on the other hand, used the term to refer to both cases.

These differences are not merely terminological, but ontological. In claiming that stimuli arising in virtual and physical environments are equivalent, Wijnand Ijsselsteijn and Giuseppe Riva sideline the contrived nature of a digitally designed environment and the modes of interaction and interpretation that result from this. Even when virtual environments are designed for more open-ended behavior, as is the virtual world Second Life Linden Lab, , we have no conclusive evidence that players are, at any point in their interaction, confused about the designed nature of the environment.

This is not to say that virtual environments do not have the potential for facilitating a variety of complex forms of interactions, but that their designed nature cannot be completely ignored by players. By not differentiating between stimuli arising from physical and virtual environments, Ijsselsteijn and Riva contribute to the conceptual confusion surrounding the terms presence and immersion. This assumption creates a number of conceptual problems for understanding the phenomenon of presence, as we shall see below. Mel Slater is a strong proponent of this view, arguing that a high-fidelity sound system makes listeners feel as though they were listening to a live orchestra, whether or not they find the music itself engaging: You would not conclude, because the music is uninteresting, that you did not have the illusion of being in the theatre listening to the orchestra.

The first statement is about form. The second statement is about content. A [virtual environment] system can be highly presence inducing, and yet have a really uninteresting, uninvolving content just like many aspects of real life! This conception of media technologies does not give enough importance to the key role that interpretation and agency play in creating a sense of presence. Interpretation does not need to be a conscious action. Most interactions with an Immersion 21 environment are possible because we have an internalized knowledge of how various aspects of that environment work.

When we are faced with experiences we cannot readily interpret, our mode of being becomes more critically removed and we must actively think about what we are doing Heidegger, Our prior experience, expectations, and knowledge form a crucial part of this interpretative relation. While high-fidelity systems are an important part of enhancing the intensity of an experience, they cannot in themselves create a sense of presence.

As mentioned earlier, progress in the field of game studies has been hampered by a lack of agreement on the use of both presence and immersion. These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, yet at other times are given more specific and complementary meanings Ijsselsteijn and Riva, It is also not uncommon to find conflicting or contradictory applications by different theorists. In this view, the term immersion is being used to describe the affective properties of the hardware, while presence is the psychological response to this technology.

While Witmer and Singer use immersion in the same way that Slater and Wilbur use the term presence, they view presence as a combination of involvement and immersion. On the one hand, the properties of a technology are seen as determining presence, while, on the other, the specific qualities and affordances of the medium are sidelined. The idea that one can experience presence in ergodic and non-ergodic media is now common enough in presence research that it is generally taken as a given Witmer and Singer, ; Schubert and Crusius, ; Gysbers et al.

Consequently, presence researchers have stretched the concept of presence to account for what is essentially an entirely noetic phenomenon. Even if we argue that certain qualities of the medium and text in question afford such an experience, the phenomenon remains within the domain of subjective imagination. The scientific community initially coined the term presence because a new technology enabled a qualitatively different form of experience than had been possible before its inception. In this case, two forms of experience: Extending the term to cover imagined presence in works of literature, film, or freeroaming imagination sidelines the core concern: In an imagined scene, whatever happens is simply willed by the imaginer, who usually knows that she is directing the composition and events of the scene.

This aspect of games fundamentally alters how the player perceives herself within the world, and is not present in literature, films, or personal imagining. When we identify with a character in a movie or book, or imagine we are in the same room as the protagonist, we have no way of altering the course of events, no way of exerting agency. Likewise, the environments and characters represented in these media have no way of reacting to our presence, no matter how strongly we identify with them.

Presence as Transparency In an attempt to reconcile the disagreements within the field, Matthew Lombard and Theresa Ditton surveyed the various uses of presence in the literature. They identified six characterizations of presence: Psychological immersion is equivalent to the metaphor of immersion as absorption as used by Brown and Cairns , Douglas and Hargadon , Ermi and Mayra , Jennett et al.

The transparency alluded to is that of the interface. Transparency erases the interface and offers the viewer or user as direct an experience of the represented space as possible. But, as has been argued in various areas of aesthetic inquiry, transparency is not unique to virtual environments. This is the point where being conscious of the illusion turns into unconsciousness of it. As a general rule, one can say that the principle of immersion is used to withdraw the apparatus of the medium of illusion from the perception of the observers to maximize the intensity of the message being transported.

The medium becomes invisible. Although the transparency of the medium and text discussed by Bolter and Grusin, Grau , Lombard and Ditton , and others is an essential quality of immersion, it is not by itself sufficient to describe the multiple dimensions of the experiential phenomenon. Exile Presto Studios, This results in a pigeonholing of aspects of the game without bringing out the specific affordances of Myst III which foster a sense of presence.

When describing social realism, for instance, McMahan states that: As a result of these measures, the game has an extremely high degree of social realism, as the majority of the elements in this fantastical world conform quite closely to how things would be in our world. Mechanical contraptions can be manipulated, vehicles operated for the sake of transportation, and book pages turned. This does not get us any closer to understanding presence in the game. When she turns to immersion, McMahan follows a common trend in game studies in conceptualizing immersion as a form of involvement, diverting it from its connotations of transportation found more commonly in presence theory.

Immersion 25 Presence and Immersion in Game Studies Outside of presence theory, immersion finds its most frequent use in the context of digital games. The application of the term, however, varies considerably: It is used to refer to experiential states as diverse as general engagement, perception of realism, addiction, suspension of disbelief, identification with game characters, and more. This plethora of meanings is understandable when it comes to industrial or popular uses of the term, but it is also common within academic game studies.

Given that the phenomenon that immersion and presence have been employed to refer to is increasingly important in shaping the experience of digital games, we require a more precise approach. As the representational power of computer graphics and audio increases, game companies have adopted immersive as a promotional adjective to market their games. This strategy was initially employed almost exclusively to promote photorealistic graphics, but now is also used to market other features, such as the scope of the game world, the artificial intelligence, or an engaging narrative: Conan takes graphics in MMOs to a new level!

With the latest and greatest in technology and an amazing art direction the graphics in Conan immerses you into a world as never before seen in any online fantasy universe. Funcom, Taking place in a massive, free-roaming city featuring five distinct interconnected neighborhoods, Need for Speed Underground 2 delivers an immersive game world where the streets are your menus.

Electronic Arts, Half-Life sends a shock through the game industry with its combination of pounding action and continuous, immersive storytelling. Valve Software, The underlying assertion in these and other examples is that immersion is a positive experiential quality of games that is desirable for the consumer. At times immersion seems to be seen as something of a holy grail within the game industry because of its connection with an engagement that draws players so deeply into the game world that they feel as if they are part of it.

There are echoes of cyberpunk romanticism here and perhaps an unstated ideal desire to delve, Neo-like Wachowski and Wachowski, , into a virtual reality that replaces the realm of physical existence. This idealization of total immersion has been critiqued by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman , who argue that too many designers share this 26 Chapter 2 mimetic imperative in game design.

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The immersive fallacy is the idea that the pleasure of a media experience lies in its ability to sensually transport the participant into an illusory, simulated reality. According to the immersive fallacy, this reality is so complete that ideally the frame falls away so that the player truly believes that he or she is part of an imaginary world.

They instead argue for designers to come up with more engaging gameplay mechanics. The confusion in this conversation has emerged because representational strategies are conflated with the effect of immersion. Immersion itself is not tied to a replication or mimesis of reality. For example, one can get immersed in Tetris. They rightly highlight the problems associated with equating immersion with representational mimesis and the merits of avoiding design principles based solely on the pursuit of greater realism.

But this point is made at the cost of the specificity of meaning that immersion has accrued in discussions surrounding virtual environments. We will call this kind of immersion immersion as absorption. Immersion 27 Figure 2. The problem here is that the absorption sense of immersion jettisons a history of application in the context of virtual environments within both the humanities Murray, ; Ryan, ; Laurel, and presence theory Steuer, ; Tamborini and Skalski, ; Ijsselsteijn, ; Ijsselsteijn and Riva, ; Waterworth and Waterworth, ; Slater, We will call this second use of immersion, which refers to the idea of being present in another place, immersion as transportation.

Thus, a game like Half-Life 2 presents the player not just with an engaging activity, but also with a world to be navigated. A player who assimilates this game world into their gameplay as a metaphorically habitable environment can be thought of as being transported to that world. This experience is made possible by the anchoring of the player to a specific location in the game world via their avatar, which the game world and its inhabitants, including other players, react to. There are at least two reasons for this. First, none of these games recognizes the presence of the player within a single location in its environment.

In each case the player controls objects blocks, gems, planets without being embodied in any single in-game entity. Second, the game environment is represented in its totality on one screen; there is no element of continuous spatial navigation. This is also true of strategy games in which the player controls 28 Chapter 2 multiple miniatures or a collective unit such as a nation without being digitally embodied in the world through an avatar.

By engaging with the game world as a map rather than as a spatial environment, the player remains in conceptual rather than inhabited space. In emphasizing immersion as absorption in a game like Tetris, Gorfinkel, Salen, and Zimmerman sideline the importance of spatiality as a defining feature of the phenomenon to which immersion has been used to refer in the context of virtual environments. Marie-Laure Ryan has argued that the representation of space, whether it is internally generated or graphically displayed, is one of the key features of the subjective experience of immersion: It is counterproductive for a field to use a term like immersion in its earlier, more general sense when it has since accrued specific meaning within its discursive domain.

This is particularly true when theorists do not clarify which of the two meanings they using in a specific study. The blurring of difference between the two applications of immersion as absorption and as transportation also obscures the fact that game environments enable qualitatively different forms of engagement from other media. This reduces, rather than develops, the critical vocabulary available to game studies. Unfortunately, the confusion surrounding immersion is pervasive in the literature and discussions accumulating within the field.

Jon Dovey and Helen Kennedy , for example, use the terms immersion and engagement interchangeably to refer to the absorbing qualities of digital games: This is a critical aspect of the unique time economy that characterizes computer gameplay. It is entirely commonplace that gameplay experience seems to lie outside of day to day clock time—we sit down to play and discover that hours have passed in what seemed like minutes. This sense of immersion as absorption makes the term as readily applicable to gardening or cooking Immersion 29 as it does to game environments.

While there is nothing wrong with this use of the term in itself, it undermines the more specific sense of transportation that is crucial when discussing game environments. They contrast this with a state of engagement, which is a more distanced and critical mode of experience required by more complex texts. Engagement calls upon a more conscious interpretative effort that results in a discontinuous interaction with the text: This conceptualization acknowledges a continuum of experience moving from conscious attention to unconscious involvement that is important in understanding the process of engagement with games.

But the argument becomes challenging to sustain when the authors sideline the considerably different qualities of literary works and games, and consequently the forms of engagement each affords: Book readers might imagine themselves within the space world described by a literary work, but that world does not recognize them.

On the other hand, game environments afford extranoetic habitation by recognizing and reacting to the presence of the player. Books also do not provide readers with the possibility of actually not imaginatively acting within the worlds they describe. This is the most basic form of involvement, which Brown and Cairns relate to the desire and ability to interact with a game. Engrossment describes a deeper level of involvement characterized by emotional attachment to a game.

They also equate this degree of emotional affect with a loss of awareness of self and surroundings. Although affect and loss of awareness of surroundings can and do mingle in game-related and everyday experiences, they do not seem to be intrinsically tied together, and Brown and Cairns do not provide us with an explanation for why they might be. Finally, the authors identify total immersion as the most intense form of involvement, and argue that this state is synonymous with presence. The problem with this conceptualization of immersion is that it mixes the two metaphors we are exploring.

At the first two levels, immersion is seen as the same as absorption, but at the third and most intense stage of total immersion, the metaphor switches to immersion as transportation. A later paper by Cairns et al. The experiment proposed two hypotheses: This is another example of a mixed application of the terms.

Although the Immersion 31 researchers set out to explore immersion as absorption, the assumptions underlying their hypotheses are tied to a sense of presence in a virtual world inherent in the immersion-as-transportation metaphor. This is problematic because it is not clear whether the conclusions derived from the experiment relate to the absorption or transportation metaphors of immersion.

A second problem with the study is that, although it claimed to explore a phenomenon specific to games, the impairment of subsequent task completion would be equally relevant to that caused by any deeply involving cognitive task. Such impairment has little bearing on the specific experience of game playing, or of shifting experiential worlds, but is a function of cognitive readjustment and fatigue. We have all had the experience of being distracted for a brief period after any cognitively intense activity, from reading a book to watching a television show.

This overgeneralized view of immersion makes quantifiable measurement difficult, if not impossible, until the various forms of involvement are explored, conceptualized, and tested. Sensory immersion relates to engagement with the representational, audiovisual layer of games. Challenge-based immersion addresses the employment of both mental and motor skills in overcoming challenges presented by the game.

Imaginative immersion seems to be a catchall category that encompasses everything from identification with a character to engagement in the narrative and game world. It also, importantly, emphasizes the difference between involvement in games and involvement in other media. Ermi and Mayra are also consistent in their application of the notion of immersion as absorption, which they derived from a series of interviews with children. There is, of course, no reason why a term cannot be used in a particular sense if it is adequately defined, but there is a difficulty in attempting to empirically establish the meaning of a term like immersion by asking the general populace what it means.

The general populace will usually not be aware of the theoretical connotations of the term and will thus give a more 32 Chapter 2 generic perspective on it. This is a problem when the term is then used in the field in a more colloquial sense that clashes with the more academically technical one. The Four Challenges Theoretical concepts and metaphors accumulate a specific meaning that does not necessarily translate outside of the academic context in which they are used.

If we want to describe the more general forms of involvement in games, we can use terms that do not have the theoretical associations of immersion, such as engagement, absorption, or involvement. What is problematic, from a theoretical perspective, is when investigations of involvement, like those cited above Jennett et al. The terms might be the same, but the experiential phenomenon they are investigating is not.

Conducting studies without acknowledging that the central term we are investigating has a dual meaning in the colloquial and academic domains will inevitably lead to difficulties in making progress. This is not to say that we do not need to study immersion as absorption or involvement. It is precisely with involvement that we must begin our investigations, but we would be wise to avoid confusion and call it what it is—involvement. In this chapter we have thus identified four key challenges to gaining a clear understanding of immersion: Immersion as absorption versus immersion as transportation There is a lack of consensus on the use of immersion to refer to either general involvement in a medium Salen and Zimmerman, ; Jennett et al.

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This is particularly problematic when researchers do not clarify which one of these terms they are using Immersion 33 or when they oscillate between the two within the same study Brown and Cairns, ; Cairns et al. Immersion in non-ergodic media For a precise formulation of both immersion as absorption and immersion as transportation, we need to acknowledge the specificities of the medium in question.

In this case, immersion in ergodic and immersion in non-ergodic media are simply not the same thing. The challenge of addressing a complex and preconscious phenomenon such as immersion as transportation is increased considerably if we try to extend the concept to multiple media with considerably varied qualities and affordances for engagement. Technological determinism Although the specifics of the medium are crucial for our understanding of the experiences they afford, we should avoid seeing such experiences as being determined by the qualities of the technology.

A bigger screen and a higher fidelity of representation, for example, might make it easier for users to focus and to keep their attention on the representation, but this does not necessarily mean that users will feel more present in the environment portrayed. Monolithic perspectives on immersion The principal reason for 3 is that whether immersion is defined as absorption or as transportation, both are made up of a number of experiential phenomena rather than being a single experience we can discover and measure. Whichever term we use, whether we try to clarify the use of presence or immersion, or propose a new metaphor, as will be done here, these challenges need to be addressed before progress can be made in further exploring the phenomenon.

Toward a Solution Virtual environments offer a particular form of mediated experience that was not previously possible. Two terms have been formulated in different disciplines to articulate this experiential phenomenon. Technologists, media psychologists, and human-computer interaction researchers, among others, refer to this experience as presence, while humanists and, later, social scientists adopted the metaphor of immersion.

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The terms have both 34 Chapter 2 suffered from varied application and their use has generated a number of debates, primarily relating to the breadth of experiential domains they cover. This is not to say that we cannot make advances in exploring this phenomenon, but we need to be realistic about the limitations underlying such an endeavor.

The first step to understanding our sense of inhabiting virtual environments is therefore the establishment of clear and precise terms that take into consideration the specifics of the medium without making normative statements about how such specific characteristics determine experience. To do this, we need to be critical of the implications and assumptions written into the metaphors we use. Any treatment of the experientially complex phenomenon of presence in virtual environments must first consider the structure of its key prerequisite: We cannot feel present anywhere without first directing our attention toward and becoming involved with the environment.

We thus need a model for understanding player involvement in virtual game environments. Once the various forms of involvement are outlined, we can proceed to examine how these combine and interact in consciousness to create a sense of presence. The basic assumption made here is that whatever we decide to call this phenomenon, it will not be a single, monolithic form of experience, but will emerge from the combination of these forms of involvement.

In order to limit the considerable list of unknowns related to examining such experiential phenomena, we must focus on limiting the scope of our inquiry to the specific affordances of virtual game environments. The rest of this book will thus present a model for understanding player involvement in virtual game environments. To address these challenges, I will first establish a better understanding of player involvement. Involvement is a prerequisite to the experience of higher-order cognitive processes such as presence or immersion in much the same way that attention is a prerequisite of involvement.

It therefore makes sense to establish a thorough model of involvement before going on to attempt a formulation of what is essentially a preconscious experiential phenomenon that combines multiple dimensions of involvement. Chapter 2 described the scarcity of comprehensive conceptual frameworks that can be employed to understand the multiple facets of player involvement and, consequently, immersion in digital games and virtual worlds. Having reached this conclusion in my initial research, I felt it was important not only to relate the theoretical works on the subject to observations drawn from my own experience in games, but to observe the views of other players through personal participation in the same game world as the participants and, more specifically, by way of a series of focus groups and in-depth interviews with them.

A qualitative perspective was adopted due to the intensely experiential and richly varied nature of the object of inquiry, following other researchers of virtual worlds such as T. Taylor , Constance Steinkuehler , and Lisbeth Klastrup The primary research methods were extended personal participation in the two selected game environments, numerous focus groups, and indepth interviews with twenty-five experienced players recruited in-game. These techniques were supported by discussions with academics studying virtual worlds, participation in on-line forums, monitoring of player blogs, and viewing player-made machinima.

The interviews, which provided the core data for analysis, were semistructured and extended over two sessions, each up to two hours long. Each interview took place within the virtual environment of the game about which the participant was being interviewed, in order to further stimulate their memory and to bring their relationship to the game world to the fore.

The interviews followed a loosely structured schedule with a focus always placed on experiences related to immersion. The data was coded and analyzed between interviews, with the interview schedule updated in the intervening period to reflect input from the participants. Over time, a number of strong themes emerged from the interviews, and the player involvement model is based on these salient features of the data. Structure of the Model When I analyzed the qualitative research data gathered for this project, it became clear that it was important to make a distinction between aspects of a game which engaged players in the moment of playing from aspects that attracted players to the game initially and kept them returning to the The Player Involvement Model 37 game over time.

I refer to these aspects as micro-involvement and macroinvolvement respectively. Let us look at a brief example of what each of these covers. In my own experience, I find that what involves me deeply in Empire: Total War Creative Assembly, are its on-line multiplayer battles. Here you select and control an eighteenth-century army in a real-time battle against a human opponent.

Next, all players deploy their armies in a stipulated zone and the game starts in earnest. The plans and choices I make during the game, my control of the individual units on the battlefield, and my attempts at outmaneuvering my opponent are all examples of aspects of the game which involve me deeply during gameplay. These aspects of involvement in the moment of play are all part of the micro-involvement phase.

When I turn off the PC and go to bed, I inevitably start thinking of different army configurations and other ways to use certain units. Like many gamers, I run through what happened in my recent battles and why certain tactics failed and others succeeded. Total War, the campaign mode starts in and allows players to manage one of the many factions in the game in a bid to become the strongest empire in the world at the time.

I refer to this form of ongoing motivation to interact with the game and the off-line thinking that fuels it as macro-involvement. The player involvement model identifies six dimensions of involvement, each considered relative to two temporal phases: The six dimensions correspond to the clusters of emphasis derived from analysis of the research data. The dimensions are experienced not in isolation but always in relation to each other, the separation being made here for the sake of analysis. Dimensions are experienced unconsciously during the interpretative and communicative process and therefore play an important role in noticing and directing attention toward aspects of a given reality.

In the case of the player involvement model, this reality is made up primarily of stimuli originating from the game 38 Chapter 3 Figure 3. The dimensions should be seen as layered and transparent in nature. This means that one dimension influences how another is perceived and interacted with.

The dimensions are transparent in that their layering does not occlude what lies beneath, but changes the perception of both. The dimensions of the player involvement model similarly combine in the game-playing experience, with the inclusion or exclusion of a dimension affecting how others operate. The six dimensions of the player involvement model are kinesthetic involvement, spatial involvement, shared involvement, narrative involvement, affective involvement, and ludic involvement.

The following chapters will elaborate at length on the macro and micro phases of each of these dimensions, but this chapter will give a brief outline of each. Macro-involvement As Karolien Poels notes, research on game experiences has focused primarily on the moment of gameplay. This off-line involvement is described by the macro phase of the model. It concerns issues of motivations and sustained engagement with digital games through the long-term as opposed to immediate aspects of the six dimensions of involvement that make up the model.

Their participants reported a variety of forms of postgame involvement that could be mapped onto the dimensions of the player involvement model. Although Poels et al. Postgame experiences can range, for example, from the sense of accomplishment derived from completing an elusive game goal ludic involvement to the satisfying feeling of recalling impressive feats of avatar control kinesthetic involvement or a sense of inner peace following travels in aesthetically moving surroundings spatial and affective involvement.

Pregame experiences are also important to consider because they give a context for the individual game-playing session. It is harder to model this form of involvement since it is guided less by the formal aspects of the game than is the case in the micro phase, but this is not to say that the formal characteristics of games are irrelevant for macro-involvement. Since this phase exists largely as a contextualization of the actual moment of gameplay, in the following chapters I will address more general issues surrounding involvement in the particular dimension in question, as a way to frame the discussion of actual play and the corresponding micro-involvement in the rest of each chapter.

The macro phase of the player involvement model addresses longerterm motivations as well as off-line thinking and activities that keep players returning to a game. Examples of this were common in the responses of participants in my research. They often commented on the plans and strategies they formed during work hours, in conversation with others, or through on-line resources and community sites. Other participants described the construction of stories featuring their in-game characters, and the majority expressed the importance of persisting social bonds to their prolonged engagement with a game.

In Ludo Res We now shift our attention from the broader motivations that attract players to games to the moment-by-moment engagement of gameplay described by the micro-involvement phase of the player involvement model. A crucial first step for forming a conceptual toolkit that will help in analyzing and discussing game experience is to make a distinction between the general direction of attention toward a medium and the form of active involvement prevalent during gameplay. All forms of representational media require the investment of attention in order to interpret them.

Without attention there can be no involvement. The term attention generally refers to the concentration of mental resources toward some particular stimulus or stimuli. This involves an assortment of skills, processes, and cognitive states that interact with each other and with other brain processes Fan et al. Attention underlies everything that we do, and plays a crucial role in perception, thinking, learning, and performance.

When the brain carries out activities simultaneously, the coordination of their execution also involves attention. Most of the time, we are not aware of the way in which attention affects our performance or behavior. It becomes more apparent when, for example, we are trying to comprehend complex information, learn a new task, or The Player Involvement Model 41 engage in activities that are unfamiliar to us. In such situations, the information required to solve the task or manage the situation can be greater than what our attentional capacity system can handle Baddeley and Hitch, ; Sturm and Willmes, As a result of this innate capacity limit of the human information processing system, our attentional resources are allocated to those aspects of a task most relevant to us at that particular time.

Learning a particular task requires the ability to attend to the relevant stimuli, and as the information is transferred to long-term memory storage and is learned, the behavior required by the task becomes internalized and automatic. The learned task will thus require less attentional resources, freeing resources that now can be allocated to new tasks. Although attention is a key prerequisite for involvement, it does not adequately describe the experience. It is helpful, therefore, to differentiate between general attention directed toward a medium and the active input from the player.

Watching a movie does not require the same kind of involvement as game playing or navigation of a virtual environment, and treating them as experiential equivalents ignores the specific qualities of each experience. This situation has, at times, caused difficulties within game scholarship when analytical frameworks from other disciplines have been imported without modification to the study of games.

The cybertext is characterized by ergodicity: The player reconfigures the constitution of the text through her input. Ergodic forms of engagement, such as gameplay, are not limited to direct input. The effort implicit in the ergodic is first and foremost a disposition and readiness to act, not merely the action of pressing a button or pulling a joystick. For example, one of the pleasures of strategy games is the mental effort required to come up with a particularly brilliant plan or move.

During very involving games, these periods of seeming inactivity can be long, but it would make little sense to label such periods as not 42 Chapter 3 Figure 3. This consideration is also applicable to action games. In Red Orchestra Tripwire Interactive, , a first-person shooter game, for example, a player is lying on the floor of a three-story ruined building, covering a street with a sniper rifle. There are no enemies in sight, but the sniper expects them to emerge in the near future as the street leads to one of the main game objectives on the map.

Although there is no direct input on the part of the player, the readiness to act requires her to stay alert. At any second someone might emerge around that street corner, and the sniper must be ready to deal with him, or the fruits of her labor will go to waste. Planning a move in a strategy game clearly requires effort and is thus an important aspect of ergodicity, as is the readiness to act discussed in the Red Orchestra example above. The Player Involvement Model 43 The Dimensions of the Player Involvement Model Kinesthetic Involvement Kinesthetic involvement relates to all modes of avatar or game piece control in virtual environments, ranging from learning controls to the fluency of internalized movement.

Kinesthetic involvement is discussed in chapter 4. It accounts for the process of internalizing game spaces that is a powerful factor in engaging players and giving them the sense that they are inhabiting a place, rather than merely perceiving a representation of space. These agents can be human- or computer-controlled, and the interactions can be thought of in terms of cohabitation, cooperation, and competition. Shared involvement thus encompasses all aspects relating to being with other entities in a common environment, ranging from making collaborative battle strategies to discussing guild politics or simply being aware of the fact that actions are occurring in a social context.

It addresses two interrelated dimensions of narrative in games: Narrative involvement is discussed in chapter 7. Affective Involvement The affective involvement dimension encompasses various forms of emotional engagement. Emotional engagement can range from the calming sensation of coming across an aesthetically pleasing scene to the adrenaline rush of an on-line competitive first-person-shooter round to the uncanny effect of an eerie episode in an action-horror game.

These choices can be directed toward a goal stipulated by the game, established by a player, or decided by a community of players. Decisions can also be made on the spur of the moment without relation to any overarching goal. Seasoned game players understand that well-balanced game systems emphasize the opportunity cost of any particular action taken. Without repercussions, actions lose their meaning. Applying the Model Applying the player involvement model to practical analysis does not require all the dimensions to be equally relevant to a specific game; for example, the intensity and complexity of spatial involvement in The Elder Scrolls IV: This does not mean that space does not play a role in a game like Pong, but that the potential breadth of involvement with this dimension of the game is severely limited when compared to game environments that at times represent whole regions in minute detail.

The Player Involvement Model 45 The outer edge of each triangular segment in the model represents full attentional resources directed toward that dimension of involvement. In this state, players will be attending primarily to that one dimension. The narrowing triangles of each dimension in the micro phase represent a process of internalization, where a move toward the center requires incrementally less attentional resources directed toward that dimension of involvement. With more attentional resources freed, players will attend to multiple dimensions simultaneously.

The further toward the center players move, the more dimensions may be simultaneously attended to. The direction of attention tends to change frequently and fluidly, with multiple dimensions being combined and recombined as involvement proceeds. This includes following on-screen instructions relating to avatar control or looking up and reassigning keys and buttons to the desired controls and then testing how these feel in the game. As players find the control setup that feels most intuitive to them or get used to the one supplied by the game, their conscious attention moves away from the basic controls to other aspects of the game.

When a particularly demanding maneuver is required, conscious attention toward controls might resurface until the maneuver is learned, and so on. Since, as discussed above, humans have a limited attentional capacity, devoting more conscious attention to one of the dimensions leaves less that can be invested in others.

As the player involvement model deals with an intensely subjective experiential phenomenon, there is a constant blending of dimensions and a shift from conscious to internalized attention directed to each dimension and cluster of dimensions. The challenge in building a foundation and a register to convey such a dynamic phenomenon in a diagrammatic and textually descriptive form is that we have to keep in mind the constantly fluctuating nature of experience.

The model proposed here thus has a modular structure, with dimensions combining across the diagram in a 46 Chapter 3 fluid manner during gameplay. It is also scalable, in the sense that each of the dimensions represents a broad category of experience that can be further analyzed and fleshed out with constituent components.


  • In-Game: From Immersion to Incorporation by Gordon Calleja.
  • Einbrüche - Ausbrüche: Ein aphoristischer Leit(d)faden durch Innen- und Außenwelten (German Edition).
  • The Only Super Power: Reflections on Strength, Weakness, and Anti-Americanism.
  • .
  • Playing For Keeps (Fantasy Football Romance Book 1);
  • .

Each dimension will be described in more detail in the coming chapters. Because this concept is used widely within game studies and has an important bearing on the nature of the game experience, it is worth a brief digression to address the concept and to explain why I have excluded it from the model. Initially coined by Huizinga in Homo Ludens, the concept of the magic circle has been widely adopted by game studies theorists for example, Salen and Zimmerman, ; Juul, to articulate the spatial, temporal, and psychological boundary between games and the real world.

As Huizinga describes the magic circle: All play moves and has its being within a play-ground marked off beforehand either materially or ideally, deliberately or as a matter of course. All are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart. According to Huizinga, all types of play, whether engaged in by humans or animals, have some form of rules, and it is the adherence to and upholding of these rules that structures and sustains the magic circle Although Huizinga sees play as separate from the real, his principal argument rests on proving that the element of play pervades and even precedes all aspects of human culture.

The apartness of play is the apartness of ritual, which, Huizinga points out, shares all of the characteristics of play: The fact that the magic circle is just that—a circle—is an important feature of this concept. As a closed circle, the space it circumscribes is enclosed and separate from the real world. In effect, a new reality is created, defined by the rules of the game and inhabited by its players. Free play thus becomes game when the structured frame of the magic circle is imposed upon it.

Games can be viewed as a system made up of rules, as a form of play activity, and as a form of culture. In the first case, games are considered as closed systems completely separate from the external world. Finally, games as culture are open systems with a permeable boundary. The confusion is compounded by the fact that Salen and Zimmerman seem to be using Huizinga in a positive manner, while at the same time going against the main thrust of his argument without forwarding a coherent critique of it. But, as Ehrmann argues, there is no reality outside of the culture that constructs it: It is one and the same problem.

In seeking a solution it would be methodologically unsound to proceed as if play were a variation, a commentary on, an interpretation, or a reproduction of reality. To pretend that play is mimesis would suppose the problem solved before it had even been formulated. Reality does not contain play; like any other sociocultural construction, play is an intractable manifestation of reality. As Taylor has argued, such a perspective ignores the grounded analysis of these objects and activities while sidelining the fact that they are very much part and parcel of everyday reality.

Separation in Space Jesper Juul also adopts the concept of the magic circle, but he differentiates between its status in the context of what he calls physical games, like football or tennis, and in digital games. He applies the magic circle in a more specific formal capacity in terms of game space. The boundary can be made up of spatial perimeters and is often also defined temporally. The game can be limited to a specific area such as a tennis court or a fencing piste, or woven into the everyday world, as in live-action role-playing games LARPs , treasure hunts, and other forms of pervasive gaming.

Here the spatial perimeter is less defined than the temporal one. The spatial and temporal boundaries of the magic circle in physical games are upheld by a social agreement clarifying the The Player Involvement Model 49 interpretation and validation of actions, utterances, and outcomes; in other words, the rules. But in the case of digital games, where is the fabled circle? Juul traces the magic circle of digital games through the hardware devices that enable their representation: He goes on to compare the magic circle in physical games with that in digital games, based on the spatial qualities of each.

In physical games, the distinction is needed because the game rules are upheld socially, and actions that take place within the marked area of the game are interpreted differently from actions outside that area. On the other hand, in most digital games the distinction is void because the only onscreen space that one can act in is the navigable space of the virtual environment. The stadium stands in FIFA EA Sports, or the space outside the combat area in Battlefield Digital Illusions, cannot be traversed; they are merely a representational backdrop. The role of the magic circle as spatial marker is thus redundant when applied to digital games.

Psychological Separation More problematically, the concept of the magic circle has also been applied to the experiential dimension of gameplay. As Suits describes this experiential mode, which occurs only during game playing: According to Suits, then, we know that players are engaged in a game when they purposefully choose to engage with artificial constraints defined by the rules in order to attain a specified goal. In golf, for example, the most efficient means of sinking the ball would be to pick it up, walk over to the hole in question, and simply place the ball in it.

Using a metal club to try to get the ball in the hole is an inefficient means of achieving the same goal. A number of members of the game family that are simulated on a machine—that is, digital games—do not allow players to take the types of shortcuts that Suits describes. In fact, in a game of digital golf, players have no choice but to follow the rules encoded into the game and thus follow the inefficient, in the sense of rule-restricted, course of action available to them, which Suits ascribes to work.

There is no need for players to make an effort to follow the rules, since the rules or at least some of them are coded into the game and thus are upheld by the machine. As Thomas Malaby points out, we cannot logically use play to refer to both a mode of human experience and a form of activity. In other words, we cannot say that when we engage with a game we are entering a particular experiential mode the lusory attitude, for example determined by the very act of engaging with the game.

Taylor argues, these forms of experientially deterministic arguments oversimplify the complexity of game engagement: The Player Involvement Model 51 While the notion of a magic circle can be a powerful tool for understanding some aspects of gaming, the language can hide and even mystify the much messier relationship that exists between spheres—especially in the realm of MMOGs. In this regard, MMOG and more generally, game studies has much to learn from past scholarship. Thinking of either game or nongame-space as contained misses the flexibility of both.

Ethnographic work by Taylor , Malaby , Copier , and Pargman and Jakobsson indicates that such a separation is not found in the situated study of gamers: Problems with using the concept of the magic circle as an analytical tool have made themselves known now and again. These problems become especially clear when the researcher in question has actual empirical material at hand that he or she without much success tries to understand by applying the dominant paradigm of the separateness of play.

Pargman and Jakobsson, , 18 My own research findings are in line with this view. In analyzing the research data, I found no indication that players enter into an experiential mode that is specific to games. The dimensions of the player involvement model give a more thorough and analytically productive description of game experience without loading it with a priori, prescriptive assumptions about its nature.

Indeed, he argues that fun defines the essence of play: As a concept, it cannot be reduced to any other mental category. This seems like an obvious assertion to make: After all, if games were not fun, why would people play them? There are two problems with this line of reasoning. This does not mean that games are not fun; rather, fun is not an inherent characteristic of games, as has been most generally taken to be the case. As the recent work of Dibbell , Malaby , and Taylor has shown, contemporary developments in on-line gaming are emphasizing the problematic nature of this assumption.

Fun does not denote a specific experiential phenomenon, but spans a whole series of emotional states that vary according to context and individual. As Taylor states, pinning motivation for game playing on the notion of fun risks missing important aspects of the game experience: