Lab 3: Immersive Games


Jamie Madigan suggests that several factors contribute to a game’s immersive qualities, or the way it evokes a spatial presence. First, the game creates a rich mental model of the space with multiple channels of sensory input, completeness of that sensory information, cognitively demanding environments, and a compelling narrative. Second, the game evokes the space with consistency, by avoiding visual cues that don’t fit, exhibiting consistent behavior from the things in the world, presenting the world without breaks, and encouraging interaction with items in the world.

Whereas Madigan focuses on interactivity, Karen Collins addresses the audio of games, arguing that “audio plays a significant role in the immersive quality of games” (134). She outlines multiple types of game audio, including diegetic and nondiegetic audio, dynamic and nondynamic audio, adaptive audio, acousmatic sound, boredom switches, and many others.

Your task in this lab is to play a game that most players would consider immersive and then analyze how immersion works—or doesn’t—in that game.

Lab Procedure

  1. We will have multiple stations set up in the room, each with a so-called immersive game running. In groups of 3-4 students, take turns playing the game. After 20 minutes your group will switch stations.
  2. As one person in the group plays the game, the rest of the group should take notes on what’s happening on the screen and what’s happening with the audio. Take photos of the screen and even video with your phones. You can use these later.

Lab Report

The 500-750 word lab report is due by midnight on Tuesday, February 20. When you’re finished, share the document with and be sure to give me commenting privileges.

In your lab report, analyze how various elements of the game come together—or don’t—to create a rich and consistent world. Focus on a small slice of gameplay, rather than making grand generalizations about the game. Think about qualities that Madigan and Collins describe, and make explicit reference to their ideas when appropriate.

Some Questions to Consider:

  • What kind of sensory information do you encounter in the game?
  • Are there moments that seem particularly immersive? Why?
  • Are there moments that break the immersive spell? Why? Do these moments have some sort of diegetic or nondiegetic purpose?
  • Does Madigan leave off some qualities that you found important to immersiveness?
  • How does the game audio contribute to “realness” of the virtual world? What audio is particularly effective?

Works Cited

Collins, Karen. Game Sound: An Introduction to the History, Theory, and Practice of Video Game Music and Sound Design. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2008.

Madigan, Jamie. “The Psychology of Immersion in Video Games.” The Psychology of Video Games, July 28, 2010.