Audiences & Experiences Week #6

This week’s viewings were centered around the topic of “immersion” following our lecture on the associated topic such as:

  • From Immersion to Incorporation by Gordon Calleja (Pages 113–133)
  • The Routledge Companion: Chapter “Immersion” by Carl Therrien (Pages 451 to 458)
  • “Becoming Beside Oneself” an essay by Brian Rotman
  • An example of an immersive game of my choice: Fallout: New Vegas

The chapter I was asked to review for this week focuses on narrative.

The introduction provides a clear over view of what narrative and narratology involves with clear reference to theorist pioneers in the field such as Gerard Genette (whose theory I covered in the previous unit of diegesis), Gerard Prince and Seymour Chatman.

This piece ties in links to the following chapter from the routledge companion as it mentions Marie-Lauren Ryan’s description of the “speech-art approach” to narrative. This refers to a story being told in relation to the events happening in the past for the user or the events are set in stone and therefore aren’t subject to change. However, it is stated that this particularly traditional type of narration requires use of a narrator for it to be implemented properly.

On the other hand, Jesper Juul argues that “the lack of importance in the difference between story time and discourse time is a telling sign that games are incompatible with narratives”. This statement describes the relationship between narrative, time of the events and interaction. For example, this is utilised, particarly within narrative driven games, as they almost always will not feature flash backs or flash forwards for this very reason; Juul insists that they must stay chronological.

However, the author of this piece, Gordon Calleja, contradicts this further by providing examples of two games such as Max Payne and Call of Duty IV which both feature a predetermined scripted story and a narrative generated by the user interacting with the environment.

Within this chapter, Therrien explores the theory of immersion through the following concepts such as:

  • Immersion as Illusion. This is described as the SCI model of Sensory, Challenge-Based and Imaginative Immersion.
  • Psychological Engagement with Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of Flow — the transition of the user through the various stages to achieve full or complete immersion in which the participant loses themselves in the experience.
  • Fictional Worlds — the idea of creating an illusory world that looks and behaves like the actual world. The example provided here is the Star Trek in Hamlet on the Holodeck — we recognise the device so we instantly make the connection and feel that it is more coherent.
  • Marie-Laure Ryan’s theory of immersion being the transportation of one’s consciousness from the actual world to a non-possible world. This contradicts the prior theory within fictional worlds as it proposes the prospect of players needing the “escapism” factor within games; fantasy or different to real-life world.
  • Marie Schaeffer’s concept of Fictional Immersion. This involves the user being subjected to illusion techniques. This involves users being easily fooled within their perceptual system. A different framework was created to understand users behaviours when present within mediated world such as PECMA that stands for (Perception, Emotion, Cognition and Motor Activation).

Personally, I found this essay to be quite confusing as I felt that it went on a wide tangent away from the original topic at hand. However, overall this extract covered various philosophical ideas surrounding embodiment and existence.

It begins with an overall summary of what it means to be your “self” specifically and questions whether this is simply a matter of being or if it’s linked to an organic body. Although, the most interesting part was when Rottman spoke about the difference between our visual and computational self. I found the discussion surrounding our brain thinking in terms of processes and computations quite fascinating as I hadn’t really delved too deeply into the topic of the human mind before.

One part that stood out to me was about the parenting ducks. The idea of that a baby duck will follow their mother as it’s their natural behaviour. Likewise, if a duck is placed in an environment with walls, it will naturally follow a path along them without being instructed to; this links to emergent behaviours which is a strong factor within game design.

One game is particularly memorable and is one of the first times I felt I was able to lose myself and track of time in a game space. I find Role-Playing or RPG games to be the most immersive, in my opinion, due to the in-depth character and world building they establish.
For example, despite Fallout New Vegas being set in a post-apocalyptic American setting, the world is coherent and consists of aspects that a player would expect. This is particarly apparent within the main big city or “The Strip” which is reminiscent of the famous Strip in Las Vegas such as it features various casinos, hotel, strip club and rail station like the real-life location. Due to this, it can be said that this title features place and plausibility immersion.

In addition, the game also draws nostalgic culture from the 1950’s such as music and fashion. As many are already familar of the culture from that time period, it helps to contribute to the already cohorent world and provide a sense of familar comfort to players.

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