The Dangers of Immersion and the Xbox One Immersion Trailer

So after this week’s lectures on immersion, agency and affect, I thought I’d had enough for games for a week (which I didn’t, I have been googling “how to get Unreal Tournament to play on Mac”). Until I remembered I had to write a blog post. So I’m going to do what any normal person is going to do, write about something that I’m pretty tired of hearing about.

We all know immersion in simple terms, it is when the player gets into his or her experience of the game, he or she seems to forget the world around them, much less shower and maintain personal hygiene. I for one see this everyday, having a roommate who plays League of Legends hardcore, yelling at the screen to “take top” or whatever that means. Today I’m going to talk about ‘personal immersion’ and its effects, otherwise known as the occurrence when the gamer quite literally puts themselves into the game, often in a first-person shooter game. Agency and affect is crucial in a game to evoke ‘personal immersion’, if the gamer doesn’t have any of those two, then the effect and the level of immersion changes to one that perhaps a movie or a television show would evoke.

So I chanced upon IGN.com once again – yes it’s my absolute favourite site – and surprise surprise, Xbox One decided to release a trailer on gaming immersion. It is approximately 47 seconds long, and features a white male infront of the mirror, imagining that he’s getting slashed and injured during battle in the game Ryse. He keeps on shaking his head and squeezing his eyes shut every time he gets a cut, to realize that it hasn’t happened to him. He then hurriedly returns to his couch – his house seemingly empty, figures – and tells his Xbox One to resume his gaming, only to look down on his hand to see that he does, indeed, have a real cut. Trippy. The video then closes out with the tagline, “If it was any more real, it would be REAL.”

Xbox One Immersion Trailer

Obviously Microsoft is marketing the level of real-ness of gaming with an Xbox One to potential buyers, emphasizing the new console’s technology to amplify the level of gaming. Apparently this level of gaming will make you see things in the bathroom in the early hours of the morning, and have you going absolutely, completely, insane. And then you probably will waffle off to your console – an inanimate thing – and start talking utter gibberish. But who cares? As long as you get to experience the next level of gaming!

The dangers of being too immersed in a game are clear, and pretty scary. To an extreme level, one could get so consumed and absorbed into the game that they would lose their grasp on reality, and I don’t mean forgetting to shower, I mean quite literally forgetting to eat, talk or even function normally. To another extent, it may affect those with poor mental health too, making them blur the lines between digital and reality, and alter their state of mind. Something like the gamer in the Xbox One trailer, but to actually witness it in reality would certainly be eye-opening. This does actually happen to few gamers, such as this couple who were completely immersed into Second Life, to the extent that they let their real-life daughter nearly starve to death, leaving her immobile with limited vocal skills. (Article can be viewed here.) The dangers of immersion are clear, and scary.

Which brings me to the point that yes, immersion is crucial in games in order to draw gamers in and to keep them playing, which keeps them satisfied, leading them to recommend it to friends, buy the sequels, and to buy the new consoles when they come out. One question arises, how does one control immersion and ensure that gamers do not get sucked in to the extent that they get charged with “neglect and abuse” after forgetting to feed their 2-year old daughter?

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