The Philosophy of Game Travel pt. 1

Immersion

            In all video games, immersion is the ultimate goal of the control schemes. That’s not true… but let’s talk about immersion anyways. If you’ve ever had a dream or a nightmare, you’d probably agree that those are the most immersive experiences you can have, short of reality (whatever that is). With that in mind, look at a person sleeping, and presumably dreaming. Then look people reading books, watching TV, sitting in movie theatres, playing Super Nintendo, and playing a game that uses motion controls. Then ask a complete stranger which of these people looks the furthest from being in a dreamlike state. Regardless of what they say, the answer is the person playing with motion controls. Let’s continue.

How can they be immersed? None of them are even looking at the same screen!

When you’re dreaming, your senses to the actual world around you are greatly subdued if not completely. Any and all twitches you make are just that, minute movements, which in your dream translate into much more ranged motions. In the rare occasion that these twitches escalate to full range motions themselves then chances are you’re going to wake yourself up disoriented and possibly run into a wall.

When someone playing a videogame is truly immersed, the most glaring symptom is what’s referred to as “gamer’s face.” Although each individual may make their own particular facial expression, the basic idea is that they no longer are putting any thought into their actual face, yet are still focused on whatever endeavor the game has tasked them with. The result can usually best be described as a “blank expression” or “zoned out,” but like in dreams some manifest as a series of twitches or expressions.

Am I dreaming this?

Am I dreaming this?

Enter the Nintendo Wii. After decades of minimal hand-movement being used to convey the player’s thoughts into the dream world, people got the idea in their heads that motion controls could be used to create even more immersion. While this may be true, it is not true for how motion controls have largely been used thus far. Waving a control as if it were a sword, in order to control a sword in-game using 1:1 motion is not immersive. The exertion and the sensation of exertion remind you about your actual arm in this actual room actually wavy around. This, multiplied by the strength of your own grip on reality, pulls attention away from the virtual sword virtually swinging around and virtually hitting things (something your actual controller will never convey and should never do actually).

Strange... it didn't feeeel like he blocked me.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, for social experiences and party games; it can be fun for the focus to remain on the actual world where you’re interacting with actual people. Nor does this mean that motion control is inherently bad for immersion. We simply need to learn how to properly utilize them.

When filmmakers were first able to zoom in and out while recording, it was vastly overused and to an extent limited the audience’s immersion. This is because the human eye has no active means of zooming in and out and therefore seeing such images on a screen reminds us that they are just that. That being said, there is certainly a place for zoom shots in today’s film industry. It just took us a while for the technique to learn its place.

I personally look forward to the day when the full potential of the pointer/nunchuk combo used by the Nintendo Wii and Sony Move is fully realized. I believe that there is still much they can do to make games that are immersive, competitive, and robust in the variety of its applications. The details of such motion control theories are too vast to be merely a footnote of this article and as such, deserve their own.

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