Have you ever been so engrossed in a game that hours passed by unnoticed? Or found yourself thinking about a game’s world and its characters long after you’ve stopped playing? If so, you’ve experienced the power of immersion. But what exactly is this phenomenon, and why should it be an integral part of your game—or perhaps not at all?

Immersion: A dive into another world

Immersion in gaming is a state where the player becomes completely absorbed into the game world. It’s a psychological experience that creates a sense of being present in the virtual environment, making the outside world fade away. Immersion isn’t limited to gaming though, as activities such as reading, watching a movie, learning a new skill, or working on a project can easily trigger the same effects. Nevertheless, games have the trait of being immersive, as the interactive gameplay of games blends aspects such as a compelling storyline, relatable characters, realistic graphics, and sounds, better than any other medium.

Why should my game be immersive?

Getting a break from reality, achieving progression and accomplishments, having the chance to live out experiences beyond their everyday lives, or just to kill time. These are all reasons to play games, but not to make a game immersive. You make games immersive because immersion leads to longer play sessions. Depending on your game genre and monetization strategy, the session length should be as long as possible. And as probably any gamer has experienced great loss of time while playing, you sure can agree that session length is something immersion can definitively improve.

The pillars of immersion
No matter if you personally feel immersed while exploring the fantasy world of Elvenar or caring for your farm in Sunrise Village, a game can be designed in a certain way to make immersion to trigger in a player more likely:

– Narrative: A strong, well-written story can transport players into the lives and struggles of the characters.

– Visuals & Sound: Authentic and high-quality graphics and sound design can make a game’s setting feel lifelike.

– Interactivity: Gameplay mechanics and the player’s ability to affect the game world contribute significantly to feeling immersed.

– Emotional Engagement: A game that evokes strong emotions ties the player closer to the experience.

Understandably, the traits listed above are just simply describing any “good game”.
However, let’s learn in the following why a game with a strong narrative, impressive visuals and sound, and high interactivity affording emotional engagement, aka. an immersive game, doesn’t equal “good” for all player types.

Why should my game not be immersive?

Depending on which player groups you want to target, immersion can be a lost effort. Certain player groups just want games to be easy to pick up and put down, like puzzle games or those that thrive on short bursts of gameplay, like energy-based games. Creating big narrative experiences that effort a game to unfold its complete story inside and outside of a game is therefore lost time that could instead be spent in creating more puzzle levels.
Furthermore, as an example, too much immersion can sometimes lead to what’s referred to as ‘gamer’s guilt,’ where players realize they’ve spent an exorbitant amount of time in playing a game. The resulting inner conflict might detract from the overall enjoyment that gaming is meant to provide. But not only that:
While it’s not the mistake of immersion per sé, long and regular playing sessions can potentially lead to neglect of life responsibilities, such as personal relationships, career obligations, or academic pursuits. In extreme cases, games can trigger addictions, leading to physical and mental health issues. Developers can help by creating games with features like parental controls, gameplay timers, and natural stopping points to support healthy gaming habits.

Immersion isn’t for everyone – and that’s okay

As acknowledged previously, immersion can be a powerful and compelling component of video games, but it’s ultimately a personal preference. For many, it’s the driving reason to play, offering a rich, compelling experience that other forms of entertainment can’t match. While some enjoy the depth of full immersion, others may find joy in casual games that offer immediate gratification without the commitment immersive games demand.

However, it’s also a valid way to create a game that offers an enjoyable experience for both factions: Like in Forge of Empires, you can decide yourself if you want to be a highly invested member of a guild and play Guild Battlegrounds regularly, or if you just jump into the game for a short time to progress in the technology tree or play an event minigame.

Like any form of entertainment, video games offer an accessible spectrum of experiences, and there’s some game out there for everyone.

Vivien Redmann 

-Trainee Community Management-