Think of a game you played or a book you read in which you got completely caught up in the world the designer/author had created. You found yourself playing or reading practically straight through from start to finish with few breaks. For my part, as each of the Harry Potter books came out I would stay up progressively later to finish it. When I read the seventh book, I read all through the night, kept reading until about two in the afternoon, took a nap for a few hours, and then continued reading until I finished it late in the evening. Don’t worry, that’s not a normal occurrence with me. I do sleep on occasion.
What is it that draws us into those worlds so much? There are definitely several factors. Characters, plot, setting, theme; in fact, all the elements of a story combine to create an engaging experience. This all applies to video games, except that we add on gameplay, graphics, music, and so forth. That’s a lot to think about to make a really entertaining game. Fortunately, I don’t plan on talking about every one of those right now because this post would never end, although any useful insight from me soon would.
In this post I’m interested in spurring some thoughts about what you do to take your game from good to great, to take your audience from playing an exciting game to being thrown headlong into another world.
One key to this, in my opinion, is to create an immersive world. Let’s return to that game or book you thought about in the opening sentence of this post. Why did you get so involved in the world, so invested in the characters, so curious about the plot? Answering that may give you some insight into what creates an immersive world and an immersive experience for someone entering that world for the first (or seventh) time.
Immersion helps capture your audience’s complete attention. You keep thinking about the game even when you’re not playing. You talk about it with your friends. You might even be able to gain some insights from the game as you reflect on it even after it’s finished. Not to mention it’s just plain fun to lose yourself in a different world!
These are the kinds of games that typically stick in our memory. They give us concrete images and strong emotions to hold on to even years later. That’s why they live in us long past the time we see the credits roll by.
I plan on musing more on this topic in future posts. Before getting into specific methods to use to create an immersive game, however, I first want to hear about games you’ve played that offered a hand and bid you come in and experience the world for yourself. What was your experience like, and how was it different than with other games?