Exploring Immersion in Competitive Gaming Ruud Koorevaar2
While heading towards the next town for a couple of new quests you wander through a lush, beautiful forest.Generous amounts of lighting and bloom effects are tossed around as rays of light break through the clouds.You unconsciously nudge the joystick on the controller you are holding a little bit forwards, so you can continueyour journey, slowly though, as you are enjoying the graphical feast displayed before your eyes. Oh, but wait!What is that? A group of villains approach you from the other side of the road. You quickly press the B-buttonto draw your sword and push the joystick fervently in the direction of the brigands.
you say toyourself. After twenty seconds of mashing the A-button guts are spilled on the forest floor and blood ismingling with the grass and dirt (- you imagine). After you collected the loot of the slain marauders youcontinue your journey, slowly, once again immersed in the rich world.But no, this is not how this story goes. This is neither a story placed in idyllic scenery, nor a story where yourimagination is fueled by a bounty of visual prowess. This is a story of the competitive gamer. The gamer thatsets the graphics to the lowest setting to more accurately differentiate between objects on the screen. Thegamer who wishes to have a screen-filling user interface just so that he can have perfect control. It is about thegamer who masters a single strategy over the course of an entire week. And actually, it is not a story at all. It isreal blood, sweat and tears to overcome the greatest digital obstacles and attempt to be the best at what youdo: playing games competitively (alright, perhaps not so much real blood).When you consider yourself to be immersed in a virtual world you could relate this sense of immersion to, forexample, being absorbed in a rich narrative and compelling graphics, as was depicted with the aboveexperience. It seems only natural to relate immersion to storytelling as would be with a good book as well ashigh-end graphics and vast environments in a game to convince you of a life-like world. This is reflected inmarketing campaigns by game companies using immersion as a buzzword. For example concerning A
takes graphics in MMOs to a new level! With the latest and greatest in technology and anamazing art direction the graphics in C
immerses you into a world as never before seen in anyonline fantasy universe.
’ (Microsoft.com, 2010)
Taking place in a massive, free-roaming city featuring distinct interconnected neighborhoods, N
2 delivers an immersive game world where the streets are your menus.
(Rytechoice, 2011)However, as I will argue, it is not all about stories, graphics or grand worlds when discussing immersion inrelation to virtual worlds, especially regarding competitive gaming.During the course of this analysis I will argue how immersion in competitive gaming differs from most currentconceptualizations of immersion and illustrate this by applying the model of involvement, crafted by GordonCalleja, researcher on game ontology, narratives and engagement in games and virtual worlds, to this particularbranch of gaming in order to gain a further understanding of the immersive experience. The main question toanswer is then:
How can we understand immersion in relation to competitive gaming in terms of player experience and involvement?