Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Immersion in Media


For my topic I have chosen Immersion in media or “The Magic Circle” as a professional term. The reason why I picked this topic is because I showed one of my best friends who is not a gamer, a video game that I felt really attached to. They didn’t have a similar feeling towards it and didn’t get into at all like I had. For a while I already knew that there was such thing as a feeling where you believe you are in a set media like a book, movie, TV show, or video game. I also knew that it was called The Magic Circle meaning that you are in a new state of being, here everything that you accepted as real fades, and this new world is real to you, kind of like a state of meditation.

I am hoping to help people understand how immersion works and how they too can feel like they're a part of a new world. Whenever I play a massively expansive game that lets me create my own character and make my own choices makes me feel that I am now a part of this world and will fit this new role I have made for myself and make decisions in the game that portray that new role. I want people to be able to experience that at least once because there are just some things you can’t see or even be a part of in the real world. Being immersed in interactive media lets the weak be strong, the shy be loud, and the unpopular to become famous. For now I have found four sources that have already told me great things behind the science and psychology behind Immersion in media. Extra Credits is a group of game designers who explore deeper topics of gaming and a couple of other sources, one of which is a psychologist who’s named Werner Wirth has already delved deep in this kind of topic.

To explain a lot of the words I’ve been using “The Magic Circle” as one of the words that normal people might not know. “The Magic Circle” is the feeling of being apart of something, a “New World” in a sense. When a movie comes on and all your friends are really excited about it and start thinking about questions in the movie that only apply to it, you and all other have joined that circle that the movie has shown all of you. When playing a online game making a new name for yourself for your new character is a part of it as well when others call you by that name you start to get lost in the world presented to you. You believe you are this character in the game and act how they would in the game. Another word is “Synthetic Worlds” the reason they are called Synthetic is because these are new worlds created/experienced by man everyday and you can cross between the real world to these “Synthetic Worlds” any time you like or whenever you have time(Castronova). The last thing I will be going over is “Spatial Presence” defined as existing when media contents are perceived as ‘real’ in the sense that media users “experience a sensation of being spatially located in the mediated environment”(Madigan).



To explain the magic circle more in definition, the magic circle of a game is where the game takes place. To play a game or read a book means entering into the magic circle, or perhaps creating one as a media begins. To Castronova, there are many areas that change the obscuring of the distinction between the real and the virtual. Three of these areas consist of “markets, politics , and law”. For the market to work Virtual worlds ‘as Castronova puts it’ usually contain their own money system or currency. Then, virtual goods and services have a certain monetary value with them. More or less, many things to do in these worlds require a certain set of skill as well as commitment from the user, which adds to the experience (Madigan).



Another example that illustrates the dividing of distinction between the real and the virtual is related to politics and concepts of what is fair within these synthetic worlds. Castronova states that users “are a community of interests who are affected by the decisions of a coding authority, usually the game developers”. Talking between players and the developers takes place in online discussion forums outside of the synthetic world. When users take their in world political concerns to out of world forums, they break down the distinction between virtual and real in a very crazy way (Castronova). According to Castronova, our culture “has moved beyond the point” where distinctions between the virtual and the real are helpful.



Back to “Spatial presence” which is the feeling of being in another land or world without moving at all with the help of media. This where it gets a little more scientific, when media is shown to you certain cues have to be made before spatial presence comes in, images, movement, sounds, and so forth. As well as assumptions about the world that they may bring to the table. Once that image of the media’s world is created, the user must decide, either consciously or unconsciously, whether he/she feels like they are in that imagined world or in the real one. Of course, its worth noting that this isn’t necessary a conscious decision with the prefrontal cortex’s stamp of approval on it. (Madigan)“It can be subconscious, on the sly, slipped into sideways and entered and exited constantly”. Researchers have studied into how these two steps happen, but I think it’s more interesting for our purposes here to skip to the bit about the qualities of the media and person that they’ve found that center around both of these steps and create immersion. So let’s do that.



Media characteristics leading to spatial presence can be grouped in two general categories (Madigan). Those that create a rich mental model of the media environment and those that create consistency between the things in that environment. Let’s take the concept of richness, first. This isn’t the exact list but richness relates to:(Madigan Chart)

● Multiple channels of sensory information

● Completeness of sensory information

● Cognitively demanding environments

● A strong and interesting narrative, plot, or story

That means the more senses that work together with each other the better chance of getting full immersion. An example of breaking the immersion in a movie as being in a really serious moment and seeing the boom mic drop. That instance would completely break you out of the immersion.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Diverse Play styles in Gaming

Now when I talk about many play styles think of it as whether to given the choice in the game to use a sword or a gun. Both weapons have different needs to be good, say the sword you need a certain amount of strength to hurt anyone and to be able to move more freely. With the gun you need bullets which might not be plentiful or it could be hard to aim while being attacked. The point is that I enjoy to have choices in my games, not to be stuck with some one pistol in a dark corridor (Like some horror games do).

Though many games allow you to do many things with one weapon like in Darksiders 2 where you can certain combos and abilities with his weapons. I still find this game to be the most un-enjoyable experience with lack luster story, game mechanics, and you can tell that the developers favored graphics more. 



But games like Unreal Tournament have hundreds of weapons with each having to need a certain amount of skill to use. Not only you can use weapons but a multitude of vehicles as well. This had almost everything that was fun and enjoyable about having many weapons and has solidified its self in my own heart forever

But not only weapons can diversify gameplay having a lot of characters like in MOBA's also makes for a more entertaining game. Through character having unique powers as the rest makes for an even more difficult yet pleasing gaming. Difficult because its hard to keep up with all the different powers of every character but fun with exploring new ways of play in one game.