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Emotional <a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-immersion.html>Immersion</a>

Emotional Immersion

Being emotionally affected by the events that occur in a game.

Games can raise strong emotions in players. This can be because the stories present in the games, but just as likely because of emotional investments players have in the outcome of the game or characters they have created.

Example: the appeal of story-driven games such as Myst lies primarily in the emotional intensity players receive by the unfolding of the story through their actions and the exploration of the game world.

Example: the darkness, loneliness and threat of violence are the primary ingredients in setting the mood in games such as the Doom series.

Using the pattern

Emotional Immersion can be created in games both through the possibility of Rewards and Penalties and through performed actions. Rewards typically give short burst of Emotional Immersion when they are received, besides any Anticipation players have, while Penalties also can give short peaks of immersion when they occur but typically give continuous Tension as long as the possibility for the Penalties exist. For actions, Emotional Immersion can be created in games regardless of whether they affect the game state or not.

The use of Narrative Structures and Social Interaction are powerful ways of achieving Emotional Immersion, especially through Social Dilemmas and Betrayal, which can affect the game state directly but does not have to. Ownership is one of the easiest ways to create Emotional Immersion through actual game state manipulation besides through Anticipation, Surprises, and Tension. For example, Betting and Gain Ownership goals appeal to players' wishes to possess, and Transfer of Control fulfills these wishes. The loss of Resources, Lives ¸ or Area Control are all losses of Ownership in one sense or another and can create the opposing emotional reactions that gaining them can create. Player Constructed Worlds, Player Defined Goals, Characters, and Creative Control can not only let players have a feeling of Ownership in the game but Ownership of something they themselves have created, often by Extra-Game Actions as simple as choosing their own Handles. This sense of Ownership is further heightened with Persistent Game Worlds. Although important in many cases of Emotional Immersion, having a Perceived Chance to Succeed and Illusion of Influence is especially important when Ownership is concerned. Storytelling and Roleplaying are examples of how Emotional Immersion can be promoted by combining Narrative Structures, Social Interaction and Creative Control in actions performed by Game Masters or players for the other players.

The use of Avatars that players control may actually hinder Emotional Immersion when player can see the Characters that they are controlling; if the appearance or actions of an Avatar does not follow the players' expectations they can easily feel distanced from the Character also, and thereby lose Emotional Immersion. However, distancing the player from a Game World through for example God Views is even more likely to cause the Emotional Immersion to be lost.

Providing players with explicit information about the game state through Direct Information can easily disrupt Emotional Immersion as the player is reminded that the game is a model. Indirect Information can avoid this but must be used so that the style of the presentation follows the Consistent Reality Logic of the Game World.


Emotional Immersion is one form of Immersion in games and affects how players struggle towards goals, how they make Risk/Reward choices, and their motivations for playing a game. It requires Identification with some part in the game to exist and is both a cause for Anticipation and an effect of it. Game Mastery in a game can give Emotional Immersion in a game due to the Empowerment mastery gives, but this type of Emotional Immersion is broken if the players Perceived Chance to Succeed or Illusion of Influence is removed. Freedom of Choice has the same form of relations to Emotional Immersion as Game Mastery. Games can provide many of the emotional responses that other medium with Narrative Structures can, but emotional responses can also be achieved through the actions players take. Among those easy to create by interaction in games are Anticipation, Surprises, Tension, Stress, Horror, Disgust, Frustration, and Wonder. Examples of how these can be achieved are through the use of Conflict, Exploration, Hovering Closures, or Overcome goals.

Emotional Immersion can easily be lost if the Consistent Reality Logic of the Alternative Reality is broken. Attention Swapping, which can be used to modulate Narrative Structure with great efficiency in other mediums, forces players to either move between Focus Loci or loss them altogether and can thereby negatively affect Emotional Immersion in games.

Emotional Immersion can easily disrupt Cognitive Immersion in a game and can be difficult to achieve when one already has Cognitive Immersion.


Instantiates: Immersion, Anticipation

Modulates: Risk/Reward

Instantiated by: Surprises, Exploration, Penalties, Player Defined Goals, Consistent Reality Logic, Transfer of Control, Tension, Anticipation, Betting, Characters, Narrative Structures, Creative Control, Gain Ownership, Hovering Closures, Ownership, Roleplaying, Storytelling, Social Interaction, Game Masters, Conflict, Social Dilemmas, Alternative Reality, Perceived Chance to Succeed, Illusion of Influence, Empowerment, Game Mastery, Player Constructed Worlds, Persistent Game Worlds, Identification, Extra-Game Actions, Betrayal, Rewards, Area Control, Lives, Freedom of Choice

Modulated by: Indirect Information, Resources, Bluffing, Handles

Potentially conflicting with: Attention Swapping, God Views, Direct Information, Cognitive Immersion, Avatars, Clues

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(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

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