The Study of Games is Multi-Thematic

W ithin Games Studies and Games Science exist the intricately related fields of player experience - immersion, presence, addiction, and social interactions. At the inception of IMMERSe, attempts were being made to identify the elements of games that contribute to this experience. Of course, there is no single element that can be accounted for it. Rather, it is the result of a combination of parameters, each of which contributes something vital to that experience.

In deciphering the mysteries of player experience, IMMERSe began with two questions: “what is the influence of various parameters ON the player’s experience?” and “what is the influence and impact OF the player’s experience?” These questions are intricately and inextricably related. Having an understanding of the various influences on player experience – the mechanics of the game and the different modalities of the game – allows for a deeper understanding of how player experience is constructed. Likewise, it is important to understand the outward effects of player experience, the possible applications of game principles in non-traditional contexts, like serious games, as well as the behavioural, social, and cultural effects of gaming.

In order to begin investigating these overarching questions, IMMERSe researchers developed a series of guiding questions:

  • How do new interfaces, technologies or interaction devices influence the player’s experience?
  • How do story genres and dialogue systems work as narrative systems in games?
  • How can we leverage the human perception system to improve the game experience/game design?
  • How can we better use game technologies to improve transfer and retention of knowledge?
  • Can game experience change people’s behaviour for better or worse?
  • How do games affect other dimensions of society and culture? How does society and culture affect games?

Each guiding question addressed a particular aspect of games research. They also served as a jumping-off point from which the six IMMERSe themes were developed: interactions and gameplay mechanics, narrative and dialogue in games, multimodality in gaming, serious games and GameBased learning, games that change behavior, and cultural and social interactions. The themes operated by narrowing the scope of the claims researchers could make while also maintaining structure across thematic lines.

As with other research disciplines, IMMERSe researchers soon learned that no theme within IMMERSe was discrete. There are countless ways in which these underlying questions overlap, build, and influence one another. By studying these questions in tandem, researchers were able collaborate more effectively, and draw conclusions from research taking place across disciplines and institutions. The themes of IMMERSe research signal that some of the best work, and most significant breakthroughs in the study of games, happen when research projects are considered in accordance with several overarching questions.