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Overall, there are endless possibilities for the study of immersion in female-oriented love/romance games. Gradually upgrading the experience of immersion is also a shared expectation of most players and game designers.

Yongcheng Liu, Blogger

September 13, 2023

6 Min Read

With the expansion of the female gaming market, romance games targeting women have become a battleground for many developers. However, from a data perspective, although there are many newly launched romance mobile games for women, some of their market performance has declined rapidly. And it can be seen that not all romance games have truly impressed female players. To provide players with an immersive romantic experience and break through the same category, it is essential to do more research on the psychology of female players who are playing and are likely playing romance games.

The psychological mechanisms behind the experience of immersion.

The reason why love-themed/romance games are so popular among players is mainly because they create a highly immersive virtual world, where players find psychological satisfaction and unconsciously bring their emotions from real life into the virtual game.

In reality, we always have some dissatisfaction with ourselves. Sometimes we hope to be more attractive and successfully pursue the partner that you fell in love with. Sometimes we wish to be braver and confidently say no to a heartless boss. The gaming world provides us with an opportunity to become the ideal ourselves: you can become a prominent person in school or pursue a career you love confidently.

For example, in the early release of the Japanese dating game Starry Sky, the protagonist, Yahisa Tsukiko, is the only girl in the academy and serves as the secretary of the student council, receiving the admiration of many. This setting, although differs greatly from real life, satisfies the fantasies of players to some extent: having a beautiful face, being loved by those people around, and possessing brave and independent qualities.

From a psychological perspective, self-identity is formed through the interaction between individuals and the real world. However, in love/romance games, players can easily undergo identity transformations between real life and virtual worlds, enhancing their self-identity. At the same time, the virtual world often provides players with experiences that are far from their real selves, but closer to their ideal selves. Players can find a reflection of themselves in the game, desiring to be that character and accomplish things that are mostly impossible in real life. In terms of appearance, game characters have ideal figures and beautiful faces. In terms of personality, the novel-like fantasy plot and the characters' strength and independence in facing challenges are projections of their ideal selves, satisfying players' needs for self-value realization.

Strong emotional experiences are an important reason for creating a sense of immersion. And the emotional experience is strongly associated with players' motivations for playing the game.

After conducting a survey with 612 female gamers and interviews with more than 15 players, our researchers found that for positive emotions, external motivation (game sound, graphics, plot, colors) has a greater impact than internal motivation (socializing, entertainment, learning, etc.). Both motivations are significantly positively correlated with positive emotions, and the stronger the motivation, the more evident the positive emotional experience of the players. In contrast, for negative emotions, the stronger the external motivation, the lower the negative emotions; the stronger the internal motivation, the higher the negative emotions.

Specifically, if we see a player on a forum getting angry, anxious, or frustrated because of a female-oriented game, there is a higher possibility that she is an internally motivated player who enjoys gaining insights, relieving stress, making friends, and enjoying the sense of achievement through the game. On the other hand, if a player feels happy and satisfied in the game, it is likely that they are driven by both internal and external motivations, not only enjoying gaining insights and relieving stress through the game but also appreciating the game's visuals, artwork, music, and other design elements.

Therefore, it is also worth noting for developers to better awaken players' motivation to play during the operation phase of a game.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines "flow" as a feeling of fully immersing oneself in an activity; and flow generates a high level of excitement and fulfillment. Activities that induce a flow state often have the following features:

  1. Activities we tend to engage in willingly

  2. Activities that require focused attention

  3. Activities with clear goals

  4. Activities that provide immediate feedback

  5. Activities that offer a sense of control

  6. Activities that diminish our sense of worry

  7. being able to engage for extended periods without perceiving the passage of time.

In love/romance games, players often feel that time is not passing by due to their admiration for the good-looking card designs and charming voice-overs of non-playable characters (NPCs). This state can be seen as the psychological state of flow.

Therefore, understanding the conditions for the emergence of flow state, designing games accordingly, and helping players achieve flow in the game are important steps in creating an immersive experience.

How to create an immersive experience in female-oriented love/romance games?

So, after understanding the player's psychological mechanism, how could game developers build this immersive experience?

Before game development, aggregate and analyze big data to incorporate game settings that cater to the psychological needs of modern women. For example, players can independently choose their partners and have unique identities to achieve self-value. Players can indirectly experience the cultural content embedded in the game, such as female autonomy in relationships and economic independence, not relying on others.

In terms of awakening external motivation, excellent visuals and a well-known voice actor team are major plus points. In addition, in female-oriented games, the camera can focus more on male NPCs in scene settings. Even if there are scenes with female protagonists, they are presented in a more generalized way, allowing more players to immerse by themselves. These types of games also strive to shape a first-person perspective through text, rarely providing personalized characterization for the female protagonist. In some games, the female protagonist shows different personality traits when interacting with different male NPCs.

This "unconscious" building of female characters creates unique personal "experiences" for players through different psychological experience, giving the game a personalized and customized touch.

In addition to awakening external motivations, designers can also start with awakening internal motivations to give female players a "sense of empathy." In some games, players can interact with NPCs using virtual information, as well as engage in behaviors such as expressing emojis, making phone calls, and going on dates, which adds a strong sense of "realism" for players.

Players need to fully immerse themselves in the game and participate in it in order to truly enjoy the fun of the game. When they are fully engaged and immersed, they temporarily forget the current time and space they are in and enter the world presented by the game, reaching a state of flow. In love/romance games, you can also create a flow experience through some ways of design:

In terms of goal setting, enhance players' clarity of goals and their sense of control over the game. For example, a card collection system can help players clearly understand what their goals are and how many achievements they have accomplished. The card sets to get can also suggest what players can do to better achieve their goals and improve their sense of control over the game.

In terms of emotional design, dialogue and voice acting can assist in character development and the experience of the storyline. For example, voice acting can not only be presented in dialogues in the storyline, but also in various aspects of the player's experience, such as New Year's greetings on the login interface or birthday-themed statements on the event interface.

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