informa
3 min read
article

Feature: 'The Sensible Side of Immersion'

In a new Gamasutra feature, media health researcher Neils Clark examines the intimate bond between psychology and play, challenging traditional conceptions of "imm
In a new Gamasutra feature, media health researcher Neils Clark examines the intimate bond between psychology and play, and how games might tap into the recesses of the ancient human brain in order to reach new levels of immersion. In this excerpt from the "sound and vision" portion of the piece, Clark delves into the sometimes-blurring distinctions of how the brain perceives reality versus how it perceives play and other entertainment experiences: "Scholars in the field of visual communication, combining theories in fields ranging from evolutionary psychology to neurobiology (Nobel Laureate-types -- not fringe wackos) write that visual media cannot help but be both immediate and convincing. "Much of our visual learning is 'prewired by evolution to detect and respond to danger,' writes Anne Marie Barry, Associate Professor of Communication at Boston College, saying that while that wiring hasn't changed in millions of years, visual media has. "'For the brain's perceptual system, visual experience in the form of the fine arts, mass media, virtual reality, or even video games is merely a new stimulus we have inherited as part of our brain potential and is processed in the same way.' While it doesn't take 18 WIS to know that a television is a television, the implication here is that our visual system taps the forgotten Congo of the brain. "Those ancient, reptilian areas have no physical way of recognizing the difference between everyday experience and the flashing phosphor of a screen. Considering this, Barry suggests that visual media aren't some event. A kid playing violent games, let alone an adult, won't have some Mysterious Black Switch of Menace flipped in their brains. Rather, the brain's visual system files it as one apparently real experience among the many that we might have as we learn and grow. "And yet, visual media may flip a different kind of switch. These theories suggest that convincing visuals draw in a TV watcher, or a gamer, by virtue of simply being visual. Before we can think about our sight, we feel and respond. Optical impulses sent through the 'quick and dirty' thalamo-amygdala pathway rush to the amygdala, where they're quickly matched against low-resolution images from this ancient emotional center. "By the time a more fulsome image can be sent down the cortical pathway for conscious, thoughtful awareness, we've already had some type of response. Visual experience that constantly yanks on these visceral puppet-strings, engaging old responses for (for instance) danger or mating, may keep players deeply engaged without their full mental awareness." The full three-page article, which contains much more in-depth research and information on the physiological side of immersion, is now available to read on Gamasutra.

Latest Jobs

Disbelief

Chicago, Illinois
05.10.22
Producer

Build a Rocket Boy Games

Edinburgh, Scotland
05.12.22
Lead Animation Programmer

Windwalk Games

Austin, Texas
05.16.22
Game Designer

Sucker Punch Productions

Bellevue, Washington
05.10.22
Campaign Director
More Jobs   

CONNECT WITH US

Register for a
Subscribe to
Follow us

Game Developer Account

Game Developer Newsletter

@gamedevdotcom

Register for a

Game Developer Account

Gain full access to resources (events, white paper, webinars, reports, etc)
Single sign-on to all Informa products

Register
Subscribe to

Game Developer Newsletter

Get daily Game Developer top stories every morning straight into your inbox

Subscribe
Follow us

@gamedevdotcom

Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more