Does it take time to get into immersion ? The “yes” may seem obvious. However, we were also able to meet creators of intense short-term experiences. A kind of brutal immersion. What is in fact the relationship between immersion and time? Can we reduce the time to get into immersion?

Time immersion: how does it work?

To be in immersion is to lose track of the present time. When a film or book captivates us, time no longer matters. This is why immersion is often defined as the perceived loss of time, in addition to the loss of self-awareness.

Immersion has a lasting impact on our memory and therefore on our perception of the past. By requiring intense emotional engagement, an immersive experience will create more intense memories. This is why immersion can be an interesting lever in educational spaces (hence our newsletter Learn in Immersion to be found here [In French Sorry ;)).

Immersion is often perceived as a gradual process. In video games, immersion is the third step. (Brown and Cairns 2004). Before reaching a state of immersion, in which the player is completely absorbed and literally perceives himself in the game, he must go through two stages. The first step is the commitment that will push the player to get involved in the game. The second stage is the adoption stage, in other words the game has succeeded in creating a strong emotional involvement. Finally, the third step is immersion.

Immersion is not a linear process. In the same experience, our level of immersion varies: it is sometimes very intense, and sometimes very limited. You can even get out of the immersion for a while and then come back to it. This refers to the link between immersion and emersion or submersion, as we mentioned in our article here on amusement parks [In Eng this time :D).

Is there a possibility to accelerate this progressive process and limit the emergence phases? In fact, is it possible to create immersion “flash” experiences

Run for immersion, run for it!

How to accelerate the immersion process?

The context of the experiment is a key factor in provoking immersion.

“the company must ensure that it is at the same time isolated, secure and themed”

CARÙ, A., & COVA, B. (2006)

It will be all the easier to immerse yourself in an experience (understand: faster) if the experience allows participants to cut themselves off from their daily reality, without taking much risk and with the help of a differentiating universe.

Veronica Blumenthal and Oystein Jensen, two researchers from the Norwegian School of Hotel Management, bring complementary elements.

In their article “Consumer immersion in the experiencescape of managed visitor attractions: The nature of the immersion process and the role of involvement”, they focus in particular on the “Viking ship sailing trip” experience of the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum in Denmark to determine the relationship between the immersion process and the context in which the process takes place (which includes the environment, objects, interaction with other visitors, etc.).

The “Viking Ship Sailing trip” experience is as follows: 8 to 15 visitors sail aboard a replica of an old Scandinavian sailboat with two crew members. They actively participate in rowing, piloting and navigating the boat. The experiment lasts about 50 minutes

An immersive experience on a sailboat? Why not?! Credit: vikingeskibsmuseet

The results: six new factors including physical challenge, group effect, intellectual challenge, use of personal resources, memories, imagination. Indeed, these factors will create a significant engagement of participants that will lead, in fine, to immersion.

Six factors to facilitate immersion

What do these factors represent? And how can this impact immersive experiences?

The physical challenge. It allows the participant to move from the spectator to the actor. When we carry out a concrete task and with a good level of difficulty we come to appreciate the challenge and above all we measure, at its achievement, the effort made. In concrete terms, this pushes future experiences to go beyond a simple stroll to give a real role to the participant!

Belonging to a group. It allows you to create an objective that is superior to personal interests. We work together for something beyond our control, with strong links being created between members to achieve the objective. Thus, an immersive experience that succeeds in creating a sense of important collective, with the possibility of establishing connections between people, is likely to be more immersive. “One informing explained that she saw herself as a part of a bigger machinery and thus felt highly involved”.

The intellectual challenge. It allows participants to organize themselves to respond to the proposed obstacles. In concrete terms, by observing a situation, a participant must be able to react according to his or her own operating mode to achieve a given objective.

The use of personal resources. It allows a participant to put his or her knowledge to good use, and since the human being is very self-centered, we love it! We also show more interest in an activity when we know it, so don’t be afraid to allow participants to mobilize their own knowledge and skills.

The memories. Our relationship with our memories is particularly intense. Nostalgia, strong attachment to superfluous objects, a point of comparison with a current experience are all feelings that can be felt. An experience that touches us directly from a personal point of view or refers to an element of our past will probably make it easier for us to get involved.

The imagination. The ability to create one’s own story of a given situation, and to invent a role that engages us strongly is a powerful element of immersion! One could even say that immersion is the ability of the participant to create his own story.

We are actually getting a new analytical framework for immersive experiments. Why not analyze other experiences through this prism? We have chosen two experiences that have one thing in common: a short duration.

Séance: 15 minutes to experience the paranormal!

Séance is an experience that plunges 30 participants into darkness, gathered around a table, for 15 minutes. Sound recordings are then broadcast. It’s up to you to determine what is real or paranormal (Our interview with the creators is this way!)

Our assessment of the experience is as follows:

The physical challenge: you are sitting in the dark, and your role is not very active. Interactions are relatively rare and simple. The physical challenge is limited.

Group membership: the group effect is important! Feeling confident and comfortable with the experience can help you fight fear. On the other hand, the opposite is also true, fear is contagious! The group may then enter a collective paranoia.

The intellectual challenge: the challenge is important here. This requires an intense intellectual effort for a participant to rationalize the situation, to try to reassure himself and to fight against the belief in the paranormal.

The use of personal resources: you do not have the possibility to use your personal resources. Rare are the moments of interaction and therefore the opportunities to help one of the members of the group to get a grip on themselves, for example.

Memories: It’s a key element! We have all believed at one time or another that we have perceived paranormal phenomena, often in our beds at night. The experience recreates this situation quite well and our emotional involvement is intense.

Imagination: evolving in total darkness does not mean turning off the brain. On the contrary, our capacity for imagination multiplies and we quickly make films about what is happening… Imagination is very important here.

Séance manages to create a rapid immersion using a magic formula composed of the deprivation of a sense (sight) coupled with sound stimuli that will largely mobilize the imagination, memories, intellectual challenge, and belonging to the group. It’s simple, but complex to do! It also shows that it is not necessary to rely on all six factors to cause a “flash” immersion.

The Escapes Games of Dream Sculptors

Sculpteurs de Rêves is rethinking the format of escape games. Indeed, the Escape Game has experienced a good boom but nevertheless faces important limits such as an expensive rent price or a low replayability. Besides, not everyone is ready to spend an hour locked in a room to solve riddles.

Maël Magat, founder of Sculpteurs de Rêves, and his team opted for an escape game with a short 15-minute format, mobile, a very well worked scenario and an actor to interact with. The aim is to offer a significant immersive leap with this new format and to reach new audiences.

It is a question of passing from this level :

To this one:

What does not change between the two formats:

The physical challenge: In escape games, you will often have to manipulate objects and show skill to solve a puzzle! The physical challenge is important but does not seem to be different between the two cases since the type of events is similar.

The intellectual challenge: As with the physical challenge. It’s about using your head to solve puzzles, and in both cases, the puzzles can be very deceitful and the concentration must be high!

What changes significantly:

Group membership: most often you are given a role (detective, adventurer, etc.) but in the end, you forget your role as quickly as possible to focus on solving riddles. There are many moments when the group celebrates the success of the event but it never goes very far. In the SdR format, the background of the characters is more important. Succeeding in an enigma arouses an emotion all the stronger as the strengthening of the narrative part gives meaning to its resolution. The emotions shared in the group are stronger as a result: we want to succeed together, or we experience failures together.

The use of personal resources: In a classic experience, the group is assigned a global role and the distribution of tasks is often complicated. Assigning participants specific roles with clear objectives facilitates the use of their own knowledge and/or skills. The possibility of using personal resources is all the stronger!

Memories: The strengthening of the narrative part, with specific themes, and the scenographic credibility multiply the possibilities of provoking an important emotional response from the participants. The more developed the story is, the more likely it is that we will return to a given moment in our lives.

Imagination: Imagination is much stronger in the new format. The presence of a more elaborate actor and script will make a significant contribution to making our imagination work! Our thinking will go beyond the simple role assigned.

Here, it is above all the strengthening of the narrative part and the presence of an actor that will give credibility to the experience and considerably improve the imagination and belonging to the group.

The ever deeper understanding of the mechanisms of immersion now allows the creation of “flash” and intense experiences. There are still many areas of exploration for research: what are the most important factors? Can we possibly weight them? Are there other factors? What do these factors really include? Are they the same between the different sectors? We are only at the beginning of the analysis! 😊

Bibliography

CARÙ, A., & COVA, B. (2006). BRAND EXPERIENCES: How to promote consumer immersion? Marketing Decisions, (41), 43-52. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40593052

BLUMENTHAL, V., & JENSEN, Ø. (2019). Consumer immersion in the experiencescape of managed visitor attractions: The nature of the immersion process and the role of involvement,
Tourism Management Perspectives, Volume 30, Pages 159-170,ISSN 2211-9736, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tmp.2019.02.008. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211973619300194)

BROWN, E., & CAIRNS, P. (2004). A grounded investigation of game immersion. In CHI’04 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA’04). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1297-1300. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/985921.986048

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