All of us Star Trek fans dream of stepping into the Holodeck and experiencing a different reality. The idea of fabricating any environment and situation our minds can dream of and be able to interact with it is fascinating to us. It is not necessarily an escape from reality; it can be the chance to re-live our happiest moments and create new ones that wouldn’t be possible in the real world.
“I would like to see technology move into Holograms in a way that every living room could create an environment that is surrounding us. Gaming is a way of life and it’s becoming like that”, says Tsahi Liberman, from Styrax Studios Inc. Studios, during his 4Players Talks about immersion.
We have talked about immersion in this blog before, but today we would like to focus on immersion as a creative tool to improve mental health and quality of life.
Everyone has been using their imagination since they were born. Observing children, we can see how easy it is for them to step into other worlds, even before they consciously know anything about Live Action Role Play or LARP. Children role play their favourite fantasies in such a natural way, it is almost like their reality is fluid.
In Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal explores how game design and immersion can improve quality of life and help us deal with issues that would be soul-crushing otherwise. As reality is not designed to motivate us or even to maximize our potential and skills, structuring once boring and mundane activities as simple games can be the solution, allowing us to explore the world in a ludic way.
“A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, on something we’re good at (or getting better at) and enjoy. In other words, the gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression”, declares McGonigal.
The way we see it, using game design to deal with everyday activities is the perfect way to create immersion, even in situations where concentrating can be hard. We enjoy the activities where we can truly immerse ourselves, even if we are role-playing our own real-world character.
Additionally, using the game design concept of Fiero can improve our way of dealing with complex and frustrating situations. Fiero is the feeling of emotional elation after a discovery or victory (usually seen in gamers when they throw their arms in the air and yell). It is the most powerful neurochemical high one can experience. The chase for the feeling of Fiero can be a great motivator for fighting difficult situations and avoiding giving up on them and yourself. Using game design, we can truly explore frustrations and not allow them to lead us into depression. It’s all about play.
A good example, outside games, of the power of immersion is the Oscar-winning film ‘Life is Beautiful’. While prisoners, the main character tells his son that the concentration camp is a complicated game, in which he needs to fulfil quests, earn points and secure a well-defined prize. In this game, any complaint or sign of sadness strips the player of points. Although this is a very sad story, it is interesting to see how immersion in creativity and imagination can help us deal with unforeseeable situations.
Another great example of game design and immersion changing lives is the Quest 2 Learn school in New York. It has designed its whole educational system based on games, focusing on teaching critical thinking, and strategy-building skills, allowing the students to fully explore their creativity.
But what is the role of technology in all that? It is a very important role. As technology is helping us create more comfortable living conditions and more productive working environments, it is important to use it to also improve quality of life and mental health.
With the advance of VR and AR, we will be able to shape our reality to support our constant growth and help us connect with others. Simulations already allow us to become proficient in dangerous activities without risking our lives. Adding gameplay experiences also helps us to enjoy and feel motivated by these activities, increasing productivity.
“A deep immersion into a possible future creates lasting mental habits, especially when it comes to watching the real world for evidence that the simulated possibility is becoming more likely”, says McGonigal.
In the future, we hope companies will talk about quests and achievements rather than KPIs. We hope schools won’t use homework as punishment, but as tasks for a higher goal. And we truly hope our spatial sound and network solutions can help technology achieve the true immersion the community deserves.