Immersion is the act of fully submerging something within another. This can be done through books, movies, or video games; however the term is most frequently used in this context when referring to video games.
Virtual reality immersion is the concept of the user’s emotional reaction to the virtual world, in terms of feeling as if they are literally part of the virtual world. It is the perception of being physically present in a non-physical world.
In the same vein, an immersive digital environment is a scene or “world” that a player can immerse themselves within. It is artificial, interactive, and computer-created and mostly thought to be synonymous with virtual reality.
Immersion types can be separated into three main categories:
Tactical immersion is experienced when a player is performing a tactile operation involving skill and must be focused to achieve success. Players must react quickly to fast, consecutive events. Decisions can be made within a fraction of a second.
Strategic immersion is associated with mental challenges. Non-virtually, players of chess or Sudoku experience this type of immersion when choosing the right solution among a wide array of possibilities. Virtually, this is experienced when a player is trying to find the best path among many to achieve a goal.
Narrative immersion is displayed frequently in books and movies and happens when a person becomes invested in a story. The same can be said for video games a player becomes immersed in a narrative when they start to care about the characters and how the story will resolve within the game.
Immersive virtual reality has been used across a variety of industries such as engineering and robotics, healthcare, and social science. It is used for novice surgeons to practice complex surgeries without real-word consequences, by NASA to train astronauts before flights, and by psychologists to embody an individual different from themselves to study human perception and social interaction.