为何《到家》具有如此强大的沉浸感?

作者:Jamie Madigan

最近,独立 开发商The Fullbright Company所创造的第一人称探索游戏《到家》吸引了巨大的关注。很多人所关心的是玩家是如何陷进游戏中并越发沉迷于游戏世界。玩家在游戏中所扮演的是个年轻女性的角色,她刚结束一段很长的旅程,但却发现自家的新房子中空空如也。来自他妹妹的一张神秘便签让你想要去搞清楚到底发生了什么。

关于《到家》让人惊讶的一点是,这可以说是关于创造一款具有沉浸感的游戏的教材。也就是你将快速失去你正在探索的自己与虚拟房子间的技术,并且这时候你将开始觉得自己就是在游戏世界中,并且会相应地考虑自己在游戏中的行动。之前我已经写过一篇有关电子游戏沉浸感的长文,而今天关于空间存在是如何发生的短文则主要基于2个步骤:

为何《到家》具有如此强大的沉浸感?

gone home(from psychologyofgames)

1.玩家形成了一种空间的心理表征,并且是由游戏所呈现出来,越丰富且越详细越好。

2.玩家开始失去对自己与游戏间的媒体和技术的关注,因此将游戏世界当成是自己所身处的基准点位置。

但显然并非所有的游戏都具有沉浸感。之前的研究证实媒体的特征,人与技术是上述任何一步的关键元素。而《到家》便具有这些元素。

首先,《到家》创造了让人熟悉的环境的一个丰富心理模式。能够与对象进行互动,并且让这些对象可以始终基于你所预期的方式表现将能够创造出一个可信的游戏世界。游戏的一大魅力便是它发生在一个较小而精细的环境中。你可以获得并检查几乎所有事物—-荧光笔,杂志,票根,小摆设等等。此外,你还能够旋转道具从而更近距离地进行检查。游戏图像设计师甚至谨慎地复制了不同人的笔记。所以这并不是一个充满许多同样对象的世界。《到家》中的大多数事物都是独一无二的。

为何《到家》具有如此强大的沉浸感?

gone home(from psychologyofgames)

如果你只因为能够捡起各种事物而认为这款游戏像《天际》那样具有强大的互动性,那就说明你还未深入游戏。《到家》具有我所见过的最互动,最详细且最让人信任的游戏环境,很明显,为了表现出沉浸感,开发者真的将大量有限的资源投入于这些微小的细节中。尽管这款游戏也并未完全摆脱像《生化奇兵》那样“带着空洞的声音阅读着杂志片段”的效果,但在这里我们可以看到大量的叙述信息是通过现实的笔记,书信以及其它手写方式呈现出来。

所以《到家》检查了“如何为虚拟环境创造丰富的心理模式”清单中的每一项条目。但它带有两个其它的特质是直接针对于沉浸式过程的第二步,即你忘记了现实世界并将Arbor Hill中的房子当成是自己身处位置的主要参考点。

为何《到家》具有如此强大的沉浸感?

model of how spatial presence happens(from psychologyofgames)

在最近的一篇文章中,Matthias Hofer,Werner Wirth及其同事通过使用一个避开《到家》的一些相似元素的设置而将这种空间形成模式置于测试中。确定并标记好研究对象,然后将其置于装载着一个被称为“学习之屋”程序的计算机前。项目的虚拟环境是一个故事庄园,带有10个充满有关莫扎特生活的显示器的房间。我想这些对象们是期待着著名的编曲家的灵魂能够跳出来并吓唬自己。不管怎样,研究参与者在房子里面游荡着,并研究不同的房间。这一研究的一部分内容是检查创造空间存在的两个相关元素:领域特定的趣味和参与性。

领域特定趣味是衡量有多少主题,设置或其它游戏内容影响着你的前行。如果你进入了一个意大利式西部片,你将感受到《荒野大镖客:救赎》极高的领域特定趣味。《到家》包含所有与我们相关并且经历过的主题:早恋,青少年的叛逆,交朋友,意识到自己过去的音乐品味有多糟糕。此外,游戏的背景是在1995年间,任何在这时候经历青少年成长期的人将会因为许多有关当时文化的参照物而兴奋不已。像我们可以在房子中找到录像带,音乐磁带,演唱会海报,玩具,超级任天堂游戏等等。

Hoffer,Wirth及其共著者在其研究过程中发现,这种领域特定趣味将推动媒体用户更多地专注于游戏并更深入地与之互动。这反过来也是引起《到家》具有强大沉浸感的另一大原因:参与性。

研究者表示,参与性是指深刻且长久地关注于媒体。努力思考有关游戏的虚拟环境以及它与你的关系,你在这里做些什么等等。但这不只是关于专注于某些内容。相反地,这是虚拟世界的一种需要努力并深入思考的心理过程。

《到家》很容易让我们参与到其中。实际上,它要求参与性,因为它并未向玩家清楚地讲明一些内容,玩家必须通过各种模式化的对象,注释等等线索收集信息并自己拼凑出游戏叙述的片段。你必须搜索信息资源,思考信息的来源,如何适应时间顺序,有多可靠,并且再想想其它元素。线索经常是模糊的,许多游戏的乐趣是源自它们在玩家脑子里的翻腾,并构建一个有意义的故事。加上游戏中的文字内容也能够帮助你找到更多有关事情发现的线索,这不仅需要更多的参与性,同时根据上述引用的研究,这也将创造更多的空间存在(如沉浸感)。

由于所有的这些原因,《到家》便是许多创造沉浸感的方法的范例,我也认为那些研究空间存在的媒体研究者可以将其用于自己的研究中。创造空间存在比创造满屋子的莫扎特图像更有可能。也存在其它游戏元素能够推动丰富的心理模式的发展,并将这些模式作为地理位置的参考点,但它那强大的互动,相近的环境,广阔的领域特定趣味以及对于参与性的需求都足以帮助游戏获得成功了。

爪游控

Why Gone Home Is So Immersive

Jamie Madigan

Gone Home, a first person exploration game from indie developer The Fullbright Company, is getting a lot of attention lately. A lot of the buzz is centered around how wrapped up in the game players tend to get and how immersed in its world they become. It plops you into the role of a young woman returning from a long trip to find that her family’s new house is empty. There’s just a cryptic note from her younger sister that kicks off your investigation into what the hell happened.

(Note: There will be only the mildest of spoilers for the game below things you’d get from reading a back of the box description if this game had a box. Feel free to read on if you haven’t played it, or go and play it then come back. I’m not waiting for you, though. I’m still typing!)

What’s amazing about Gone Home is that it is a textbook example of how to make a game immersive. That is, you quickly lose track of the technology between you and the virtual house that you’re exploring, to the point where you start to feel like you’re really in that game world and consider your in-game actions accordingly. I’ve written about immersion (a.k.a., “spatial presence”) in video games at length before, but the short version of how spatial presence happens is that it takes two steps:

1.Players form a mental representation of the space with which the game is presenting them the richer and more detailed, the better.

2.Players begin to lose focus on the media and technology between them and the game, and thus favor the game world as their primary point of reference for where they are.

But not all games are equally immersive, obviously. Previous research has identified characteristics of the media, the person, and the technology that are critical to either of the steps above. Gone Home provides great examples of several of these.

First, Gone Home does so much to create a rich mental model of a familiar environment. Being able to interact with objects and having those objects consistently behave in a way that you would expect helps weave a convincing game world. One of the game’s hooks is that it happens within a small environment but that environment is extremely detailed. You can pick up and inspect almost everything highlighters, magazines, ticket stubs, knickknacks, various reminders that your parents still have sex, WHATEVER. What’s more, you can rotate the item and inspect it up close. The game artists even carefully replicated different people’s handwriting where appropriate. And it’s not like there are a bunch of identical objects copy/pasted into the world, like there are in other open world games where you see five copies of the same book in one room. Most of Gone Home’s in-game flotsam is unique.

If you thought games like Skyrim were super interactive because you could pick up pots and cheese wheels, you haven’t seen anything. Gone Home has the most interactive, detailed, and believable game environments I’ve seen, and it’s clear that the developers spent a considerable chunk of their limited resources on these little details for no other reason than immersion. And while the game doesn’t fully escape the “disembodied voice reads you journal snippets” trope a la Bioshock,  the bulk of narrative information is presented through realistically written notes, letters, and other handwritten detritus.

So Gone Home checks off nearly every item on the “How to create a rich mental model of a virtual environment” checklist. But it has two other qualities that speak directly to that second step in the immersion process where you lose track of the real world and adopting the house at 1 Arbor Hill, Boon County Oregon as the primary reference point for where you are.

In a recent article Matthias Hofer, Werner Wirth and their colleagues put this model of spatial presence formation to the test using a setup that strikes some resemblance to Gone Home. Research subjects were sedated, tagged, and put in front of a computer loaded with a program known as “The House of Learning.” Within the program’s virtual environment was a two story manor with ten rooms full of displays about the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I like to think that subjects were constantly expecting the the famous composer’s ghost to leap out and scare them. Regardless, study participants wandered through the house and investigated different rooms. Part of the study was to examine the importance of two related factors in creating spatial presence: domain specific interest and involvement.

Domain specific interest is a measure of how much the themes, settings, or other content of a game float your boat. If you’re way into spaghetti westerns, for example, you will have a high level of domain specific interest in Red Dead Redemption. Gone Home will probably float a lot of boats in the harbors of its target audience, since it deals with themes we can all relate to and have experience with: young love, teenage rebellion, making friends, and realizing how bad your taste in music used to be. What’s more, the game is set during 1995, and anyone who spent formative teenage years around that time will delight in many references to its pop culture. Video tapes, music tapes, concert posters, toys, SNES games, and other icons of the era are everywhere to be found in the house.

Hoffer, Wirth, and their co-authors argue and found in the course of their study that this kind of domain-specific interest motivates media users to focus more of their precious attention on the game and interact with it more deeply. Which in turn results in the next reason why Gone Home is so immersive: Involvement.

Involvement, the researchers say, is intense, prolonged focus of attention and thought on the media. It’s thinking hard about the game’s virtual environment and wondering how it relates to you and what you’re doing. But it’s not simply paying attention to something. Rather, it’s effortful and deliberate mental processing of the virtual world.

Gone Home is very easy to become involved with. In fact, it demands involvement, because very little is spelled out for the player, who has to piece together scraps of the game’s narrative through information gleaned from all those intricately modeled objects, notes, and other clues. You have to search for sources of information, figure out from whose perspective that information originated, how it fits in chronologically, how reliable it is, and many other factors. The clues are often vague, so much of the game’s enjoyment comes from letting them tumble around in your mind and constructing a narrative that makes sense. Plus the writing in the game is so good that you WANT to find out more about what’s going on, which requires ever more involvement, which according to the research cited above leads to more spatial presence (i.e., immersion).

For all these reasons, Gone Home is a textbook example of many of the ways to create immersion, and I honestly think that media researchers studying spatial presence should be using it in their research. It’s much more likely to create spatial presence than a house full of Mozart infographics. There are other aspects of the game that facilitate a rich mental model and adoption of that model as a reference point for location, but its incredibly interactive and detailed environment, broad domain specific interest, and demands for involvement are enough to do the trick.(source:psychologyofgames