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2017

Flow and Immersion in Video Games: The Aftermath of a Conceptual Challenge


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Games to play aftermath 2017

Postby Dalrajas В» 17.12.2018

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One of the most pleasurable aspects of video games is their ability to induce immersive experiences. However, there appears to be a tentative conceptualization of what an immersive experience is. In this short review, we specifically focus on the terms of flow and immersion, as they are the most widely used and applied definitions in the video game literature, whilst their differences remain disputable.

We critically review the concepts separately and proceed with a comparison on their proposed differences. We conclude that immersion and flow do not substantially differ in current studies and that more evidence is needed to justify their separation. Video games offer highly positive experiences and it has been argued that the experience of flow alone may be responsible for the positive emotions during video game playing Hoffman and Novak , ; Quinn, ; Guo et al.

Although immersion presents subtle structural differences from flow, it is believed that they allude to different mental phenomena Brown and Cairns, ; IJsselsteijn et al.

The number of theories that exist for flow and immersion are a testimony to the complex nature of the underlying mental state. The overt similarities between flow and immersion are available when examining popular theories of immersion e. Immersive experiences during video game playing are still predominantly measured with questionnaires Procci and Bowers, ; Lee et al. These tools often present variability on the definitional premise upon which they were structured, and thus raise ambiguity over the validity of what they claim to be capturing.

This short review examines the main differences that have been outlined for flow and immersion and argues that these states might actually be the same. Immersion is perhaps more popular than flow across academics and non-academics alike Smith, and has a long history of interpretations Smith et al.

The debate, however, is not merely about which term is more appropriate than the other Cairns, , but mainly about the sensory, cognitive, and emotional products of an immersive experience. Flow theory is often approached from a radical standpoint, wherein all of its nine proposed dimensions must be present for the experience to qualify as flow. Cairns et al. Others have argued that flow does not need to comply with all the criteria simultaneously Csikszentmihalyi, , ; Quinn, ; Chen, ; Guo and Poole, ; Heo et al.

However, the minimum requirements for an experience to qualify as flow remains unsettled i. For example, Skadberg and Kimmel found that the criteria with the highest factor loadings for flow were enjoyment and time perception distortion. In contrast, Klasen et al. This possible limitation in flow theory has been exploited in favor of new definitions for an immersive experience. In p. Similarly, the characteristics of each stage in immersion describe the average immersive episode, but they are not guaranteed Brown and Cairns, Flow has been referred to as the optimal experience when nothing else matters Csikszentmihalyi, ; Jackson and Csikszentmihalyi, This characterization has led to the belief that flow is a particularly intense experience, and therefore extreme Jennett et al.

Importantly, proponents of this notion have yet to address how immersion can further descend into flow and to trace the qualifying elements for such a transition.

Immersion, on the other hand, has been tagged as sub-optimal , a characterization that has been deemed to be more suitable for video game playing Jennett et al. Brown and Cairns identified three grades of immersion: engagement, engrossment and total immersion, and argued that total immersion is not always achievable see also, Jennett et al. Hence, the model of an average immersive experience in video game playing can be reduced to the engagement and engrossment levels, whose characteristics are not considerably divergent from flow.

Although immersion is purported to be a non-extreme state, Brown and Cairns put forward the concept of total immersion, whose name also denotes an experiential extremity. The mechanisms, indicative of an extreme experience, are likely to be concentration, loss of self-reflection, distortion of time perception and autotelicity, all of which make flow inherently dissociative from reality.

Except for autotelicity, the remaining dimensions are also found in immersion e. To address the last, most distinctive concomitant of the flow experience, autotelicity, we should note that the term poses a conflict in itself.

This meaning renders autotelicity antecedent to flow. On the other hand, autotelicity has been used to denote high satisfaction derived from an activity Csikszentmihalyi, — perhaps a product of time perception distortion e.

Hence, it is treated as an outcome of flow e. Csikszentmihalyi , mentioned that a person might not always receive satisfaction whilst engaging in an activity, but rather immediately after. In video games, it has been argued that positive and negative emotions are both valid constituents of an engaging experience Kaye et al. These observations indicate that autotelicity might be asynchronous to the core flow experience Quinn, ; Engeser and Schiepe-Tiska, , and conflict with the notion that flow is more extreme than immersion.

Toward a more precise identification of experiential intensity, it is critical to quantify an immersive episode by its duration, latency time taken to trigger the episode , intensity, and frequency of breaks how often the episodes are interrupted. Presence is elicited when the player feels as being in the game e.

Immersion theories have incorporated presence to an extent that it becomes indistinguishable from immersion e. For example, Brown and Cairns have explicitly equated total immersion to presence.

Their framework visualizes immersion as a multi-graded construct, that intensifies over time, yet presence fails to provide the quantitative information needed to separate it from earlier, or less intense, stages of immersion. Moreover, the authors inferred that engagement and engrossment — which encompass physical and emotional investment in the game, loss of self-awareness and sustained attention — prime the experience of presence.

Consequently, the model describes the path to attaining presence, which is viewed as the core of immersion, even if players do not always progress into presence Jennett et al. Thus, we suggest that the model of Brown and Cairns possibly yields an incomplete taxonomy. In contrast, the distinction between presence and flow is perhaps clearer. This distinction exposes a fundamental difference: presence may not necessitate player interaction or physical effort Slater and Wilbur, ; IJsselsteijn et al.

With the addition of presence, immersion becomes an over-inclusive concept, thereby fueling the differentiation between immersion and flow e. However, presence and flow also present similarities. Witmer and Singer suggested that the prerequisites for presence are concentration, a sense of control, and the presence of feedback, which are some of the same criteria Csikszentmihalyi , suggested for flow.

In addition, both presence and flow have been associated with decreased frontal brain activation e. Finally, the maintenance of these states is achieved through selective attention Witmer and Singer, ; Kober and Neuper, ; Harris et al. It is possible that presence operates separately from flow, and that these two states share similar pre-conditions Mollen and Wilson, However, it is also possible that it is experienced before flow e.

To conclude, presence appears to refer to a different sensation from the experience of immersion or flow. Arguably, flow and immersion present the characteristics of an altered state of consciousness, whereas presence does not Brockmyer et al. This distinction places presence at an early stage of video game engagement e. Although research seems to lack robust evidence for neural patterns observable in flow, immersion, and presence, these constructs may be sharing mutual neural correlates Klasen et al.

However, this absence of patterns, specific to each construct, may be due to the particularities of the tasks employed in neural studies. Flow has been associated with the dopaminergic system Marr, ; Weber et al. The prefrontal cortex PFC remains a debated brain structure for its role in flow. Dietrich hypothesized that flow reflects reduced frontal brain activity, and basal ganglia are deployed to allow a state of automatic behavior and executive functioning — a state known as transient hypofrontality Dietrich, The state of hypofrontality has not been consistently confirmed Yoshida et al.

In a recent study by Causse et al. However, explicit control on the task may not be essential during flow e. Indeed, task automation is a distinctive feature of flow e. Klasen et al. Contrarily, Yoshida et al. However, Yoshida et al. This is an important factor, in that flow may orchestrate neural networks differently for novice and expert players e.

Similarly, evidence on the loss of self-reflective thoughts during flow has revealed reduction in the activity of the medial PFC Ulrich et al. These contradicting findings should be interpreted with care; flow is perhaps related to a localized hypofrontality, and not as universal as Dietrich originally speculated Harris et al.

We suggest that frontal brain reduction may be a function of time. For example, Yun et al. Although similar observations have not been proposed for immersion, the conceptual overlap between flow and immersion Brown and Cairns, ; Jennett et al.

However, an occipital and frontoparietal network has also been found to underlie spatial awareness in the first-person perspective Vogeley and Fink, ; Vogeley et al.

This finding is alarming in that concurrent neural networks, specific to the task, may have been misidentified for flow dimensions, as argued by Yoshida et al. Different game genres can have specific cognitive demands e. These games might stimulate higher prefrontal activation, without necessarily implying that it is a substrate of flow.

The responsibility of the frontoparietal network to allocate attentional resources and the reduced activation thereof in video game playing Bavelier et al. On the other hand, presence has received limited focus on its neural substrates. From the few studies investigating them, presence has been consistently shown to rely on frontoparietal connections e. Although motor simulation and execution have been shown to have a strong overlap on a neural level Hesslow, , research has shown distinct boundaries.

For instance, Ingvar and Philipson found that motor simulation resided in a frontoparietal network, whereas motor execution was associated with the Rolandic area. Similarly, Bauer et al. The user becomes dissociated from the surrounding environment and feels like they lose ownership of their body Sanchez-Vives and Slater, As such, presence has been argued to be resembling to an out-of-body experience Herbelin et al.

These findings may not offer direct evidence for a comparison between flow, immersion and presence. However, they shed light on some differences. Flow is triggered during a task, thereby implying motor execution.

As mentioned above, motor execution and simulation share functional correlates, but they also present differences. Moreover, presence appears to be a visceral sensation and a primal mechanism of sensory integration e. In addition, the frontoparietal network appears to be essential for the sense of presence Kober et al. Presence is challenging to isolate in video games, because interactivity is their key component when compared to other media forms Granic et al.

Perhaps, this very challenge has sparked the unification between immersion and presence e. Contrary to the growing body of literature investigating the neural correlates of flow e. This focused review briefly addressed some conceptual challenges in the literature of flow vs.

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Most often it was giving too much. A Closer Look at Meziah. Physiological aspects of flow experiences: Skills-demand-compatibility effects on heart rate variability and salivary cortisol. Recommended: OS: Windows 10 Processor: 2. The overt similarities between flow and immersion are available when examining popular theories of immersion e.

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Postby Nikojas В» 17.12.2018

Most often trying too hard. Currently, there is lacking evidence to suggest that a particular game design is better at triggering flow than immersion or vice versa see, Nacke and Lindley,; Nacke et al. We are bookworms. The number of theories that exist for flow and immersion are a testimony 20017 the complex nature of the underlying mental state.

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