The Pleasures of Immersion and Engagement: Schemas, Scripts, and the Fifth Business






  • Presently, designers of interactive narratives and video games have only a slender understanding of the aesthetic experiences their audiences and users seek. Using schema theory, this study articulates the two varieties of aesthetic pleasures that users of interactive works enjoy: immersion and engagement. It uses schema theory to define the characteristics of immersion and engagement in both conventional and new media. After examining how readers’ experiences of these two different aesthetics may be enhanced or diminished by interface design, options for navigation, and other features, the essay concludes by looking beyond immersion and engagement to “flow,” a state in which readers are both immersed and engaged.

    It must be granted that there is some value in mystification, labyrinth, or surprise in the environment… This is so, however, only under two conditions. First, there must be no danger of losing basic form or orientation, of never coming out. The surprise must occur in an overall framework; the confusions must be small regions in a visible whole. Furthermore, the labyrinth or mystery must in itself have some form that can be explored and in time apprehended. Complete chaos without hint of connection is never pleasurable. – Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City⁵⁷

    Those roles which, being neither those of Hero nor Heroine, Confidante nor Villain, but which were nonetheless essential to bring about the recognition or the denouement, were called the Fifth Business in drama and opera companies organized according to the old style; the player who acted these parts was often referred to as Fifth Business. – Robertson Davies, The Fifth Business: The Deptford Trilogy²²


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