BlogPost #1: Rethinking sociality – a theoretical approach


This work explores the sociality of players across virtual and real spaces through a theoretical analysis of immersion, the magic circle, sociality, asymmetric gameplay, narratives and procedural rhetoric. The theories presented serves to create the foundation from which to rethink the social context that unfolds surrounding a virtual reality experience.

Table of contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Immersion
  3. The Magic Circle
  4. Sociality
  5. Asymmetric Gameplay
  6. Spatial Qualities and Narratives
  7. Conclusion
  8. References
  9. Games Cited
  10. Figures


(Mathias Oliver Jeppesen, 7.107)

The essence of a game is rooted in its interactivity, and without a player there would not be a game. To fully understand what a game is, we need to understand what happens in the act of playing as well as the experience of gameplay (Ermi & Mäyrä, 2005, 2).

An important part of our domain contains the empathy of the game. As the player participates in the VR experience, the person gets drawn into another world. In this world the player will face different tasks which should increase the player’s obsession with the game.

Virtual reality gives the individual player a new perspective on gaming, but the social aspect of this experience fades away because of the experiential confinement. Not only the VR player should feel the empathy of the game, but the audience as well. By giving the audience an important character in the game, they will experience a better connection to the game. When a person experiences this connection to the game, it is called immersion. This is what we want to accomplish through our project.

In one sentence you could say, that immersion is messy. As it relates to games it can mean all sorts of things. It is the feeling of being transported away to a fantastic world, connecting on a higher level with the characters or simply just losing sense of time. When playing a game, players do not literally believe, that they are being transported into another world. Even though the players are losing all sense of time and place, they are still aware on a subconscious level, that they are looking at a screen. Immersion is therefore a feeling of becoming physically or virtually a part of the experience itself (ibid. 4).

Immersion occurs by creating a game, that drags the player into the virtual world. It is often taken for granted that the pleasure of a media experience lies in its ability to transport the participant into an illusory, simulated reality. Furthermore, it is taken for granted that a better quality of audio equal greater immersion, but these assumptions are known as the immersive fallacy (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003, 451). Even though the audiovisual implementation and the realistic visualization of the game do increase the immersive experience, they are not the only or even the most significant factors, when we talk about the immersion of gameplay (Ermi & Mäyrä, 2005, 4).

Screenwriter, author and filmmaker, Alison McMahan, describes in her book, The Video Game, Theory Reader, that immersion has become an overall trend to make desktop video games feel more like virtual reality. Her approach reexamines the concept of immersion in video games, and she finds it necessary to break down the concept of immersion into more specific meanings and develop a more specific terminology. McMahan has therefore listed three conditions to create a clearer understanding of immersion in digital games. The first condition includes the player’s expectations of the game or environment which have to match the environment’s conventions closely. Being drawn in by environmental immersion means to be intrigued by the virtual world and its inhabitants. The second condition includes the player’s non-trivial impact on the game, in other words, meaningful things to do for the player. Through simplicity of design or player competency the controller fades away, leaving nothing between the player and the game. The player will in this case not act in terms of button inputs, but instead in terms of action. The third and last condition is to make sure that the conventions of the virtual world stays consistent (McMahan, 2003, 1-3).

The non-trivial impact of the game is further described by psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who uses the term “flow” to describe immersion in a particular action rather than immersion in a mediated environment.

Figure 1 – Flow Model

As shown in the figure above, Csikszentmihalyi illustrates flow as a balance between challenges and skills, where the player’s skills and the challenges presented in the game are perfectly matched. This is also called the challenge-based immersion (Ermi & Mäyrä, 2005, 8). If the difficulty of the game is too high compared to the skills of the player, the game will lead to anxiety. If otherwise the difficulty appears too low compared to the skills of the player, the game will lead to boredom. When both skills and challenges are matched perfectly, the player will achieve a feeling of full control over the activity, and the player will therefore feel immersed into the game by flow (Wissmath, Wiebel & Groner, 2009, 5).

Immersion can be seen as a design made by the game developers, but as previously mentioned, the essence of a game occurs by interactivity. A game cannot force the player so be immersed. Immersion is something that has to take place inside the mind of the player. If non-enthusiastic players are playing a game, which they do not find joyful or interesting, immersion will not occur (Ermi & Mäyrä, 2005, 10).

The majority of digital games available today offer a variety of multi-player settings including co-located and mediated play between opponents. Playing socially is a prevalent and important aspect of digital gaming, which helps bringing the enjoyment of playing. The presence of real others being physically represented can be seen as something of a distraction or interruption to an individual’s immersive experience. If immersion is about being in the game, playing socially is a way of making you aware of those around you. However social gaming can be addressed as the opposite, if the other players become part of the game as well. A study that investigates the relationship between social play and immersion shows that immersion increases from individual play to playing against another person. At the same time, it shows no significant difference between whether the other person was online or co-located. This study suggests that, in all social contexts, immersion is an important aspect of the gaming experience, and immersion will increase through multi-player interaction (Cairns, Cox, Day, Martin & Perryman, 2013).

The immersion of a game is important to achieve, because it leaves the player with a better experience. The achievement of immersion can be attained in multiple ways as earlier mentioned, and immersion should be linked with every possible way that the player gets drawn into the game, whether it is revealed by the visuals- or the mechanics of the game.

In our domain, we will include the audience and the VR player in the same game. This fusion will result in a social context, which has shown to increase immersion. Additionally, we will try to achieve the challenge-based immersion by creating a balance between the challenges of the game and the abilities of the players.

Great games are not fundamentally immersive. Immersion should be seen as a tool to achieve great experiences, but immersion is not the only tool to achieve a joyful and interesting game. The making of a joyful and interesting game contains a wide spectrum of aspects, which will be further described in the following chapters.

The Magic Circle

(Jannik Østergaard Ibsen, 7.157)

“This is the problem of the way we get into and out of the play or game…what are the codes which govern these entries and exits?” (Sutton-Smith,1971, 173)

If a game consists of a beginning, middle and an end as argued by S&Z (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003, 95) then what exactly constitutes this boundary? At what point does interaction turn into play, and at what point does it end? And how does it affect the social context?

“All play moves and has its being within a playground marked off beforehand materially or ideally, deliberately or as a matter of course… The arena, the card-table, the magic circle, [….], i.e., forbidden spots, isolated, hedged round, hallowed, within which special rules obtain. All are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart” (Huizinga 1955, 10)

The term “the magic circle” originates from Johan Huizinga’s work Homo Ludens (Huizinga, 1955), but not until S&Z’s text was it conceptualized in a digital and modern environment. S&Z have taken a term that was originally used by Huizinga to exemplify and describe “gaming” as processes or activity, rather than games as objects which is the focus of their work “The rules of play”.

In S&Z’s terms the magic circle is a concept connected to the question of the “reality“ of a game.  Using Michael Apters terminology, S&Z describe the magic circle as being the “protective frame which stands between you and the “real” world and its problems, creating an enchanted zone in which, in the end, you are confident that no harm can come (Apter, 1991, 15).

Summarized, the notion of the magic circle should be seen as a mind-set, a mindset players accept when they partake in a game experience, an acceptance that you are now actively “playing” a game, that a different set of rules apply and that in the blink of an eye, friend can turn to foe.

Just as authors such as Juul & Woodford, one might disapprove of the terminology “the magic circle”, as it suggest a uniform interface between the physical and virtual world that constitutes the game. (Juul, 2008, 63) And while friends can turn foe, they should hopefully remain friends once you leave the game space, a consideration that will affect player’s judgement and actions.

Figure 2 Three Frames for Every Game Action(Juul 2008)

Juul introduces the model “Three Frames for every game Action” (Fig. 2) (Juul, 2008, 56FF) the model aims to illustrate, and expand upon Richard Garfield’s theory of metagames. Meta games are to be understood as what players bring to and take away from a game experience. Meta games are in short “how a game interfaces with life (Garfield, 2000, 14).

The model can be seen as ways of “playing”, exemplifying three different levels of Meta games (ibid.). For example you could be playing with a desire to win, (Goal orientation), a desire for an interesting game (Experience-oriented through self-handicap) or with a desire for the management of a social situation (Social context-oriented) (Juul, 2008, 61FF).

It is impossible to determine the relative weight of these considerations, as players experience a vast range of desires based on external factors. You might handicap yourself playing against your younger brother to make for a more interesting game (experience-oriented) or you might let your boss win in a game as you worry about the potential social consequences of winning.

No matter which desire a player decides to adapt in a given situation, the player is constantly reevaluating and adapting his approach to the game throughout the game-experience. You might enter the game with an initial goal of winning the game, but as the game unfolds, you decide to rather focus on managing the social situation that will unfold as you leave the game space. A consideration that moves against the notion of the magic circle as a metaphor.

“[….] implying that your emotional state in one environment does not cross into the other. This would seem to me to be illogical, as it is very rare that a human is able to completely separate one experience from another.” (Woodford, 2008, 4)

This view as portrayed by Woodford on the magic circle is shared by Edward Castronova, who in his work “Synthetic Worlds” acknowledges that the play experience cannot be sealed completely, people are constantly crossing over this quite porous barrier that is the magic circle, carrying over behavioral assumptions and attitudes(Castronova, 2005, 147)

As a means of rethinking VR we wish to challenge the assumption that players have to adhere to two different set of rules. Say a player is sat down playing a Virtual reality game with several friends watching.

Not only does said player have to adhere to the operational and constitutive rules of the game itself, but also adhere to the implicit rules of the social context in which he finds himself. (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003, 130)

“In this way, your actions, both in the game and in the physical environment, become a performance for an audience. This performer/audience relationship can also prompt players to perform in a way that is more appealing to the audience, thus shifting the focus from functionally goal-directed behavior to more visually pleasing or impressive actions.”(Calleja, 2011, 104)

As described by Calleja, being aware of the fact that you are being watched by an audience, will affect your decisions and ultimately affect your immersion.

Utilizing Jesper Juul’s framework (Fig. 2) we can start expressing the goals and ambitions of our project. We want the player wearing the VR headset, to move from a context based approach found in frame 3 to a goal-oriented approach found in Frame 1. We will attempt to achieve this by making the “audience” active participants on par with the user wearing the headset. Should our project prove successful, the user wearing the headset should no longer feel a requirement for managing of a social situation, as it’s no longer just him acting upon the game world, but a notion of combined effort, where the participants previously making up the audience, now take an active role and responsibility for the unfolding story within the game. Thereby changing the “I” within the gaming experience into a combined “we” through shared involvement.

“Players come to view themselves not only as individual players but also as team players who know that everything they do can also have impact on the other members of the team” (ibid, 111)

Utilizing Jesper Juuls framework proves useful in discussing the immersion and desire of the “primary” player, it however falls short when discussing the audience and their role in the social context, as they do not (to the same degree) have to manage a social situation. Despite this the claim can be made that no matter the circumstances of the player, if you actively engage in a game you have to adhere to Juul’s three set of frames, and while this is true, these considerations lie outside of the scope of this chapter.

Summarized the question can be asked, how can you truly immerse yourself in a game, if you are constantly aware of, and trying to present yourself in the best possible light, when it becomes a game of presentation in a social context rather than a means for meaningful play.


(Emma Ottilie Arendal Odgaard, 6.913)

A point of critique in VR games, is that it can be excluding the physical space and the people around the player. When playing on your own, this is a non-issue, but when joined by a group, this relationship between people can be explored. Usually, a VR player enters a game experience by themselves, leaving people in the real world behind, as spectators at best. In this project we want to create a more communal game experience with VR and enhance the sociality of VR gaming through collaboration across spaces. To explore this sociality, and eventually wanting to rethink it, we must first discuss what constitutes sociality and social behavior in general.

When playing games, like both Huizinga and Callois (1955, 1958) says, we follow rules. In every social setting there are implied rules of accepted social behavior. These behaviors have to be understood in order to create a game that works with sociality as we intend to. Erving Goffman writes about these social structures in his book (Goffman, 1963). When people come into each other’s immediate presence this is often in the sense of a “social occasion”. This is a social event, bound in regard to place and time and typically facilitated by fixed equipment; a social occasion provides the structuring social context in which many situations and their gatherings are likely to take place, while a pattern of conduct tends to be recognized as the appropriate, official or intended one. A “standing behavior pattern” (ibid. 18). The sociality is “situated”. Goffman’s point is that in any given situation, every individual will be relating to the other people present; also when this awareness of other people is not visible. Being situated means being aware of your surroundings to a degree where all actions in the situation are coupled with the awareness of the situation.

In our situation, this could be a social occasion of a group of friends, gathered in a room with the intention to play games together. The context of the social occasion and the gathering is important in regards to what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It is based on the situated sociality. A person acting out strange movements with a headset in a public space, with no obvious reason might be considered odd or even threatening those surrounding them. In the context of an “unserious” social occasion among friends, the person in the VR headset is not only acceptable, but likely the center of attention and the very point the other people gather round to see.

There can exist multiple social realities in the same place. Once a social situation is referred back to the social occasion that sets the tone for the gathering, the same physical space may be caught within the domain of two different social occasions (ibid. 20). This example of different social situations is crucial to our VR project. Once the player puts on the VR headset, there exists two worlds and two socialites within the physical space for the player. As Salen & Zimmerman puts it, there exists a “magic circle” wherein the game takes place (2003, 95). We want to expand this circle to include all the people in the physical space equally.

Regarding Goffman’s definition of situation (Goffman, 1963, 21) it can either be focused or unfocused. A focused interaction is “the kind of interaction that occurs when persons gather close together and openly cooperate to sustain a single focus of attention, typically by taking turns at talking” (ibid. 24). Unfocused interaction is when people are in the same situation but without interacting even though they are still aware of each other’s presence: “In this realm of unfocused interaction, no one participant can be officially “given the floor”; there is no official center of attention” (ibid. 34).

In this sense, interactive systems like games are usually about focused interaction. You are never supposed to not care and the system will strive to be the center of attention. Thus, the user’s relations to everything besides the use itself is supposed to be unfocused or maybe even non-focused. Jesper Juul divides the previously mentioned magic circle into three frames; winning the game, keeping the game interesting and maintaining the social situation (Juul, 2009, 61). Here, we would want to move the person with the VR headset into the first frame of the circle and not have to focus on maintaining social situations. Furthermore, we need to move the spectators from being playful or performing ludic activities into Game Play; the formalized interaction that occurs when players follow the rules of a games and experience its system through play (Sicart, 2014, 8).

Unfocused interaction is implausible when it comes to being watched while using experience systems, as the user is precisely “the center of attention” from the spectators’ point of view and the user is aware of this. Accordingly, the user experiences a double focused interaction. They are focused on both the system use and their relation to people present. The player takes on a role of “performer”.

Herein lies some of the problems with sociality within VR. The situation can be seen as split. In most VR games right now, the game situation is only focused for the player. Others in the room might have a focused situation as well, being the spectating of the player, but these are two different focused situations within one space. Furthermore, the roles are different, in that the player is the performer and the other people in the room are spectators. Even though this relationship is clearly one that engages both parties socially, our intent with this project is to make the entire group active players or “performers” within the space. A challenge for our project is to find a way to combine the player’s and the spectators focused attention into one. We have to find the ideal settings for a cooperated game experience that includes everyone in the gameplay equally, on the same level in the magic circle, all with the same rule of play in mind, without losing immersion in the game. As part of this ideal setting we have to take into account Callois’ attitudes and categories of play (Callois, 1961, 307) to explore what works best with our wish to expand and enhance the social game experience.

“The cooperative aspect of shared involvement seems to become more engaging the greater the number of people working together. Much can go wrong, but, when the collaboration works, the efforts are seen as being more than worthwhile.” (Calleja, 2011, 106)

This is something we can use in our project. We have to create a game that is only successfully “won” when collaboration and communication across space is utilized as a core aspect of the game. Each part has to be dependent on the others engagement in the game to accomplish equality within the game experience regardless of who wears the VR headset.

Asymmetric Gameplay

(Erik Høyrup Jørgensen, 6.969)

To create an experience that can not be played without VR, but still entertaining for the Non-VR participants, the gameplay will need to be different for the VR and non-VR participants. After all; if the non-VR participants are doing the same thing as the VR player, the VR player might as well be playing without VR. In regards to our project, asymmetrical gameplay can be used as a tool to accomplish the setting for a more social game experience.

This type of gameplay, where different groups of players experience differences in gameplay, is referred to as asymmetrical gameplay. Asymmetric gameplay in games is nothing new. One of the earliest video games to feature this is Nautilus (1982 Mike Poter, Synapse Software) that has one player controlling a submarine, with the goal of destroying underwater buildings, while the other player is playing a ship trying to stop the submarine. However asymmetrical gameplay does not presuppose variable player goals (players having different win conditions), but merely that the gameplay is different for different groups.

If we are to create a model for comparing asymmetrical gameplay, by looking at how different the play experience is for different groups, we can put those on a spectrum, going from symmetrical, towards asymmetrical, ending in absolute asymmetry. In the following paragraphs, we will place three games on this spectrum.

Figure 3: The Asymmetrical Spectrum – with the analyzed games plotted in.

Asymmetry comes in a spectrum, ranging from tiny variations in the play experience to a completely different play experience (Fullerton et al. 2008, 291FF). An argument can be made for Street Fighter (1) (1987, Capcom) being on the almost symmetrical part of the spectrum. Because even though Ken and Ryu (the two playable characters) play identically, player 2 has to start in the right side of the screen. And since the inputs required to perform certain moves are relative to the position of the characters, the experience is slightly different. For example: The Hadouken is a QCP (Quarter circle punch), which means to perform it, the player has to pull the stick downard and make a quarter circle towards the opponent and the press the punch key. If a player is used the play on the left side of the screen, the player will have more experience making quater circles counterclockwise. This makes the experience a little different for the left and right player. In subsequent games, the difference between the characters have been more pronounced, making the left side/right side difference mostly a complication for beginners.

Further along the spectrum of asymmetry is Team Fortress 2 (2007 Valve). Even though all players are essentially playing the same game; running, shooting, completing the objective. They are playing it in different ways (grouped by their character choice), the Spy is not engaging the enemy head on, but rather sneaks around enemy lines, and focuses on key targets. While the Soldier is pushing the front, creating a line where the defensive and utility roles can be safe behind. So their goals are the same, and actions they take are the same, but the choices they make are different.

Near the end of the spectrum of asymmetry is Keep talking and nobody explodes (2015 Steel Crate Games) where each of the player groups are almost playing their own game. One player is playing a game about defusing an explosive device, by exploring the details of the device and communicating the things that are important. The other player (or players) is reading the manual to the game, receiving instructions from the other player, and trying to comprehend and compare it with the manual. So in essence; one player is exploring the game, while the other player is figuring out the game (like a puzzle game).

In Marc LeBlanc’s 8 Kinds of fun, he proposes a taxonomy to help describe how games are fun. It contains 8 kinds of fun being: Sensation (fun as in sense-pleasure), Fantasy (fun as in make-believe), Narrative (fun as in drama), Challenge (fun as in an obstacle course), Fellowship (fun as a social experience), Discovery (fun as in exploring uncharted territory), Expression (fun as in self-discovery), Submission (fun as in mindless pastime) (LeBlanc 2017). There are other taxonomies of fun, but for this post, we will stick to Marc LeBlanc’s (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003, cpt. 24).

Using this taxonomy to analyze Keep talking and nobody explodes we find that the players are experiencing “fun” from different aesthetics. The player with the explosive device is discovering the components on the bomb and finding a way to explain them which matches the Discovery and Fellowship-play aesthetic. While the player with the manual is figuring it out as a puzzle, and communicating it back to the other player. The manual player is experiencing fun as a Challenge and Fellowship-aesthetic. It should be noted that the players might also feel like they are actual bomb defusers from an action tv-show, touching on the Narrative and Expression-aesthetics.

The MDA (Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics) framework goal is to create a “formal approach to understanding games”. It argues that mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics are connected, but that the designer and player is coming to it from each end of the model. The designer is creating mechanics that interacts with other mechanics, which creates dynamics, that causes aesthetics. While the player is experiencing the aesthetics, when figuring out the dynamics, by interacting with the mechanics. The framework uses Marc LeBlanc’s 8 Kinds of Fun (And a few of his other works, as he is the co-author) to specify what the aesthetics are (Hunicke, 2004).

An interesting thing to note with Keep talking and nobody explodes is; that the difference in fun-aesthetics between the two players are only the discovery and challenge-aesthetic. Even though they are playing the game, with a completely different set of mechanics, they share a lot of play aesthetics. The MDA Framework suggests that these aesthetics comes from dynamics, which emerges from the mechanics. So one way to explain these shared play aesthetics is to look at the communication as a mechanic. The shared aesthetics emerges from the situations created by the communication (i.e. the dynamics).

This post’s focus is on the social aspects of VR, in particular the situation where the Non-VR participants are sharing the physical space (ie. the real world) with the VR participant. Because of the players being right next to each other, some sort of communication will be inevitable. Therefore understanding communication as a game mechanic understanding how and why a game is “fun”. Gordon Calleja observes that when a player is observed by an audience, the player might perform certain actions differently as to perform for their audience. This is despite the audience not having a direct interaction with the game, but with the game play (Calleja, 2011,104).

Spatial qualities and Narratives

(Rolf P. T. Holm, 6.558)

As presented in Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen et al.’s book Understanding Video Games (2008, cpt. 5), the space of the game world can vary in function, dimensions and dynamics off-screen among other qualities. The book presents a framework for which to understand and place videogame spaces within its different categories.

Figure 4: Spatial Game Characteristics. There is no relationship across the rows (ibid. cpt. 5).
The element of scrolling will not be part of our game and is not introduced.

A game is either in first- or third-person perspective, as seen in first person shooters (FPS) and top down view used in real-time strategy games (RTG). First person view is ideal for VR and more social interactions in games, as the player is visually closer with the sprites and not distanced, as in many third-person games, making for easier social interactions in virtual space.
The choice of dimensional space used in a game, limits the mechanics as different mechanics might be be difficult to integrate into the different spaces. Two-dimensional space does not allow for depth perception, thus no first-person view either, as the sprites aswell become more abstract, as they cannot be represented in three-dimensions. Three-dimensions are therefore chosen as they can better accommodate the social interactions wanted in the solution of our issue with the lacking social aspects of VR.
The framework presents 3 types of space types. The free type is the normal space wherein the player is free to move as they want. The torus type loops around itself as seen in Starbound (2016) where the player in a two-dimensional space can move around a planet’s surface until they reach the same place again. The abstract type includes multiple-screens and unconnected levels and other experimental types. As the project wants to explore the social space between the VR player and other people in the same physical space, the game will be in a grey area between abstract and free, as the project aims to include people, who are not able to use the VR headset, and the space used must be abstract compared to conventional games.
The dynamics of offscreen the elements are either non-existent; static, where the world does not develop without the player; dynamic, where the world develops even without the player. As the aim is to include people outside the virtual world and make use of the social context, a dynamic off-screen will be necessary. It is the easiest way, for the non-VR players to participate on the same level.
Exploration through a game is either free, forced by clocks, walls or other forces, or not existent. As a way to heighten cooperative elements of a game, exploration out of VR and in VR could be a way to include participants outside VR to partake on the same level as the VR player, as the social contexts are unified towards the common goal of exploration.

The game space contains many different aspects, but enables the narrative of the game as all aesthetic elements contribute to the narrative and how the player experiences this.

Space as a Narrative
In the book “The Game Design Reader” (2005), by Salen and Zimmerman, Henry Jenkins presents four types of narrative spaces, the developers being narrative architects in the games.

Evocative Narratives
This narrative space derives from the players already established tropes, knowledge, and assumptions about the narrative space they are moving within (ibid. 677). They have clear concepts of the narrative they are about to engage.
If the game is in VR, developers might try to immerse the players in the established narrative, to further the players obsession with the game and narrative world. This could bridge the gap between VR and non-VR, as all participants could partake in a shared pre-established narrative.

Enacted Narratives
This narrative space is contrast to the idea of all pieces of a narrative working towards pushing the plot. Instead it focuses on spatial exploration like open worlds, where small pieces of the world give an overall experience but does not necessarily push the plot.

“… they are stories which respond to alternative aesthetic principles, privileging spatial exploration […]. [They] are held together by broadly defined goals and conflicts and pushed forward by the character’s movement across the map.” (ibid. 678)

VR visually transports the player to the game world, thus making this narrative easy to incorporate, be it through the designed micro-narrative or random encounter. This game narrative however in a social and physical context, exploration across a map, while still having non-VR participants, could prove a bad design choice, as it does not help to solve the issue.

Embedded Narratives
The embedded narrative is not directly presented to the player but rather discovered.

“… [these video games] make use of some forms of back story which is revealed gradually as we move through the narrative action. The detective story is a classic… ” (ibid. 681)

These games let the player discover and piece together the background for the narrative space. This is done either through discovery in the plot, item descriptions, aesthetics or other clues offered to the player. As an element to work with the main issue, the embedded narrative could foster cooperation across virtual and physical space if asymmetrical gameplay was incorporated, so the aesthetic experience would appeal to VR and non-VR players

Emergent Narratives
This narrative is not planned by the designer but rather made possible by giving the player the toys and mechanics to utilize.

“… It should be understood as a kind of authoring environment within which players can define their own goals and write their own stories.” (ibid. 684)

This type of narrative typically emerges from sandbox games. Here the player is free to roam and author their own narrative within the game space, only restricted by the affordances of the game itself. As a narrative solution to the main issue, if the player outside was given the same afforded participation in the game as the VR player, playfulness across might emerge, as all players can partake in the activity.

With focus on making a social a VR game with a social experience for VR and non-VR players, the use of narrative in the project should aim to make a mutual understanding of the game world and the players participation herein, as to give the same level of gameplay experience to everyone. The abstract and inclusive gamespace that emerges from this will have to include the non-VR player in an interactive way, as to unify the overall game experience.


People are crossing this porous barrier that is the magic circle, carrying over behavioral assumptions and attitudes. Perceived in the context the game inhabits, we argue that the interplay between the players of the real world and VR could (and should) be used as a mechanic to enhance immersion within a social context.


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McMahan, Alison (2009) The Video Game, Theory Reader. Routledge, UK.

Salen, Katie. Zimmerman, Eric (2003) Rules of Play; Game Design Fundamentals. The MIT Press. Cambridge, London.

Sicart, Miguel (2014) Play Matters. The MIT Press. Cambridge, London.

Sutton-Smith, Brian. (1971) Boundaries – In Child’s play. Warrior Books, Malabar.

Wissmath, B. et al. (2009) Dubbing or Subtitling; Effects on Spatial Presence, Transportation, Flow and Enjoyment. Hogrefe publishing.

Woodford, D. (2008) Abandoning the Magic Circle. Tampere, Finland.


Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (2015) Steel Crate Games

McDonalds The Video Game (2006)

Nautilus (1982) Mike Poter, Synapse Software

Starbound (2016) Chucklefish

Street Fighter (1987) Capcom

Team Fortress 2 (2007) Valve Corporation

Tom Clancy’s The Division (2016)


Figure 1: Flow Model.

Figure 2: Three Frames for Every Game Action. Juul, J.  2008. The Magic Circle and the Puzzle Piece (61). Universität Potsdam

Figure 3: The Asymmetrical Spectrum. Author’s own creation 2017

Figure 4: Spatial Game Characteristics table. Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen et al. 2008. Understanding Video Games (cpt. 5)

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