It’s the buzz, the trend in todays leisure and entertainment creations. Every new attraction is suddenly completely immersive. All guests will immerse themselves into magical worlds. The immersion of the new ride is like never before. The moment guests step through the gate or the door they will feel immersed by all levels….
So, what is immersion and what is it related to leisure?
In his Immersive World Handbook Scott Lucas divides immerson for leisure in 6 levels or categories.
He makes a distinction between real and fictive worlds. Many attractions will be a blend because of practicallity. A modern cash register in a pirates themed store will have to be hidden from view, or is an acceptional dent in the total theming. Medieval castles didn’t have lights in the 17th century. But because you want people to see something during the ride, and because the fire department doesn’t allow you to use candles, the use of theatrical lighting is a necessary part of the attraction. Blending also means that a fictional pirates store or bar can also be used as a real store or bar. An actual pirates cove where you can enjoy a cold drink while surrounded by artifacts and served by a pirate complete with eye patch and parrot on his shoulder, making it clear to you that you are in the world of pirates.
He also divides in attractions with a high standard of theming with much attention to detail, and lands or rides where the theming is perhaps just a bunch of statues and artifacts along the track. There are numerous themed roller coasters. The queue areas can be highly themed, while the theming around the roller coaster are often large statues or artifacts that you zoom by at large speeds so attention is not paid to detail but to impact and visuality during that short moment the coaster train flashes by.
This is what most people in the leisure industry see as immersion. Walking or riding through an area that is beautifully themed… But immersion is way more than that. To start with, the moment you walk trough an area and say ‘Oh wow they did a nice job it really looks like a planet somewhere in a far galaxy’, you know it is not fully immersive. That would start with you really believing you are walking around on a planet not being Earth. But then the foods that you can buy there, the gifts that you can take home with you, the cast members working there looking, dressed up, matching the theme… The music of course being what you would hear on such a place instead of the latest earthy top-40 hits.
Immersion also means visitors can download the app, and start at home already looking at your new area, making reservations in the new restaurant, can get discounts that vary over the day, book fastpass….
And if you want to do it properly, the entertainment should of course match the theme. The guest can meet and greet characters. And with all this in place then you can talk about fully immersive. Big players in the entertainment business are starting now to even go a bit further. Imagine a place where you not just walk around but can become part of the daily life. Perhaps you (your kids) can dress up like pirates and go along with the pirates on a treasure hunt. Or maybe someone stole the freshly baked cookies from the themed kitchen and you have to find out who did that. Can you spot a character eating cookies? Or can you help the baker bake new cookies? Imagine a CSI-attraction where every guest can solve crimes just by walking around and gathering clues. That is the moment an attraction becomes again like a playground where you yourself have to be active to have fun, and where (you think) you are in control of what you do when.
If done properly an immersive attraction changes the behavior of your guests. You can guide their behavior to a certain level regarding when they do what. If done even more perfect it gets you in control of their behavior. And that is where it becomes interesting. Unfortunately only the larger players seem to understand how immersion actally works.
Adding an immersive attraction, or adding a completely new immersive area, means so much more than just some nice theming. I hope somehow I got people to understand that slamming in some movie-IP is not immersion, that very detailed theming is just part of immersion, that buying theme-based food is only immersive if the restaurant and its employees are all part of the theming…
Immersion does also not perse mean you have to create an expensive dark ride, or over the top thrillride. It is about the guests experience, and how you can help making them escape the best way possible from daily life. If you succeed in that then even a simple maze can do the trick for you….
Want to discuss more? Having questions?