Given the choice, almost all of us would take the red pill. Immersion, like mystery, is incredibly fascinating.Immersion is the act of being plunged, sometimes without us fully realising, into another place; another world. Be it via book, film, video game or any other form of media, our imagination lends itself readily, eagerly, to immersion in other worlds. It can be a very visceral experience, the new world plucking you from your present reality and sucking you through some kind of warping wormhole with a pop. Or it can be less obvious, the new world’s tendrils slowly creeping up and wrapping themselves around you until, before you know it, it feels like you’ve always been there — only you’re not quite sure how you got there.

And it’s healthy. Immersion is healthy. With immersion comes understanding and with that, eventually wisdom. When we’re immersed in a subject matter, be it vampires or the history of British monarchs (or the overlap of both!), we become dedicated to that cause. In reading a good book we often find ourselves identifying with a character and championing their thoughts and emotions. Hell, many people attribute entire shifts in viewpoint and way of life to books! The same can be said of films and video games too — if a book can be life-changing, so can a game!

‘Life-changing’ is the key phrase with immersion. When we enter into another person’s world — for that’s what we’re doing — we are assuming a new role, a new point of view; in essence, a new body. We glance around with the steady, fresh gaze of the newly birthed, curious and forever analysing. We’re actually granted a fresh set of senses which, depending on the story might vary in purpose or intensity — free, wild; sad, caged — but they are new! New, never-before-experienced senses! Just like that, the senses and experiences we carry with us in life can be dropped: prejudice, fear, pain, stress — gone. At least for a little while. Without leaving the library or even rolling out of bed we are able to live through a gamut of emotions and sensory experiences that might, were it not for immersion in a new world, go unused.

The problem, if there is one, is that that the virtual frontiers to which we are exposed are entirely governed by the author of the book, film or game. If the artist wants us to feel scared or fascinated or mystified, we will be. The author or director takes us on a journey, a tour of their imagination. We see and smell and hear their fears and torments, we feel their passions. We experience the joy, elation and pain of their first love, kiss and heart break.

It seems that, irrespective of how wild or terrifying or unreal a world is to us, we want to immerse ourselves. We want to be deeply involved. We want to be an important part of the world. We want, dare I say it, a world that can revolve around us — even if that world only exists in our own head, on loan from the creator and decorated by imagination for our own needs and wants.

You can be under your duvet with a good book and grinning like a fool or sweating and torturously scared — but entirely unable to put it down because that world — your world — would cease to exist, and you’re never quite ready for that to happen. And this is just single-player immersion! Some people aren’t content with being alone in these fleeting, imaginary worlds that disappear when we turn the last page or finish the film.  Just as sitting in your room reading a book or playing a game can get a little lonely: sometimes it’s better to stomp around a virtual, imaginary world with other immersed people in tow, with companions, with comrades… with friends!

And that is when you log into an Internet forum and find fellow Twilight fans. Or, if you have a penis, install World of Warcraft.

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More tomorrow on immersion for Thoughtful Tuesday!

If you’re reading this after midday, UK time, go and check out week 4 of ’52 Weeks’ — it’s a good one.

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I am a tall, hairy, British writer who blogs about technology, photography, travel, and whatever else catches my eye.