From Immersion to Incorporation

By Gordon Calleja

An investigation of what makes digital games engaging to players and a reexamination of the concept of immersion.





An investigation of what makes digital games engaging to players and a reexamination of the concept of immersion.

Digital games offer a vast range of engaging experiences, from the serene exploration of beautifully rendered landscapes to the deeply cognitive challenges presented by strategic simulations to the adrenaline rush of competitive team-based shoot-outs. Digital games enable experiences that are considerably different from a reader's engagement with literature or a moviegoer's experience of a movie. In In-Game, Gordon Calleja examines what exactly it is that makes digital games so uniquely involving and offers a new, more precise, and game-specific formulation of this involvement. One of the most commonly yet vaguely deployed concepts in the industry and academia alike is immersion—a player's sensation of inhabiting the space represented onscreen. Overuse of this term has diminished its analytical value and confused its meaning, both in analysis and design. Rather than conceiving of immersion as a single experience, Calleja views it as blending different experiential phenomena afforded by involving gameplay. He proposes a framework (based on qualitative research) to describe these phenomena: the player involvement model. This model encompasses two constituent temporal phases—the macro, representing offline involvement, and the micro, representing moment-to-moment involvement during gameplay—as well as six dimensions of player involvement: kinesthetic, spatial, shared, narrative, affective, and ludic. The intensified and internalized experiential blend can culminate in incorporation—a concept that Calleja proposes as an alternative to the problematic immersion. Incorporation, he argues, is a more accurate metaphor, providing a robust foundation for future research and design.


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262015462 240 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 30 b&w illus.


  • "Unboxed is a wonder! Calleja moves seamlessly from the philosophy of games and the human experience to nuts and bolts practical advice for designers."

    Geoff Engelstein

    Adjunct Professor, NYU Game Center, and author of Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design

  • “Calleja showcases the voices of dozens of world-class board game creators who each share their perspectives about what makes for a truly magical board game experience. Unboxed gives you the tools to think about board games like a true connoisseur.”

    Jesse Schell

    author of The Art of Game Design, Distinguished Professor of Entertainment Technology, Carnegie Mellon University

  • Unboxed is a must-have for everyone who designs and studies board games. Packed with designer interviews and written in a precise, funny, moving voice, this emotion-centered book is nothing short of brilliant.”

    Richard Lemarchand

    Associate Professor, USC Games and author of A Playful Production Process