Updated: Jan 18
10 Things That Define An Immersive Experience
You’ve heard it. The term "immersive experience” pops up everywhere. From ubiquitous Van Gogh exhibits, to TV show promotions, to VR, experiential dinners and beyond. It seems to be the buzzword of the decade. We even use it to describe Wild Heart Ranch - an “immersive” airbnb.
So what the heck even IS an immersive experience? Let’s break it down in 10 ways:
1. THE DEFINITION (Sort Of) An immersive experience transports a person into an all-encompassing environment, situation, or story - in person or virtually. Examples include amusement parks, escape rooms, immersive theater, VR and AR. This is probably the most commonly accepted definition, but... it’s complicated. Because this form of entertainment is relatively new, the term is still evolving. The following points break down common elements of an immersive experience.
2. YOU ARE THE MAIN CHARACTER. Have you ever wanted to be the star of your own movie? That’s the idea behind (most) immersive experiences. YOU are the star. An active participant. You often affect the outcome. The experience isn’t just happening TO you, it’s happening BECAUSE of you. Most immersive experiences give you the agency to participate the way you want to. At Wild Heart Ranch, you and your friends become the central characters in an interactive story. You drive that story forward, discovering and interacting with things along the way. In short, it’s all about YOU.
3. TRANSPORTED TO A WORLD. Generally speaking, an immersive experience transports you into a story world. Disney is the master of this. You’re not just stepping onto a carnival ride, you’re stepping onto a steamboat cruising through the Amazon Jungle. You’re not climbing onto a roller coaster, you’re boarding a spaceship that will whiz you through the depths of space. Good immersive experiences design spaces and experiences that transport you into a completely different, all-encompassing world (real or virtual)..
4. INTERACTIVE. Usually an immersive experience contains many interactive components, giving you control and engagement. This is a core component of Wild Heart Ranch, as well as escape rooms, where you can pull levers, use props, complete puzzles, open doors - your actions affect the environment and story.
5. TECHNOLOGY. Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and even video games and escape rooms are all examples of technology-focused immersive mediums. However, a common misconception is that ALL immersive experiences fall under one of these forms of technology. That is definitely not the case. A fully tactile, non-digital experience is just as capable of providing a fully immersive experience. Often the best immersive experiences utilize technology in ways that are more subtle, nearly invisible, making it feel more like “magic” within the story-world you are inhabiting.
6. SENSORY. The best immersive experiences utilize ALL of your senses, separating it from other mediums such as books, movies, music, and even video games. Imagine: you’re on the helm of a pirate ship. You FEEL the wheel in your hands. You feel the ocean spray on your face. You smell that salty breeze. You hear waves slapping against the hull, sea shanties being sung, seagulls cawing above. You see across the deck of the ship, possibly off to land on the horizon. No, odds are you’re not a swashbuckler in the 17th century, but rather you’re standing in a well-themed escape room or amusement park ride that is utilizing all available senses to transport you into this world.
7. STORY. A story unfolds around you, and often because of you. Immersive experiences use many of the other factors in this list to tell that story. At Wild Heart Ranch, the story is told via discovered journals, radio broadcasts, magical crystals, visual art, findings during exploration, and more.
8. SOCIAL. Many immersive experiences feature interaction with other guests or actors, sometimes virtually. Escape rooms are another great example of working together with friends and family to solve puzzles and beat the room. Trust us, they can be quite the bonding experience!
9. THE CUTTING EDGE. With Immersive Experiences as a relatively new art form, the boundaries are still being pushed! Because they involve so many more elements than say, movies, creators are constantly inventing new ways of telling immersive stories and transporting audiences to all kinds of new states of mind.
10. EVOLVING. “Immserive Experience” is still a term that’s still being defined! It is used extremely broadly. Because it’s still a relatively new medium, there is no single consensus on what defines it, or what qualifies. As the dust settles in the coming years, what we call an immersive experience now may be called something entirely different. Even people in the industry take issue with terms like "escape room" or "immersive experience," as they don't seem to perfectly capture what they are. Perhaps you can help in this evolution!
No matter what, The goal of immersive experiences is to entertain, inform, generate thought, just like any art form! But what separates immersive experiences from the rest is the ability of transporting you right into the heart of the story world, is to create a sense of presence and engagement, making the experience more realistic and impactful.