AR gaming has been a hugely successful development in the industry, and we can expect to see the technology getting better and cheaper as there is more investment. But for many people currently, the experience is still off-limits and if we do get our hands on the games, it is rarely, and not for long.
The success of the games lies in their hyper-realistic immersion. By incorporating player’s actual environments, this experience is heightened, to the point where players truly feel like they are in the game, as opposed to controlling a character. Generally, the more invested we are in a piece of media, the more we enjoy the experience, and one sure fire way to generate investment it to allow players total immersion. This is known as “spatial presence,” where we feel as though the game is real, and its successful implementation is a key element of AR, and what sets it apart from traditional video games.
Augmented Reality also can create the illusion of 3-dimensions and depth using 2-dimensional figures and sprites. Players create a mental model in their heads of the games fictional space, which, either consciously or unconsciously, builds a 3-D view of the world. There is a definite shift from viewing games as products to be sold, to experiences to be had. The use of avatars as representatives of people in the real world, be it the player or non-playable characters, allows us to create idealised versions of ourselves, become more engrossed in the game world, and boost our level of immersion. This may be due to the fact that when we can identify with the character, their fate affects us more significantly.
The difficulty of AR games is one of the selling points. Provided the challenge isn’t to extreme, working towards meaningful and difficult goals creates real investment in the game, and upon victory, the feeling of elation and flood of endorphins encourages the player to return to the AR world. Provided we feel the challenge is passable, then we are willing to fail over and over again, learning from our mistakes to eventually succeed, and this level of dedication is tied to the level of immersion. The more immersive, the more dedicated you will be, and this is where AR excels. And conversely, even hard games can be excellent forms of stress relief, and augmented reality ones are no exception, especially shooters. The well documented positive feelings created when playing video games can provide a form of cathartic release for stress and has been shown to help in the treatment of traumatic brain injuries.