Digital worlds: performativity and immersion in VR videogames




Blackman, Tyler Andrew

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Virtual reality (VR) and videogames present, enable, and constrain human engagement with what may broadly be called digital worlds. Videogames have already become a global force in popular culture. Although VR technologies have existed for half a century, it is only during the past decade that VR has become more widely accessible to the public beyond the confines of research institutions and industry use. Very little scholarship has examined the interconnections of videogames and VR as co-extensive cultural forces that shape ideas and feelings about inhabiting digital worlds. This thesis specifically examines the often-employed lexicon of immersion, presence, or feelings being inside of computer-generated contexts as they exist across videogames and VR. By analyzing 15 participants’ interactions with a contemporary VR videogame and interviewing them about this experience, I discuss how immersion, presence, or the feeling of being inside computer-generated worlds is performative and exceeds what the technology affords. Instead, engagement with digital worlds intersects with other performances, actions, and previous engagement with objects or other digital worlds to make sense of creating meaning in VR.



digital geographies, virtual reality, video games, game studies, cultural geography