Aug 072006

Immersion: Designing Experience © Gary Hayes 2006.

The fourth of 8 podcasts recorded live during the LAMP lab on Milson Island, Sydney in July 2006 – in front of the eight teams and ten mentors developing emerging media projects.

gary hayes“think of the experience, not just the service, the differentiators between professionals, thats you, versus users is that you should be very adept at creating user experiences versus creating individual pieces of content. I don’t think users in the future will be creating rich interconnected narratives across platforms and time”

Gary gives an informal and demo rich (hence a few breaks) talk about how to design pervasive entertainment, user experiences. By briefly looking at the eight areas below, using it as a rough framework, he attempts to dissect the interactive experience. He uses a range of examples from interactive services he helped create or produce such as X-Creatures, Top of the Pops, The L Word and virtual environments in Second Life through to games such as Indigo Prophecy and cross-media services including Da Vinci Code. He refers to the importance of flow and making sure the scale of the experience doesn’t feel limited by allowing viewers to take part in the creation process itself.

…of the experience. The size of the screen and the amount of story world to explore has enormous impacts on immersion – as well as the detail of individual objects within the ‘world’.
Ask: How big is my story world?

2. ESCAPISM (play)
In terms of building ‘play’ – it should be as fun making it as doing it.Today the experience author has to create tools for play, rather than fixed media and fixed routes through it. Randomness can go someway there – but for true immersion through play, give people tools to create their own variants of your property.
Ask: Can users really play in my creation?

…the amount of senses that are engaged by an experience gives it the most potential for immersion. Make sure as well as intellectual and emotional engagement you consider sounds and the aesthetics of visual grammar and simm (simultaneous media usage). On a social network level – be aware that humans are extremely aware of
machine vs human interaction.
Ask: Are the visuals and audio truly rich and compelling?

…does the story or narrative engage? This is obvious, if there is nothing for you to be drawn along by (even your own story in some cases) then you will switch off. Put your audience inside the protagonist’s head.
Ask: How can I get the user to ‘empathise’ and BE a story world character

…how the world or show you are watching has elements of surprise. The more scripted and formulaic the less immersive. An unspoilt new film at the cinema can surprise, social networks are and should be as unpredictable as life, sadly ‘most’ TV and pop-music are at the other end of the scale.
Ask: Do I really have anything that will surprise?


How real time does the experience feel? Are you swept along by real time events, that are part of a social network and also are your choices taking place when you want them to. Sometimes on-demand is far less compelling than real time, online game and social network.
Ask: How ‘live’ does the service feel?


How much can you minutely affect the world and yourself in it? How much will the world reflect you for being there? Most importantly, how much of your real world personality can you bring with you into the experience. It is all about making the world feel like you belong – and TOOLS, TOOLS, TOOLS
Ask: Is each user given an individual user journey, can they roll their own?


How much control or agency do you have over the experience? Are your actions permanent and seen by all? Can you really do and say what you want – freedom of choice. True resonance is like a virtuous circle, you do something and there is a response that forever changes the environment. Like real life.
Ask: Can my service change based on user input?

He also mentions that having embedded social networks inside you experience is as important as any content you may think of including in your user experience project –
“think of your service as a tool, think of it as a place to play”.

For more background on this presentation check out Gary’s blog Immersion: Ambient TV, Addictive MMORPG

and to download the 2.2MB PDF of the presentation click here

All LAMP podcasts are also published through the iTunes store.

GARY HAYES – Interaction Producer & Director LAMP@AFTRS

Gary Hayes has been at the forefront of worldwide emerging media development and production since 1993. After joining the BBC in London as an editor he quickly moved on to lead the BBC’s development of the internet, interactive TV and emerging platforms from 95-04 as Senior Producer and Development Manager. The BBC grew from a linear broadcaster to world leader in cross-platform services during this period.

Gary devised & produced many of the BBC’s ‘firsts’ – Digital Text, the first broadcast interactive TV service – ‘Nomad’ the first live internet documentary – ‘X-Creatures’ the first broadband TV service and in ‘96 introduced the first video and audio onto the BBC’s internet sites. He also produced and devised over 20 other eTV and broadband TV services including Top of the Pops, Travel Show, State Apart and several future BBC cross-platform navigators. Gary created numerous courses and seminars on Interactive thinking for linear producers, was active in the Imagineering and R&D depts and was a leading part of BBC strategy teams from 2001 in preparing for on-demand, cross-platform services. He also chaired the Business Models Group from 99-03 for TV-Anytime (the lead media-on-demand standards body).

Living & consulting in the US during 2004 he line produced Showtime’s PVR enhanced L-Word, as part of AFI digital labs and devised a range of new on-demand program formats for two national TV networks. Gary also produced & chaired conferences around LA including Hollywood industry panel seminars and Digital Days both looking at emerging media super-distribution models. He has presented at over fifty major international conferences and written several consultancy papers including US Interactive TV Advertising and more recently a report for the DTI on Personal Video Enablers for the UK media industry. He runs a blog on Media Personalisation, Digital Business and Creativity at

Gary is also currently exploring the potential of shared social online virtual spaces for collaborative production, creativity and education. A specialist in personalised digital TV over broadcast and broadband networks Gary evangelises on the empowerment potential of non-passive media. As a published music producer, composer and performer he has had over 200 works performed live and on TV and Radio.

Sydney 3 July 2006 – Time 27:26. Click to listen

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