What IS an ‘immersive experience’?

Mark Lofthouse

Creative Operations Manager at The Business Creative

July 1, 2022

Ah… that desired (or dreaded) word in themed entertainment…..IMMERSIVE.  Is it just a buzzword or is it much more? Here are our thoughts!

Before we go into the details of immersion and immersive experience, let’s start at the basics. What exactly is an ‘immersive experience’? Well, the Cambridge Dictionary defines immersive as ‘seeming to surround the audience, player, etc., so that they feel completely involved in something’. Which for us, is a great way to explain it – but we find it to be so much more.

From pop-up shows through to world-renowned permanent venues, the world of immersive theatre has absolutely boomed in the past ten years. With companies such as Punchdrunk and Secret Cinema leading the way (especially in the UK), producing some of the most intricate and interactive theatrical experiences that wow audiences the world over! But what exactly happens? How is it all achieved? Let me break this down into our design philosophy and mentality.

First things first. The whole concept behind an immersive experience, whether a single scene or whole attraction, is to create an emotive response within the audience. You want them to connect with the space, set, theme and characters. To become truly part of the experience, you need to emotionally buy into it. That’s easier said than done, but how do you connect audiences? Is it through dialogue or a clever bit of tech? No, you have to start with the basics. The five senses.

Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. These five senses connect an audience to an experience, putting them in a physical and mental parallel with your surroundings. They ground you to your surroundings.

Not every scene or moment of the experience must contain an element that hits all of these, but starting with the basics and looking into these to create a strong foundation is always a great start. Think of it as opening a world up – for example, imagine looking at a meadow on a screen… now imagine walking amongst the tall grasses, hearing the wind rushing through the stems and bees buzzing by as the smell of a fresh bouquet overwhelms you in the warm sun. These two experiences are, in theory, the same from a visual standpoint – but by adding other sensory stimuli you are becoming enveloped in the world. Even as I am describing this to you now, you can imagine and feel it. That’s an emotional connection.

The question I hear you asking is ‘but it is important?’. In the day and age of home streaming, visitors need further coaxing to leave their houses and experience something in the real world. Traditional theatre experiences will always have a stronghold with audiences as it is an understandable concept and tradition. Immersive experiences break the barriers of the stage and seating and throw you INTO the show – you are a character. You are creating a strong emotional connection to the show (and brand) by creating entertaining moments. When you connect a moment to an emotion, it makes for a stronger memory for the audience to take home.

At The Business Creative, we specialise in immersion, involvement and interaction.  Let’s connect and see what immersive experience we can offer you.

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