Why Care about Virtual Landscapes? Immersive open world gaming related to positive health

Paul A. Roncken


For some reason many people enjoy, spend long hours and pay for being out on virtual fields, playing an avatar that needs to hunt, prey, hide, survive and interact with all kinds of programmed entities and online players. Surely the designers and programmers deserve praise for their efforts and achievements in yearly progress on more detailed and increasingly immersive virtual experiences. But does that suffice to care about virtual landscapes other than classifying them as artificial places for fun and diversion? In this paper I will make a first attempt to relate virtual landscape experiences to accumulated insights in environmental psychology and theories on landscape aesthetics. My aim is to argue convincingly that open world gaming in virtual landscapes contribute to positive health, additionally to and perhaps even equal to real outdoor alternatives. I will also present a descriptive framework to describe the designerly elements present in one specific example of a recent open world game: Red Dead Redemption II (Rockstar 2018).

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