Academic Survey: Immersive Design Accessibility

Escape room designer Jerry Belich, co-creator of the 2017 Golden Lock-In Award-winning Utopia at Riddle Room in Minneapolis, Minnesota, needs your help.

In-game: A futuristic, sci-fi-looking tiled room lit blue.

Jerry is working towards a Master of Fine Arts in experience design and needs immersive design professionals to answer a survey. Having been through this process myself, I’m empathetic to his cause.

We asked Jerry a few questions to frame up what he’s studying.

When he’s all finished with his thesis, he will publish the raw data for the public. We’ll share it then.

What is the hypothesis you’re testing against?

The current technology and software available don’t provide accessible and flexible solutions for creating immersive experiences. They are holding back innovation.

In this case, accessible means “easy access for creators” referring to how much previous technology expertise is required to use a tool.

In the video gaming industry, we saw a boom in innovation once tools were better democratized. Consider how Photoshop made graphic design accessible. Before it, you had to write code to create digital graphics.

As live-action games and experiences grow, I believe better tools can provide a similar benefit to this industry.

Is your interest academic or business?

I’d say 50/50. I’m interested in the field advancing everywhere, not just in building a product. If through my research I discover that I could create a new generation of software and hardware tools that improve accessibility, I’d be interested in pursuing that.

How do you define “immersive technology”?

From my perspective, immersive technology is electronics and/or software that may be visible or invisible to players.

Visible elements enhance the game by providing additional sensory immersion for players, including sight, sound, touch, smell, or even taste.

Invisible elements help automate aspects of the experience or enhance the game master’s ability to monitor or run the experience.

Who is the ideal respondent for your survey?

Although new tools would be useful far beyond live-action games / escape rooms, this particular entertainment space provides a common set of problems with a diverse set of approaches.

Respondents should have completed at least two commercial projects of this type and have worked on one within the last two years. They can work in the role of designer (or on the design team), manager (or owner) of a commercial space, or funder that commissions these types of projects (including part of a marketing team, such as for an upcoming film or digital game).

You worked on Utopia. What was your role?

My design partner David Pisa and I co-designed and implemented Utopia from start to finish. Riddle Room provided us a development budget and we get a percentage of ticket sales.

We worked evenly on the concept and narrative. I focused more on game design while he focused on puzzle design. I created all of the software and hardware technology while he handled carpentry and set design (with some contracted assistance). We have a pretty perfect compliment of overlapping and unique skills.


Complete the Immersive Design Accessibility Survey

1 Comment

  1. This is such an interesting article, David! I absolutely agree that the design and technology used in escape room games are the key to building an immersive environment. The light and sound effects and the theme-based design helps create an atmosphere of adventure and transports the players into a whole new world. Escape room games are a great way to strengthen you problem solving and communication skills too.

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