I’ve read a couple articles lately that mock the term “immersive experience”. The essence of the story is that the writer went to some “immersive experiences” that they didn’t like. Then concluded that “all of life” is an immersive experience so this whole immersive experience thing is kind of a scam.
Ok, maybe they didn’t say those exact words, but they clearly said it in tone.
I can understand where they are coming from for sure. But I think there are two intertwined complaints here that are worth separating out.
First, there’s lots of companies jumping on the immersive bandwagon but not delivering the awesome.
Their marketing photos look amazing on social media, but when you show up the reality is much different. The prices are relatively high, lots of people feel like they were tricked, and many conclude that the whole thing is a money grab. Since these attractions primarily call themselves “immersive experiences” and since that term has arguably little meaning, it’s an easy target for derisive anger.
I get it. There are more immersive money-grabs out there than great immersive experiences. They give those trying to create great experiences a bad name. (Or, more accurately, they take the name and make it bad).
The bigger issue I think is a general lack of language around these things. “Immersive experience” is, as many point out, EVERY experience you have. Wherever you go, there you are – immersed it wherever you are.
Most people would say Meow Wolf and haunted houses are immersive. But is a museum? Is a movie theater? I a minigolf course? Is the Grand Canyon? What is it that we are trying to describe when we say “immersive experience”?
We need more helpful terms to describe the subcategories of immersive experiences. And we need people to know and agree on what they mean.
I’ve spent many hours over the years trying to come up with better terms that don’t sound academic like “situated activity space” or too generic like “unique attraction”. It’s not easy. Try it.
Thankfully, language has a habit of fixing itself. As more immersive experiences pop up there have been new terms. “Instagram house” and “projection exhibit” for example.
But not everything has a name yet. What is Meow Wolf? What are those other places that are like Meow Wolf? Most people refer to those as “it’s like Meow Wolf”, which isn’t super helpful unless you know what Meow Wolf is. Maybe “meow wolf” will just become the term for it.
So do we just live with the “immersive experience” term until the sub-categories have evolved enough language that the parent term fades into the background? I don’t know.
I think there will always be new indescribable experiences. Just look at the Museums page on this site. They aren’t really museums. They’re just unique experiences. They aren’t a meow wolf. Will there be a term that will help communicate those ideas more clearly to people? Maybe. I’m still brainstorming until there is.