Waltzing on Rooftops and Cobblestones: Investigating Immersion Through the Sounding of Space, Place, and Temporality in the Assassin's Creed Series
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Music, sound, and space are all major contributors to the concept of ‘immersion’ in video games, though there is currently little by way of a systematic theoretical model for considering specific relationships between these domains. Isabella van Elferen’s A-L-I model of video game musical immersion provides one of the most integrated approaches to analysing sonic cues, though fails to provide a holistic account of different types of involvement with video-game environments. This is particularly problematic when it comes to investigating the open-world genre, whose enormous game locations and non-linear gameplay style substantially affect player agency through the lessening of narrative and ludic restrictions. By combining elements of the A-L-I model with spatial aspects of Gordon Calleja’s ‘player involvement’ model, I propose a means to explore video game interaction through the lens of ‘spatial involvement’. Splitting this concept into the further concepts of spatial semiosis and spatial engagement, I furthermore propose a means to collectively analyse both the contextualisation of space through wider cultural literacies, and moment-by-moment interaction with the spatial apparatus of the game environment. The Assassin’s Creed franchise provides a fruitful case study for the application of these concepts given both its relationship to the open-world genre, and its close association to the expression of real-world history. The combination of these two qualities allow for the participation in ‘historical experiences of space’ through relationships to particular game environments. Throughout this paper, I will investigate the ways in which the Assassin’s Creed games immerse through the sonic expression of space, place, and temporality, using my proposed synthesis of van Elferen and Calleja’s models.