Physical presence in simulation: A scratch at the surface of complexity

J. Tuomas Harviainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This article examines the impact of physical presence on simulation and educational gaming. Through a meta-review of existing research, it reveals central issues that need to be taken into account when deploying physical simulations. On one hand, the method allows participants to experience events from a visceral first-person perspective. On the other, physical presence limits their vision to one viewpoint and removes tools that other media forms could use for additional exposition. As the environment is largely indexical, fewer elements require re-interpretation in order to fit the fiction, but they can likewise be disruptive, if too far removed from the expectations of play. To balance the play experience and the learning goals, physical simulations should deploy efficient briefings and debriefings. The former ensures that players have sufficient information for play and the right approach to it, while the latter ensures that the intended interpretation of the content and events remains dominant, so that the central learning goals can be ascertained. Physical simulations are revealed as an efficient and enjoyable, yet imprecise learning tool.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalInternational Journal of Role-Playing
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)32-38
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 113 Computer and information sciences
  • 613,1 Theatre, dance, music, other performing arts
  • Role-playing
  • Simulations
  • Games


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