Frans Mäyrä and Laura Ermi did a small but interesting survey about immersion in computer games You can download the text from Frans blog: http://www.uta.fi/~tlilma/ direct link to text.
‚Summing up mean values of all the three component of gameplay immersion, Half Live 2 appears to be the overall strongest game in immersing its players. On the other end, the experience of playing The Sims 2 is apparently not felt as immersive. But it would be mistake to claim Half Life 2 to be a better game than the Sims 2 on this basis. It may well be that the more “casual” character of the Sims 2 gameplay is one of the reasons behind its appeal for these particular players. The Sims 2 was also the only one of the examined games with a notable amount of female respondents, but the relatively low evaluation of immersion is not relate to the gender of the informants, since females gave overall higher evaluation to the immersion in that game than men.‘
Would be interesting to find out if casual gamers in general are less immersed than hard core gamers. Often the term ‚casual‘ is used to point out that you can stop playing at any time or doing something else while playing. Both speaks against strong immersion through casual games.
A similar concept to immersion is „Flow“ by Csikszentmihalyi:
„The concept (…) describes an optimal mental state where a person is complete occupied with a task that matches the person’s skills, being neither too hard (leading to anxiety) or easy (leading to boredom).“ (Jesper Juul: http://www.half-real.net/dictionary/#flow)
Probably casual gamers are not as experienced with computer games and need easier – meaning casual – games to reach flow states.
And what impact has gender on immersion. Will men and women be immersed in different kind of games in different ways? In the survey women were more immersed by the casual Sims 2 than men. On the other hand they responded lower immersion levels than men for the other games.