Introduction: The purpose of this study was to conceptualize the gaming experience in virtual reality to understand the sensemaking behind virtual reality . With virtual reality rising in the ranks of new media technologies, and the socio-economic value of video games at an all time high, this study aimed to propose a way of studying user experience in virtual reality gaming from a qualitative point of view. At the core of this study sat the conceptualisation of virtual reality sensemaking, identifying important topics of VR experience, and relating these to various degrees of immersion. Method: A qualitative research approach involved experiential interviews with 10 participants on a university campus. Participants engaged in 20 minutes of gameplay and took part in 40 to 60 minute interviews in the aftermath. Interview audio was transcribed and and coded according to the explorative approach of grounded theory. Results: The study identified three important themes in the data which further aided in making sensemaking measureable. Sensory meaning, narrative meaning, and virtual meaning emerged as concepts reflecting how players first and foremost rely on the physical side, the story elements in relation to one’s own identity, and the design of the virtual environment in order to determine how meaningful the experience is to them. Combined with three stages of experiencing virtual reality gaming: the schematic experience, the filtered experience, and the emotional experience, a conceptual model for VR sensemaking was proposed and related to experiencing immersion, presence, and flow. Conclusion: Virtual reality gaming can be made sense of as a multi-stage experience in which conceptual notions of sensory, narrative, and virtual meaning emerge as a result of the player’s subjective needs, and how the characteristics of the experience can fulfill those needs. This then sets the precedent for the player experiencing a sense of immersion, presence, and/or flow.

Additional Metadata
Keywords media, business, Virtual reality, video games, user experience, sensemaking, new media
Thesis Advisor Abby Waysdorf
Persistent URL
Series Media & Business
Roderick Swinkels. (2018, August 20). The Virtual Experience: Understanding sensemaking and user experience in virtual reality gaming. Media & Business. Retrieved from