This paper argues (i) that understanding of a place (especially in heritage environments) requires a level of cultural engagement and (ii) that virtual environments, in their typical current form, fail to provide such engagement. A proposed solution to the issue of cultural presence is to apply the interactive mechanisms commonly used in computer games (social agents, levels of interaction constraint, and task-based manipulation of artefacts) to virtual heritage environments. The hypothesis is that the resulting environment will allow for greater engagement and a more culturally immersive learning environment. Virtual environments also often lack techniques for evaluating the extent to which their design goals are achieved. A proposed secondary outcome is that designers and researchers of virtual environment can also use the above interactive mechanisms for the evaluation of user engagement without simultaneously interrupting the user’s feeling of engagement.