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Old 11-30-2014, 09:24 AM   #1
johndallman
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Default Immersion

I've thought a bit about immersion in RPGs since this post of Bill's:
Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
That would concern me more if I had any concern with immersion. I've never seen a discussion of it that makes it seem like something I would want to strive for, and the player who seemed most closely to fit the descriptions of it that I've seen was an actual obstacle to my GMing until I got him to change his style of representing his character. My goal is primarily not for players to be experiencers but for them to be performers.
What it means to me is that I'm immersed in the game: seeing in my mind's eye what the character I'm playing sees in the game setting, and reacting as the character, usually immediately and naturally without having to think about what the character would say. It's much more "method acting" than "chess playing".

I like this because it makes the game play quite quickly (I like actually accomplishing things within an RPG), and because it seems to me that it makes the character play more naturally, with a realistic level of oversights, mistakes and bright ideas.

This may restrict my range of play somewhat: I don't tend to play characters as alien to me as some players I know, but I'm OK with that: I'd rather portray somewhat ordinary people well than very extraordinary people badly (an idea I picked up from H.G.Wells).

Obviously, it requires that you know the character fairly well, which contributes towards my preference for fairly long-term campaigns. Working my way towards being able to do this with a new character usually takes a few sessions of play, and some development outside of game sessions.

I realise, thinking about it, that immersion is easier for me as a GM than as a player. There are two reasons for that: I know what the scene looks like when I'm GM, rather than having to construct it from descriptions, and when an NPC has a clear purpose in a scenario, a personality that will be compatible with that is easier to pull out of my hindbrain than the more complex and contradictory personality of a PC.

Returning to Bill's post, I'm interested to know how close this description of immersion is to the ideas he's encountered. I also reckon that I perform better when I'm getting some imaginary experience to shape the performance.
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Old 11-30-2014, 10:42 AM   #2
whswhs
 
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Default Re: Immersion

Well, there are several different things that strike me about this topic.

The use of expressions such as "seeing with my mind's eye" frames the matter in a sensory and cognitive modality that I don't use much. I'm almost totally nonvisual, so I don't "see" either my characters or the scenes I run. When a character comes to life for me, it's by having a distinctive "voice."

When I encounter what I think of as "immersive" play, it goes a bit beyond what you're describing. I think I could best describe it by saying that the player is taking what I would call "audience" or "experiencer" standpoint, with their focus on their private experience of the virtual reality of their character's awareness of the world, to the point sometimes where they don't try to make it visible what their character is thinking or feeling, either by directly describing it, or by narrating actions and speaking dialogue. It's a very introverted way to approach things. I think I see rpgs as a way for introverts to play at being extroverts, and it kind of derails my GMing style when a player doesn't take up the opportunity.

As a GM I am trying to offer experiences. But I'm also trying to offer affordances: opportunities to act on the world, hints of what actions are possible, and feedback as to the outcome of those actions. The player who puts the "experience" part so far forward that they aren't thinking about what action they can perform is a problem for me, whereas if they come up with an action they'll get experiences in the course of carrying it out.

Bill Stoddard
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Old 11-30-2014, 11:15 AM   #3
johndallman
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Default Re: Immersion

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
When I encounter what I think of as "immersive" play, it goes a bit beyond what you're describing. I think I could best describe it by saying that the player is taking what I would call "audience" or "experiencer" standpoint, with their focus on their private experience of the virtual reality of their character's awareness of the world, to the point sometimes where they don't try to make it visible what their character is thinking or feeling, either by directly describing it, or by narrating actions and speaking dialogue.
Ah! OK, I see what you are getting at. I have not encountered many clear cases of that; some of the players I've met who felt that dressing up as their character was an important way to get "into character" may have been doing it, but I tended to avoid them, so I can't be sure.

And yes, I agree that what you're describing is undesirable inasmuch as it harms the other players' experience. I don't feel the need to narrate steam-of-consciousness - characters can have private thoughts, and ideas that they (or I) can't immediately find a way to express - but the shared play experience is what we're both trying to achieve.

Can we find some terminology for these different things that we call "immersion"? RogerBW, for example, was in favour of immersion in the thread I referenced at the start, and I think he means something fairly similar to me by it.
Quote:
As a GM I am trying to offer experiences. But I'm also trying to offer affordances: opportunities to act on the world, hints of what actions are possible, and feedback as to the outcome of those actions. The player who puts the "experience" part so far forward that they aren't thinking about what action they can perform is a problem for me, whereas if they come up with an action they'll get experiences in the course of carrying it out.
I'm willing to let characters do some experiencing, while they're taking an interest in the setting and learning about it, which tends to involve taking actions. But I'll present a need for action fairly regularly, either as a mission or an emergency; I prefer to use campaign frameworks that let me do that.
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Old 11-30-2014, 12:00 PM   #4
whswhs
 
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Default Re: Immersion

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Can we find some terminology for these different things that we call "immersion"? RogerBW, for example, was in favour of immersion in the thread I referenced at the start, and I think he means something fairly similar to me by it.
I'm kind of at a loss for what words to use. I found the concept of "immersion" baffling when I first encountered it, but after long discussion (with someone other than you or Roger) I was able to take away the "private experience" understanding. But I haven't done a comprehensive survey of how the expression is used.

Quote:
I'm willing to let characters do some experiencing, while they're taking an interest in the setting and learning about it, which tends to involve taking actions. But I'll present a need for action fairly regularly, either as a mission or an emergency; I prefer to use campaign frameworks that let me do that.
It's not action alone that's an issue. My campaigns are mostly pretty heavy on character interaction, which depends a lot on how characters express their attitudes and emotions. Now, we don't have facial expressions, or body language, or all the other things that connect human beings to each other to rely on. So it takes a little description of emotional reactions and attitudes to enable that interaction.

Bill Stoddard
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Old 11-30-2014, 02:01 PM   #5
Joe
 
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Default Re: Immersion

Just chiming in to say that I've found this discussion very interesting already, and it's presumably early days.

For what it's worth, it appears to me that at the moment the point of difference between your two views is mostly just terminological. It seems clear that you understand quite different things by "immersive"; but it's not yet clear (at least to me) what, if anything, this indicates about your (presumably different?) preferences as to play style.

With respect to the terminological discussion, I would say I've always thought of "immersion" as a positive term, partly because to me it often seems to indicate something that I suspect we may all agree is a good thing, namely that the game is engaging. (i.e. everyone around the table is focused on the game, rather than on chit-chat, checking their phones, etc - and they're focused on it because they find it dramatic and interesting, not simply as a result of social pressure, fear of the GM, or lack of other stimuli!)

But the word clearly also denotes more than this, and this more seems to be where the problem arises. It seems to have something to do with creating a rich descriptive environment, or a persuasive virtual world, or similar.

Whswhs's sense "immersion" seems a bit unfamiliar to me - I'd never heard it used in this sense of a very private, almost solipsistic "immersion" in one's own individual experience, at the expense of actively participating in the game. Clearly that seems like a bad thing - I wonder, though, if it's really what most folks mean by "immersion" when they're looking for it in a game?

johndallman's sense of "immersion" as providing a kind of rich first-person view on the events described seems like a more familiar use of the term to me, though I'm not sure that what he's describing is precisely what I want during the game - I'd have to hear more.

More, please!
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Old 11-30-2014, 03:28 PM   #6
tantric
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Default Re: Immersion

Obviously, I'm a big fan of immersion. My setting books/handouts have the basics, because I know most people don't care about immersion, then the other 80%, which is devoted to inkling details about the setting, like what to wear to funeral, what kind of pets you can buy, what foods are in the market, etc, which make no difference to standard adventuring. But for a player looking for that, it's treasure. I want them to *see*.

And its about love of language. My favorite genre is infotainment - I like reading descriptions of fantasy worlds and Field Guides to Gnomes and such. My first recorded setting came about after I read a book on hypertext style and decided to do the opposite - I made the hypertext follow the world. It was a disk, so you start in the middle - all links are embedded, there is no index - you have to adventure through the document to find out things. See Worldstree.

Lack of detail killed the Savage World game I tried to play, something about space priests and zombies, but it gave zero info about the doctrines of the church.
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Old 11-30-2014, 08:19 PM   #7
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Default Re: Immersion

The sense I've always had for the word was the state of the game being engaging enough that you can largely forget you're playing a game, and "get into" the story and action. I've seen the word used that way for other media. I haven't known anyone that uses it in the extreme sense that WHS mentions, though I have indirectly known some gamers strange enough that that might appeal to them.
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Old 11-30-2014, 08:59 PM   #8
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Default Re: Immersion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
The sense I've always had for the word was the state of the game being engaging enough that you can largely forget you're playing a game, and "get into" the story and action. I've seen the word used that way for other media.
I've seen it used that way for RPG's, as well.. I think that's close, but not sufficient for active-participation activities (board games, RPGs, and videogames, especially).

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Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
I haven't known anyone that uses it in the extreme sense that WHS mentions, though I have indirectly known some gamers strange enough that that might appeal to them.
I think Bill's admitted lack of consideration for it also makes his interpretation highly suspect. In other words, I don't think he has managed to actually grasp the meaning in a useful way.

Personally, for me, immersive play is play that renders other distractions moot. Immersive play of a board game or RPG is the kind of play where, you look up, and suddenly realize the session time ended half an hour ago. Or you're playing the new videogame, and suddenly realize your alarm clock just went off, and you played through the night.

It's not always about the sensory level, either. It's that point where outside distractions lose their ability to distract. I've found some very abstract games utterly immersive - namely, Advanced Civ and Supremacy - in exactly the same way that a good RPG session can be.
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Old 11-30-2014, 09:26 PM   #9
whswhs
 
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Default Re: Immersion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
The sense I've always had for the word was the state of the game being engaging enough that you can largely forget you're playing a game, and "get into" the story and action. I've seen the word used that way for other media. I haven't known anyone that uses it in the extreme sense that WHS mentions, though I have indirectly known some gamers strange enough that that might appeal to them.
The sense you use is a property of the campaign, or a desired outcome, rather than a playstyle.

Bill Stoddard
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Old 11-30-2014, 09:32 PM   #10
whswhs
 
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Default Re: Immersion

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Originally Posted by ak_aramis View Post
I think Bill's admitted lack of consideration for it also makes his interpretation highly suspect. In other words, I don't think he has managed to actually grasp the meaning in a useful way.
Shrug. I'm talking about what I read about the concept in reading things by people who called themselves immersive players. I've never claimed to be an immersive player.

My feeling about the matter is akin to the legendary (and quite possibly apocryphal) Olivier comment: "Have you ever tried acting, dear boy?"

Bill Stoddard
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