Is Immersion Important to You as a Player?

Reynard

Legend
When playing in a TTRPG, how important is immersion -- defined vaguely as "inhabiting your character inhabiting the world" -- to your enjoyment of the game?

Do you endeavor to experience the world of the game through your character and only your character? Do the rules matter for this, or is it more about the nature of play at the table? Are you okay seeing the sets and strings as it were? Do you act, speak and even think as your character for the duration?

If immersion is important to you, how do you react to other players or the GM when it isn't as important to them?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
It's not so much that immersion-in-character is unimportant to me, so much as I simply have never experienced it. I've been immersed in the narrative before--anxious to find out what was going to happen next--and I've been immersed in the game before--so busy processing rules and options and possibilities that I lost track of time; both of those are intensely pleasurable gaming experiences, but they are not immersion in the character people talk about. I do not think that type of immersion is possible for me, so I do not play in search of it.
 
Last edited:


Cadence

Legend
Supporter
When playing in a TTRPG, how important is immersion -- defined vaguely as "inhabiting your character inhabiting the world" -- to your enjoyment of the game?

I don't always need to be immersed in my character, but the most fun games I've had have been ones where I was able to.

Do you endeavor to experience the world of the game through your character and only your character?
Sometimes its trying to have a first person view of them in the game sometimes a 3rd.

Do the rules matter for this, or is it more about the nature of play at the table?

Rules that let me try what the character would want to try are important for that.

Are you okay seeing the sets and strings as it were?
I don't think that's avoidable. But I want to be able to look away and not have them shoved in my face too hard. (The costumes in the Lion King in the Broadway show really don't look like animals, but as long as they're consistent it fades into the background. If some animation showed up it would be jarring. Sub-titles fade into the background in movies in other languages for me - having the characters suddenly start being dubbed half-way through would be really odd. The scenes in Disney's Beauty and the Beast that bother me are the ones that seemed out of place - the lips coming through the tea pot on the head, the armoire changing the villagers clothing. That it was all animated and not realistic looking was fine.)

Do you act,

Never
Never with an accent or trying to imitate the voice anyway.
and even think as your character for the duration?
Just for bits here and there.

If immersion is important to you, how do you react to other players or the GM when it isn't as important to them?
It's fine for it not to be important to them. I don't like it when they throw the gameist elements to the forefront of everything, or when the DM has some world staging things and they ignore them (it's a recreation of a specific place or time, or its a serious game, and they pick an anachronistic character or a comedic name).
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
My group and I sometimes have whole sessions devoted to... err... not doing anything remotely useful but acting in-character. I mean, we wandered through Xen'rik and it was a long walk... but I think the random encounter and a few interactions with native occupied roughtly a fouth of the session, with the 3/4 of it devoted to talking in character about we approached our trip to this continent and our relations with several NPCs... really thinking in character. We do monologues like your average James Bond villain when starting a fight, sometimes.

On the other hand, such sessions are interspersed with sessions where I am thrilled by "tactically fighting a BBEG and looking good doing it" which is mechanical fun and much less immersive.

So, I'd say it's very important... when everything is clicking right. It's not "a little, every session" it's "when immersion happens, it's fun, it doesn't need rules or dice, it's just that we're acting". It's caused by the game but not directly the result of the rules (on the other hand, we play mostly D&D and RQ, the rules don't really support that).
 


Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
When playing in a TTRPG, how important is immersion -- defined vaguely as "inhabiting your character inhabiting the world" -- to your enjoyment of the game?
For me, the latter is much more what I'm after than necessarily the former. They certainly go together at times, and it's not like I'm avoiding the other. But I want to care, be surprised/worried/thrilled/excited/etc. by the events, locales, and situations I'm going through. This I do feel, for me, is a very separate concern from embodying my character's mind. Mechanics, sets, strings, that stuff is, as Cadence said, pretty negligible most of the time.

If immersion is important to you, how do you react to other players or the GM when it isn't as important to them?
So, the thing that does take me out of it more than any other are other players not taking dramatically substantive circumstances 'seriously'. That said, I can't think of a time where I've addressed it directly, because I'd be telling another player to change their preference, and they've not been at tables where upholding that tone was a agreed upon starting point. So, I get a little internally frustrated, and just try to re-orient scenes away from the jokes and towards the reality of them when I'm in a position to do so, but not so pointedly or immediately that it's an obvious reaction or readily noticeable implicit criticism.

Somewhat separately from your question, this is why I as a player tend to enjoy GM-authored stories/worlds over games that emphasize collaborative ownership. There, the artifice becomes a little too apparent for me, and I lose some of the wonder.
 

Reynard

Legend
Somewhat separately from your question, this is why I as a player tend to enjoy GM-authored stories/worlds over games that emphasize collaborative ownership. There, the artifice becomes a little too apparent for me, and I lose some of the wonder.
I have found that some games -- Forged in the Dark "play to find out" games as one example -- make immersion harder because you are working from a kind of removed "writer's room" perspective. it is fun in its own way but isn't immersive.
 

niklinna

Legend
I have found that some games -- Forged in the Dark "play to find out" games as one example -- make immersion harder because you are working from a kind of removed "writer's room" perspective. it is fun in its own way but isn't immersive.
Interesting. I agree that Blades in the Dark isn't immersive in the OP sense at all times, but when it is—which is most of the time, for me—I find it to be one of the more immersive games I've played. I don't mind dipping in and out, maybe that's a factor. Even what might be considered non-immersive, in the sense of being provisional devil's bargains and such that aren't taken, still fill out what the world is or could be like, which to me is highly immersive. The more I unlearn habits, and propose things about the world that the GM and other players then grab and run with, the more immersive it gets!
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
When playing in a TTRPG, how important is immersion -- defined vaguely as "inhabiting your character inhabiting the world" -- to your enjoyment of the game?

It is great when you can get it.

Do you endeavor to experience the world of the game through your character and only your character?

Actually experiencing it ONLY through the character is not, in my experience, a practical goal. If nothing else, players who cannot remember that we are all, in the end, playing a game, usually become a problem - there's a certain amount of metagaming that should always be engaged, for the good of the people at the table.

Do the rules matter for this, or is it more about the nature of play at the table?

They certainly do matter, insofar as the more intrusive they are into the player's mental processes, the harder it is for the player to maintain immersion.

Are you okay seeing the sets and strings as it were?

See above - the more the player has to change mental gears to interact with rules, the harder it is to maintain immersion, in general.

Do you act, speak and even think as your character for the duration?

As for thinking, I refer to the above - a good player should always maintain some awareness that there are other people in the room, and those people matter.

Act and speak, sure.

If immersion is important to you, how do you react to other players or the GM when it isn't as important to them?

The group should have some common agreement on how immersive the table is going to attempt to be.
 

When playing in a TTRPG, how important is immersion -- defined vaguely as "inhabiting your character inhabiting the world" -- to your enjoyment of the game?
For me, it greatly improves my enjoyment. It usually takes me a few sessions playing a character to be able to drop into it reliably.

Do you endeavor to experience the world of the game through your character and only your character? Do the rules matter for this, or is it more about the nature of play at the table?
The structure of the game matters. For example, the need to switch back and forth between an "authorial" mindset and an "in-character" mindset makes FATE-family games hard work for me. Simpler metagame mechanics, such as "I failed that roll, if I haven't used my once-per-hour luck, I can make two more rolls and pick the one I prefer" are much easier to use while in-character.

If immersion is important to you, how do you react to other players or the GM when it isn't as important to them?
I've tended to stick with groups where immersion is the usual practice. It may be that I have stayed with the same groups for an unusually long time.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
It's funny, but I really think that 75% of my sense of immersion actually comes from after the game is over. Reflecting on the game, talking about it with my friends, thinking ahead to the next game... That's when I feel like I'm actually experiencing the world, even more so than when I'm at the table.

In the last 5e campaign I played in, some other players and I (with the DMs blessing) ran a little side session working out the background of our dwarf cousin characters. This was totally separate from the main narrative, but it definitely produced a feeling of immersion throughout the campaign.

I'm now running an occasional Ironsworn game for some friends. During the session we are using a lot of metagaming language, retconning plot points, and rarely talking in character. But after the session in my mind it coalesces into a real feeling of a living world.
 

Reynard

Legend
Interesting. I agree that Blades in the Dark isn't immersive in the OP sense at all times, but when it is—which is most of the time, for me—I find it to be one of the more immersive games I've played. I don't mind dipping in and out, maybe that's a factor. Even what might be considered non-immersive, in the sense of being provisional devil's bargains and such that aren't taken, still fill out what the world is or could be like, which to me is highly immersive. The more I unlearn habits, and propose things about the world that the GM and other players then grab and run with, the more immersive it gets!
I always feel like having to collaboratively decide what the best fiction for the result of a roll is to be anti-immersive. In order to do that effectively, you have to zoom out.
 

MGibster

Legend
If immersion is important to you, how do you react to other players or the GM when it isn't as important to them?
I'm conflicted. On some level, any time I interact with the rules, it breaks immersion because I'm immediately reminded that I'm playing a game and I'm fine with that. But then I don't like it when when players make decisions for their characters based on game mechanics or fictional tropes. "Eh, he's only got a dagger and will only do 1d4 damage to his hostage. No big deal."
 

Irlo

Hero
My only experience with immersion comes from play-by-post RPGs (or, back in the day, play-by-email). The more deliberate writing process is better for immersion (for me) than the in-person improv co-mingled with rules adjudication at the table.
 

Immersion is important to me, but it isn't an all-or-nothing thing. Interacting with game mechanics is usually not a problem if those mechanics are light-weight enough. As soon I have to make a lot of conscious decisions that I cannot rationalize on a character level or pick between option require careful weighing of mechanical impact, I typically drop out of "immersive mode". And as e.g. @John Dallman already mentioned, if a game requires resorting to an authorial perspective often, this kills immersion quite effectively.
Now that is not necessarily a deal-breaker and from time to time I seek out these experiences explicitly because they can be fun, too, but if I look at what's my comfort zone, then it's probably light to medium crunch games where I can make more decisions from a character perspective. And while I wouldn't quit a game where other player's don't share this perspective immediately, I'm more likely to stick with groups that do so for a longer time.
 

niklinna

Legend
I always feel like having to collaboratively decide what the best fiction for the result of a roll is to be anti-immersive. In order to do that effectively, you have to zoom out.
Oh I'm not generally concerned with the best fiction, which yeah, I would consider anti-immersive. I'm considering what my character would do in the situation. That includes evaluating the current situation's Position & Effect, which he might trade off in various ways in the narrative as well as mechanically (going for broke to make it Desperate, or being real careful to make it Controlled, and so on)—I find that makes things incredibly immersive in the moment in a way I haven't seen any other RPG do. Devil's bargains sometimes zoom out to the wider world, but like I said, even then it fills that world in a little bit more to show me the sorts of things that go on in it.

Blades gameplay can involve collaborative deliberation about what the crew as a group is going to do, but again it's usually in character based on individual motivations and not "What will make for the best story?"

Torchbearer has a similar in-the-moment immersiveness, with different mechanics, but they don't feel like actually deliberating risky action vs. reward the way Blades in the Dark does. In Torchbearer it's all about considering the artificial mechanics of needing failed tests to get opportunities to recover, and such. The gaminess (heh) is front and center there, and while it's a fascinating game, it stands between me and the unfolding story.

I've hardly ever found D&D to be immersive in any sense. The combat system is artificial and rather boring to me, and arbitrariness of the spell system continually tests my suspension of disbelief, etc. etc. Torg Eternity sometimes approaches a very light form of immersion, in that some scenarios can set a mood pretty well, but it's all very shallow.

There's a tiny horror con I am sometimes able to go to, held in a haunted hotel in a California gold rush town in the dead of winter. They play all sorts of different systems there, and while some games are occasionally gonzo horror, I've been on the edge of my seat with sweaty palms more often than not! There's a tradition of one game involving playing yourself, at the very hotel, when zombies or ghosts or whatnot show up...hoo boy does that put you in the hot seat!
 

Reynard

Legend
Oh I'm not generally concerned with the best fiction, which yeah, I would consider anti-immersive. I'm considering what my character would do in the situation. That includes evaluating the current situation's Position & Effect, which he might trade off in various ways in the narrative as well as mechanically (going for broke to make it Desperate, or being real careful to make it Controlled, and so on)—I find that makes things incredibly immersive in the moment in a way I haven't seen any other RPG do. Devil's bargains sometimes zoom out to the wider world, but like I said, even then it fills that world in a little bit more to show me the sorts of things that go on in it.
This is one of those places where I think it comes down to personal definitions. What you described I would call engagement rather than immersion.
 

I know this is "as a player," but I figured I'd throw a quick curveball and see if I can miss a bat or two.

There are times when I run games where I have brief moments of deep empathy or connectivity with an NPC that I'm running. This will either be because (a) something that a player has down through their PC to bring extreme vitality to the situation or (b) I'm framing an initially nebulous scene that I'm having to quickly resolve in my mind in multiple ways (what is going on here? what are the dramatic needs of a/the PCs and how can I test that? what are the dramatic needs of the NPCs so I can advocate for them/provoke the players?). (b) happened a few sessions ago in the Stonetop game I run:

* Players are on a perilous journey through Ferrier's Fen and wanted to make camp.

* A cave in a steep face with signs of intelligent life is discovered.

* Grizzly fiction continued to resolve in my mind and accrete in the fiction as the players explored the cave and we discovered what was there.

* A Fen Troll is chained to the back and its wasting away, terrible wounds where the cuffs for the chains are as well as burns on the pustules. It is clearly not getting enough food or is refusing to eat. It is not violent when approached, but the PC who approached it initially has the ability to placate the monstrosities.

* What if it is unnaturally nonviolent? Why is it so? Why is it chained. Its being kept here by someone who is keeping it alive. It desperately doesn't want to succumb fully but it would rather die than live out this terrible fate. It is a she. I give her (Yoanaw) the Instinct: To perish rather than succumb to this fate.

* The "caretaker" of the Fen Troll has returned; the growling and yapping wolves of The Blessed (sort of a Druid/Shaman) guarding the mouth of the cave signal that. It is a Fen Walker (basically "one who walks the Fen") who is a mighty huntress with mysterious sorcery and an appendage of that of a great cat, signaling her likeness to the other aberrant creatures that are spilling from the Fen over to The Great Wood (indicating a march of the affliction toward Stonetop). This connects her to the great power of corruption in the frozen (its Winter) bog. She totes a chain gang of frog-like demihuman creatures (in D&D parlance, they are near Bullywugs). She is going to feed them to the Fen Troll? Ok, its her sister. She cares for her. She has cared for her ever since...their mother died in delivery of her sister...a delivery that came with a rot that infected the arm of this mighty huntress...so she had to make a bargain with the great corruptive power of the bog for her life and her arm.

* Ok. What now? They were cast out of the enclave of Fen Walkers when the young girl got sick with Fenblight (it spreads like wildfire as the Fen Trolls shed casually and at-will). They tried to hide it. Radomira (the older sister) took her young, afflicted sibling from the only home they knew. When things got bad, she chained her up in the back of the cave. She kept her distance. She provided her food. For a long time she has looked for a way to cure her sister's curse...but to no avail. They are both hardened and live brutal, rote, hopeless lives at this point. Radomira's Instinct: To feed and "keep safe" her "former" sister no matter the cost.




For various reasons, the plight of these two sisters bonked me over the head with the emotion stick as they formed in my mind and in our collective fiction from the formless state of the opening of this scene. And as we played out social conflict between each of them and interrogated the truth of the matter I find myself rather immersed in playing both of them and in playing the scenes around this situation.

This happens a fair bit. It happens in every game I run, though not every session. The game that @niklinna is mentioning above has had more than a few moments like the above for me (as GM). There also were several moments in the Torchbearer 2 game I GMed for him.
 
Last edited:

hawkeyefan

Legend
Interesting. I agree that Blades in the Dark isn't immersive in the OP sense at all times, but when it is—which is most of the time, for me—I find it to be one of the more immersive games I've played. I don't mind dipping in and out, maybe that's a factor. Even what might be considered non-immersive, in the sense of being provisional devil's bargains and such that aren't taken, still fill out what the world is or could be like, which to me is highly immersive. The more I unlearn habits, and propose things about the world that the GM and other players then grab and run with, the more immersive it gets!

I find the juxtaposition helps me immerse in different ways. When I’m making broader contributions about the setting and world, it helps me be invested in those things. I feel more connected to the world. It feels more like a place I know.

Then, in those moments of play where I’m making decisions for my character, the mechanics help me consider so many things that I’m really getting into the character’s head. They become more fully realized as a result.

I find the game placing both these things side by side really helps with each. To that end, the mechanics of the game matter quite a bit. I don’t always speak in character and rarely use a specific voice, but I find those to be more cosmetic than anything.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top