Is Immersion Important to You as a Player?

Pedantic

Adventurer
That's a great point, and I completely agree. System mastery does indeed, IMO, make immersion easier.
I agree broadly with the point, and I actually think this points to another place that careful design can improve immersion. I've been talking about decreasing the distance between player/character decision making, but that actually goes both ways. If you're playing a thief type character, that character may generally prefer to use stealth as a strategy, because they believe themselves to be good at it. If the game is well designed to increase immersion, then that is likely to be a good strategy for that kind of character, that you might also prefer as a player.

If there's little room between player/character decision making, it actually doesn't matter if you opt for a given action because it's effective mechanically, or because it's a skill the character believes themselves to be good at. The map and the territory are very nearly the same thing.
 

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Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
My experience differs, in that not knowing the rules/mechanics frees me up to just have my character (try to) do what it would do; and the GM can sort out the mechanical implications.

We see it differently, then; as I see "immersion" as - at its peak - describing the state where I forget I'm a player at a table and am thinking only as the character in the setting.

I agree with you, with the little exception that sometimes, "being a character in the setting" involves knowing the odds of some actions or the way the universe will deal with you the same way we as human beings outside of the game "know the odds" so we don't cross highways at night. It is, in my opinion, a fine line because if you "know too much of the rules" you stop behaving like a character inhabiting the world because you know the rules opens up more solutions than are genre-appropriate.

I'll try to make myself clearer:

If I know I have 150 HP and falling from orbit can do at maximum 120 damage, then jumping down the castle wall becomes a possible choice, even if nobody in the game world would do that, because every single NPC treats falling as a big danger. So in this case, knowing the rules (or thinking about them in the decision making) can threaten immersion.

On the other hand, if I don't know the falling rules, I could assume falling works the same way as in our world and people die falling by missing a step and jumping from a balcony expecting to land on a horse would result in a horse with a broken back and a hero with possibly broken legs. Or worse. But character in the world might be routinely be able to do that if the genre of the game is "The Three Musketeers" and the rules only ask for a very easy acrobatic check. In this situation, not knowing the rules precludes doing things your character would absolutely do. Detailed knowledge isn't necessary, but sometime knowing the genre being emulated can help immerse better in the character mindset.
 

Pedantic

Adventurer
I agree with you, with the little exception that sometimes, "being a character in the setting" involves knowing the odds of some actions or the way the universe will deal with you the same way we as human beings outside of the game "know the odds" so we don't cross highways at night. It is, in my opinion, a fine line because if you "know too much of the rules" you stop behaving like a character inhabiting the world because you know the rules opens up more solutions than are genre-appropriate.

I'll try to make myself clearer:

If I know I have 150 HP and falling from orbit can do at maximum 120 damage, then jumping down the castle wall becomes a possible choice, even if nobody in the game world would do that, because every single NPC treats falling as a big danger. So in this case, knowing the rules (or thinking about them in the decision making) can threaten immersion.
I don't see why this should be put on the players. Isn't this just a design failure? If falling should be dangerous, then you can just change the rules for falling so it is dangerous in the base design.

I also think we might be drifting into something different than immersion, or possible a different condition that breaks immersion. This feels more like verisimilitude, simulation or the degree of abstraction in the mechanics. "Immersion" isn't about the relationship between a player and a character here, it's about the tension in some specific difference in the modeled fictional world from the real one we inhabit.

Maybe this is more the world vs. character immersion that was discussed earlier, in that it feels ridiculous to be in a setting where jumping off of tall buildings is a viable option, breaking the player and/or character's relationship to the setting, but it doesn't necessarily impact the player and character's relationship to each other.
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
It can be. It really depends on what kind of game we're playing. If we're playing a low reality, high weirdness game, immersion isn't a concern for me. If we're playing a high reality, low weirdness game, immersion becomes more important to me.
 

pemerton

Legend
I don't see why this should be put on the players. Isn't this just a design failure? If falling should be dangerous, then you can just change the rules for falling so it is dangerous in the base design.

<snip>

Maybe this is more the world vs. character immersion that was discussed earlier, in that it feels ridiculous to be in a setting where jumping off of tall buildings is a viable option, breaking the player and/or character's relationship to the setting, but it doesn't necessarily impact the player and character's relationship to each other.
I agree with your first paragraph I've quoted.

For me, another function of the mechanics and procedures of a RPG is to help establish what matters. And I want them to be in synergy with what I'm expecting to matter when I play my PC.

So, for instance, if the game is one where inhabiting my character includes thinking about the people and relationships they value, then I want the rules of the game - its mechanics and procedures - to make those things salient.

Conversely, if the main thing the rules focus on is the danger of falling, then it better be a game in which falling is a big deal when I inhabit my PC! Otherwise it's the sort of design flaw you've pointed to, of the game's mechanics failing to deliver the intended experience.
 

niklinna

Abstraction is a tool that streamlines gameplay.
It can be. It really depends on what kind of game we're playing. If we're playing a low reality, high weirdness game, immersion isn't a concern for me. If we're playing a high reality, low weirdness game, immersion becomes more important to me.
I quite enjoyed being immersed in my Troika! character the one time I played it. He was a weird little fellow with a couple necromantic spells, and a skull, and we were investigating a haunted house. There were stuffed bears and candlesticks and fireplaces and things that went bump!
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I agree broadly with the point, and I actually think this points to another place that careful design can improve immersion. I've been talking about decreasing the distance between player/character decision making, but that actually goes both ways. If you're playing a thief type character, that character may generally prefer to use stealth as a strategy, because they believe themselves to be good at it. If the game is well designed to increase immersion, then that is likely to be a good strategy for that kind of character, that you might also prefer as a player.

If there's little room between player/character decision making, it actually doesn't matter if you opt for a given action because it's effective mechanically, or because it's a skill the character believes themselves to be good at. The map and the territory are very nearly the same thing.

Though there's the problem then of playing a character who's, effectively, delusional; sometimes a game will make a mechanical choice bad with malice aforethought (because the kind of genre or countergenre they're aiming for does) and if you get into the game and make a decision to pursue it anyway, and you're also a person who cares at all about game effectiveness, you're effectively doing a self-inflicted wound. You need to either let go of that idea, turn off the game-play part of your brain, or accept the dissonance.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I don't see why this should be put on the players. Isn't this just a design failure? If falling should be dangerous, then you can just change the rules for falling so it is dangerous in the base design.

I also think we might be drifting into something different than immersion, or possible a different condition that breaks immersion. This feels more like verisimilitude, simulation or the degree of abstraction in the mechanics. "Immersion" isn't about the relationship between a player and a character here, it's about the tension in some specific difference in the modeled fictional world from the real one we inhabit.

I have to note there were absolutely people in the RGFA days who found verisimilitude violations broke their immersion, so for some people you're making a meaningless distinction (and yes, they had serious problems with games about more stylized genres).

Maybe this is more the world vs. character immersion that was discussed earlier, in that it feels ridiculous to be in a setting where jumping off of tall buildings is a viable option, breaking the player and/or character's relationship to the setting, but it doesn't necessarily impact the player and character's relationship to each other.

And this is why for some people talking about those separately is almost an oxymoron.
 

Pedantic

Adventurer
I agree with your first paragraph I've quoted.

For me, another function of the mechanics and procedures of a RPG is to help establish what matters. And I want them to be in synergy with what I'm expecting to matter when I play my PC.
I don't know that I'd put this on the same axis as immersion. Using mechanics in that way is definitely something you could target as a design goal, but I think it's orthogonal and possibly in conflict with immersion in some cases. That same line of design thinking could easily lead you to pushing a mechanic that exists outside of a discrete action, for example, which could absolutely tell you something about what kind of story/concern the game is about, but I cited early as an unimmersive mechanical choice.
Though there's the problem then of playing a character who's, effectively, delusional; sometimes a game will make a mechanical choice bad with malice aforethought (because the kind of genre or countergenre they're aiming for does) and if you get into the game and make a decision to pursue it anyway, and you're also a person who cares at all about game effectiveness, you're effectively doing a self-inflicted wound. You need to either let go of that idea, turn off the game-play part of your brain, or accept the dissonance.
That's an interesting point. I'm tempted to say it's a design flaw to have such options in your game, but I think that's actually violating a design goal of balance, or fairness or equal contribution or something, not actually immersion. A game could offer stealth options and make those options ineffective, with the intent of encouraging players who pick that skillset not to use it. A rogue type character in that kind of setting would presumably know that they have a largely useless set of skills and only try to apply them in desperate gambits or ideal circumstances, and thus be well modeled by a player trying to play well.

I don't think that makes for a great game, but I don't think the reason is a failure of immersive design, so much as just kind of cruelty to some of your players?
 

Pedantic

Adventurer
I have to note there were absolutely people in the RGFA days who found verisimilitude violations broke their immersion, so for some people you're making a meaningless distinction (and yes, they had serious problems with games about more stylized genres).
That's reasonable. It would just be nice if we could find effectively language to talk about these things that provided clarity. I would probably cite the problem there as "suspension of disbelief" or a failure of the game's magic circle or something. The ultimate effect, the inability to stay in the setting and/or in character, and a loss of engagement with the game might be the same, but we're talking about different causes with different solutions and different design cases.

Honestly, the LARP examples earlier make a strong case that perhaps that kind of "submersion of self" into character has a better claim to the word "immersion" than the mechanistic separation of character/player decision making I'm talking about, but we're definitely discussing different design goals with different impacts on the final game that both have merit.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
That's reasonable. It would just be nice if we could find effectively language to talk about these things that provided clarity.

Yeah, this is a problem that crops up with all these related discussion.s

I would probably cite the problem there as "suspension of disbelief" or a failure of the game's magic circle or something. The ultimate effect, the inability to stay in the setting and/or in character, and a loss of engagement with the game might be the same, but we're talking about different causes with different solutions and different design cases.

Sounds right.

Honestly, the LARP examples earlier make a strong case that perhaps that kind of "submersion of self" into character has a better claim to the word "immersion" than the mechanistic separation of character/player decision making I'm talking about, but we're definitely discussing different design goals with different impacts on the final game that both have merit.

Well, that's like my issue with doing it FTF at all. Its always possible, but I'm always having to work around the fact that the face and voice of the person involved are, from lack of a better term, not right. I had no problem doing it when I was working purely through text, because, face it, readers are used to projecting what they read in text, that's the whole reason fiction works. I wouldn't be surprised if there's some number of potential immersives never do it for my reasons but don't even understand why.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
That's an interesting point. I'm tempted to say it's a design flaw to have such options in your game, but I think that's actually violating a design goal of balance, or fairness or equal contribution or something, not actually immersion.

It usually isn't, because its usually punishing things you aren't really supposed to do. And unless you're oblivious to the game function, you should be able to know that. As an example, a game that's supposed to represent fairly gritty modern adventure is not liable to give you good support for stylistic flourishes and other things that would be supported in a game of swashbuckling combat (even its modern equivalent). But often its impossible in practice to outright forbid it (the skills and such to theoretically support it will be present for example). So its a thing that doesn't work well, because, well, its not something that's supposed to work well.

Another example would be someone wants to play a Drunken Master style martial artist. Even in games that have somewhat functional martial arts systems, may well not support that because it doesn't have the special rules required to make being drunk a benefit rather than a deficit.

A game could offer stealth options and make those options ineffective, with the intent of encouraging players who pick that skillset not to use it. A rogue type character in that kind of setting would presumably know that they have a largely useless set of skills and only try to apply them in desperate gambits or ideal circumstances, and thus be well modeled by a player trying to play well.'

It might not even be intended to discourage it so much as have it only work in selective cases (where there's plenty of cover and/or lots of distraction for example), so its useful but a bad choice for a primary operating procedure (because the situations that favor it only occur irregularly).


I don't think that makes for a great game, but I don't think the reason is a failure of immersive design, so much as just kind of cruelty to some of your players?

Again, only if you assume all character concepts are supposed to be viable in every game. Sometimes they're really not supposed to.
 

Pedantic

Adventurer
It usually isn't, because its usually punishing things you aren't really supposed to do. And unless you're oblivious to the game function, you should be able to know that. As an example, a game that's supposed to represent fairly gritty modern adventure is not liable to give you good support for stylistic flourishes and other things that would be supported in a game of swashbuckling combat (even its modern equivalent). But often its impossible in practice to outright forbid it (the skills and such to theoretically support it will be present for example). So its a thing that doesn't work well, because, well, its not something that's supposed to work well.
That makes sense, but I was reading the initial example as a mechanic presented on par with more effective choices. Stealth skills that will rarely work, but cost the same as more consistently rolled skills, classes or archetypes designed to do it evoke something that doesn't actually work effectively in the resulting game.

It's a very different scenario to have a mythos game where casting spells is more likely than not to turn you into an NPC, to make that a desperation move instead of a primary archetype, and to print the 3.5 monk which is ostensibly as reasonable a class pick as a Druid. The former tells you something about the world, the latter is a design failure (or a very cruel way to educate players about the relative merits of being about as effective as a tiger, and summoning multiple tigers in the setting).
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
That makes sense, but I was reading the initial example as a mechanic presented on par with more effective choices. Stealth skills that will rarely work, but cost the same as more consistently rolled skills, classes or archetypes designed to do it evoke something that doesn't actually work effectively in the resulting game.

Well, sometimes you'll get this sort of thing simply because the character generation mechanic is not complex enough to make the distinction. If you've got a game where all skills cost X based on level, you can almost take it as a certainty that some of them are going to be better value to cost than others. But that's not an uncommon type of design, because some people really dislike dealing with variable costs and such in character design, so the distinction gets lost on the altar of simplicity.

Now if you're dealing with a class system or similar and deliberately set up ones that that are generally ineffective compared to others, then yeah your design is either thoughtless or malign [gives a casual glance toward Palladium for no particular reason].

It's a very different scenario to have a mythos game where casting spells is more likely than not to turn you into an NPC, to make that a desperation move instead of a primary archetype, and to print the 3.5 monk which is ostensibly as reasonable a class pick as a Druid. The former tells you something about the world, the latter is a design failure (or a very cruel way to educate players about the relative merits of being about as effective as a tiger, and summoning multiple tigers in the setting).

Though the 3e design team apparently did bake in some trap options, I doubt they did so deliberately with classes; they simply didn't understand their own game (which is obvious given they expected it to be played like AD&D2).
 

Pedantic

Adventurer
Well, sometimes you'll get this sort of thing simply because the character generation mechanic is not complex enough to make the distinction..... But that's not an uncommon type of design, because some people really dislike dealing with variable costs and such in character design, so the distinction gets lost on the altar of simplicity.
Truly the darkest and most demanding god of design. Simplicity is expensive, and less correlated with elegance than it gets credit for.
Though the 3e design team apparently did bake in some trap options, I doubt they did so deliberately with classes; they simply didn't understand their own game (which is obvious given they expected it to be played like AD&D2).
Intent has nothing to do with quality, but yeah, I don't think the error was well understood for years.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Truly the darkest and most demanding god of design. Simplicity is expensive, and less correlated with elegance than it gets credit for.

You don't have to sell me on that.

Intent has nothing to do with quality, but yeah, I don't think the error was well understood for years.

I've said before its the curse of not blindtesting; you'll project your expectations on a gaming populace that may be very different on the whole than the people you test the game with.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Well, that's like my issue with doing it FTF at all. Its always possible, but I'm always having to work around the fact that the face and voice of the person involved are, from lack of a better term, not right. I had no problem doing it when I was working purely through text, because, face it, readers are used to projecting what they read in text, that's the whole reason fiction works. I wouldn't be surprised if there's some number of potential immersives never do it for my reasons but don't even understand why.
I get this; but for me while I can be nicely immersed in a character while writing text for it, the whole in-the-moment real-time interaction piece is missing, which makes it just not the same.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I get this; but for me while I can be nicely immersed in a character while writing text for it, the whole in-the-moment real-time interaction piece is missing, which makes it just not the same.

I'm not talking about it in downtime. I'm talking about all the RPG exchange being done in realtime, but with text. That's how chatroom and a lot of MU* games (to the degree those still exist) work(ed).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I'm not talking about it in downtime. I'm talking about all the RPG exchange being done in realtime, but with text. That's how chatroom and a lot of MU* games (to the degree those still exist) work(ed).
Ah. I'm thinking of play-by-(e)mail; which I've done in the past.

With something like chatroom, I'd feel limited by my slow and often-woefully-inaccurate typing.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Ah. I'm thinking of play-by-(e)mail; which I've done in the past.

With something like chatroom, I'd feel limited by my slow and often-woefully-inaccurate typing.

And that's probably a limiting factor for a lot of people, honestly. It still was the situation that worked best for me.
 

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