Is Immersion Important to You as a Player?

reelo

Hero
As a GM, I want my players to be immersed/invested in the setting, but not necessarily in their characters. I tend to find the latter to have the potential to become unhealthy.
 

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Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Let me try again: you seem to be saying that you can't get immersed in your character if you have to separate character and player knowledge. Is that right?

Well, I might not make it so absolute…I could be immersed in some ways while also compartmentalizing knowledge about the adventure I have. Probably more accurate to say that in cases where I need to compartmentalize, the affected parts of the story are less immersive for me.

Example: I’m pretending to not know that you need to burn trolls. Non-immersive. In the middle of the fight, an NPC I genuinely trusted surprises me by siding with the trolls. Immersive.

So you seem to have inverted what I was saying: I was referring to situations where I know something my character doesn’t, and you seem to have assumed the opposite.
 

innerdude

Legend
I mean, it isn't absolute. Nothing is. But let me try and illustrate the difference I am talking about.

The situation: a PC has run into an old rival and after some tense conversation, the player decides to engage in some violence.

Trad Game: Player says, "That's it! Eat steel!" Roll. Hit. Damage. Mechanics are involved, but they are pretty straight forward. GM: "NPC wipes the blood from his mouth, smiles ruefully, and says, 'Just remember, you started this.'"

Narrative Game: Player says, "That's it! Eat steel!" Roll. Dice come up with a success with a complication. The player says, "Okay, I guess I will hit him but he gets to hit me back?" Player 2 says, "Wait, it would be cool if you got your licks in but your sword got stuck in the table!" The GM says, "No, I think you hit him but he gets a chance to hit you back, Take2 harm."

That negotiation is where I think immersion takes the hit. Up until the time to adjudicate the die roll results, the immersion is equivalent. I'll even concede that based on building fiction previously, narrative games might even have better immersion in the lead up. But I think that once you ahve to put on the brakes to go through the process of determining what those dice results mean beyond simple algorithmic outcomes of smooth GM narration, immersion is broken.

Again, I am NOT saying it is any less fun or any less engaging or any less good. I am just asserting that the quality of immersion -- inhabiting the character inhabiting the world -- is reduced when you have to, as players and GMs, negotiate die rolls. As such, i think trad games with strong GM authority actually promote immersion over narrative games.

See, I used to ascribe to this view. That mechanical interactions outside the view of being "in character" were by their very nature anti-immersive, and therefore to be avoided whenever possible.

Now I find this to largely be a straw man. Especially in relation to anything regarding combat mechanics. Combat mechanics of any kind are anti-immersive, to me. Does that mean I don't want them? No, not at all, but let's not go about prescribing that "trad" D&D combat is naturally and inherently more immersive, because I can promise you I've had multiple moments during Ironsworn combats that were 10x more immersive than their counterpart would have been in D&D or Savage Worlds. The "fluidity" you're speaking of in terms of jumping in and out of character perspective isn't inherently better in "trad" play, once you get used to non-trad narrative style play.

The very few times I've experienced "deep" immersion in RPG play were completely outside of combat, were focused on interactions between characters (PC to PC; PC to NPC), and were intensely focused upon character stakes that I envisioned as being core to the character I was playing.

Which is why I'm highly sympathetic and agreement to @pemerton 's view that being forced to act as if your character cares about things (s)he really doesn't care about, due to GM-driven force, is highly anti-immersive. The most anti-immersive campaign I ever played was a Savage Worlds fantasy campaign in Shaintar run by a good friend. It was a great campaign for heroic action hinjinx, but I was never "immersed" in character a single time--primarily because about 1/5 of the way through the campaign, it became clear that what should have been my character's primary, core motivation was never going to be addressed through the campaign premise. Past that point, I was being untrue to the core of the character in every single session, just to "play what the GM has prepped" and "do what's good for the party."
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
So you seem to have inverted what I was saying: I was referring to situations where I know something my character doesn’t, and you seem to have assumed the opposite.
I don't think so, but then communication is a funny thing sometimes. In either case I get what you are saying.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I think a significant difficulty faced by this topic is that while lots of people use the word immersion to describe a play state they really enjoy, I suspect that we are actually talking about a rather enormous range of actual experiences, rather than some sort of zen-like satori moment that's actually (ostensibly) the same for everyone.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I think a significant difficulty faced by this topic is that while lots of people use the word immersion to describe a play state they really enjoy, I suspect that we are actually talking about a rather enormous range of actual experiences, rather than some sort of zen-like satori moment that's actually (ostensibly) the same for everyone.
That's why I defined it in the OP. It isn't the only definition but the intent was to give us a place to begin discussions from.

How successful that has been is up to interpretation.
 



Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I don't know if "immersive" is the right word, but I do need the world to be believable and consistent with itself.
That's a different thing entirely, what people usually call "verisimilitude." I know a lot of folks consider this a factor in immersion, but it isn't inherently part of the definition. Immersion just requires that you are "in the fiction" (obviously folks have defined it elsewise in this thread, so take that as my definition).
 

innerdude

Legend
For me personally, when I'm talking about "immersion," I'm talking about deep immersion --- the type of immersion where the edges of the imagined and real space blur, the thought processes and emotions of the character become co-evident in my own thoughts and feelings, where you can put a real "voice" or "presence" to the character in a highly realized way and have that voice or presence play out in ways that matter to the character-as-if-the-character-were-real.

This kind of deep immersion falls in line with what @Campbell describes as "bleed." There's a temporary meld between me the live person and the fictional character.

So when people talk about "immersion" as being "things just make sense and the fiction has verisimilitude and I can picture my character in the game world," that's not what I consider immersion. Or I should say, that's shallow immersion, if that's even a valid descriptor. Deep immersion goes several steps further.

I'd almost say "shallow immersion" is better termed as just adherence to genre convention. It's probably a prerequisite to immersion per se, but isn't itself immersion.

The question, as always, is if immersion is a desirable quality in RPG play, how does one generate it?

One of the more contentious claims in the RPG hobby is that "trad" play is both privileged and unique in its ability to generate immersive play---that the consistency of the shared imaginary space is paramount to generating immersive play, and the only way to get that consistency is to give GM unlimited authorial control over the game world.

My experience the past 5 years tells a much different story. GM authorship is a non-sequitur as it relates to immersion generally.
 

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