Is Immersion Important to You as a Player?

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I think the right rules can really help when it comes to experiencing situations as our characters would. Human beings are a complex mix of hormones, cultural upbringing, ideals we strive for, personal beliefs about who we currently are, etc. We do not get to control our natural tendencies, our desires, our hormones, social pressures, etc. We have to manage them. Game design can help to model these sorts of involuntary influences that impact our decisions. It can help pull us all out of the social environment of our play group. It can also make playing to our characters more socially acceptable (and less personal to the other players) at the game table.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
When playing in a TTRPG, how important is immersion -- defined vaguely as "inhabiting your character inhabiting the world" -- to your enjoyment of the game?
Depends on the game, but in most of our D&D games, it’s basically the point.
Do you endeavor to experience the world of the game through your character and only your character?
Oh not only through the character, no. I’m way too adhd for that. What I do is fluctuate wildly between being fully in the mind of my character to the point where I get emotional without meaning to, etc, and making meta puns.
Do the rules matter for this, or is it more about the nature of play at the table?
Both matter, but I don’t think one broad type of system works better for it that another. D&D 3.5 I had a hard time, but both 4e and 5e it’s been very easy for me. The One Ring is easy, Alternity was doable but took a bit bc I had to learn the system enough to let it be landscape. Monster of the Week is fun but had no immersion for me, Urban Shadows same deal, both of which I tried after listening to on The Adventure Zone.

I think being able to build my “OC” is a big part of it.
Are you okay seeing the sets and strings as it were?
Yes.
Do you act, speak and even think as your character for the duration?
Yes, often, but not always. Even when I’m thinking as them I often fail to speak as them.
If immersion is important to you, how do you react to other players or the GM when it isn't as important to them?
Doesn’t bother me.
If I want immersion, I'll go to a swimming pool.
Username checks out.
 

pemerton

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?
It depends on the RPG. If playing a "light" (as in "light-hearted) game like (say) AD&D Against the Giants, not very. Character doesn't matter in a game like that, and my approach will be entirely about how much effort I put into the tactical/"how can we win" aspect of play.

I've also played my few 3E sessions in this sort of way.

But in what I would think of a serious RPG, where character matters, then immersion - what I would normally call inhabitation of character is something I care about. This requires a RPG that aligns my play experience and motivation and orientation with the experience and motivation and orientation of my PC.

There are three main contexts where I've experienced this:

(1) Playing Call of Cthulhu one-shot railroads, where the GM is a skill evoker of images and emotions, and the descent into insanity is nicely scripted so that I can play that out in cooperation with the GM's narration. The insanity trajectory is what permits the alignment I described above - I don't need to choose for my PC, but just emote and portray a scripted path. This can be a lot of fun.

The risk to immersion here is poor scenario design, eg that suddenly requires me to make a decision as my character that risks derailing things, or to introduce a situation (say, a fight) that involves some non-emoting performance from me as a player.

(2) Nicely done one-shots where the characters and the situation mesh well, where the GM has the skill to frame the situation in an evocative way, and where the situation provides an opportunity for the players, as their PCs, to do their thing. In these games, it is that last thing that permits the alignment of player and character - everything that precedes that final situation is a build up, where we all poke around and build up our picture of our characters.

Immersion will be spoiled, in this sort of game, if there is a railroaded resolution to the situation, so that my attempt to express and realise my character bumps into barriers - eg the GM or the scenario signalling that I should do this thing rather than that thing despite that making no sense for my PC.

(3) An ongoing version of (2). Given that it's ongoing, I would expect to have a bit more control over establishing my character. And this also means that the GM's approach to creating situation will have to be different, if the sorts of barriers I mentioned aren't going to come up.

In my personal experience, the best RPG for this is Burning Wheel.

Do you endeavor to experience the world of the game through your character and only your character?
I don't really get what this means.

The only sense I can make of "the world of the game" is the shared fiction, and I experience that through my experience of what others says and (much less often) draw.

Inhabiting my character depends on the fiction that I engage with going well beyond my character. (Unless my character is a solipsist, I guess, but I've never tried to RPG that.) My character has motivations, orientation, comportment, etc and there are many parts of the fiction that are integral to these.

Do you act, speak and even think as your character for the duration?
The actions I'm performing, when RPGing, are mostly talking. The thoughts include a range of things - certainly not limited to the fiction (eg if I have to roll dice, I'll be looking at them, counting numbers, etc). So it wouldn't be possible to act or think as my character does.

For my part, I don't only say things as my character. I will talk to other participants, about the play of the game and perhaps about other things (eg if they pass me some food I will thank them).

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?
Mechanics are fundamental, and likewise methods of play. If the rules, or the GM's methods, throw up the sorts of barriers I've described above, then inhabitation is wrecked.

A light-hearted game of the sort I described at the top of this post doesn't even pretend to give the character meaning. Eg Why are we fighting the Giants? Because that's the premise of this particular adventure.

What I find frustrating is a game that pretends to make my character important, but really is one where the decisions I am required or expected to make are not ones that can genuinely flow from my character. "Plot hooks" are a common manifestation of this.
 
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pemerton

Legend
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."
If immersion is important to you, yet your game's mechanics reliably produce immersion-breaking moments, then that shows they're terrible mechanics!
 

pemerton

Legend
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.
This seems like arbitrary terminological stipulation to me. @niklinna is describing experiencing the tension of the situation that the PC is experiencing - whether to go for broke or try and control the risks. That's inhabitation of character.

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.

<snip>

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 not played BitD. Part of the immersion in Burning Wheel (which has a lot of mechanical overlap with Torchbearer) is deciding how hard to try - which in mechanical terms means spending Persona, which can mean (if you drop to zero) having no Will to Live should you die.

Another big part of BW is that the situation is always speaking to your PC.

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.
It's also part of building up the situation, so that it speaks to one's PC.
 

pemerton

Legend
So what's the difference between engagerment and immersion? As an HR professional (I can hear your boos, and it hurts my feelings), I tend to define player engagement in a similar manner as I would to employee engagement.

Engagement: The degree to which a player invests their efforts towards creating a positive gaming experience.

Immersion: I'm going to stick with @Reynard's definition: "inhabiting your character inhabiting the world."

The two are different.
Engagement, as you define it here, just means "not phoning it in". I can be engaged in (say) a game of bridge. That doesn't mean that I'm immersed in a character (there are no characters or shared fiction in bridge).

I can be engaged in Against the Giants, helping (for instance) make tactical decisions, prepare spell load out, etc. But I'm not going to become immersed. It's not that sort of game.
 

I would find a more expansive, less niche definition would be better. Something like:
"A particular heightened cognitive state marked by some combination of engagement, habitation, and captivation."
That doesn't procedurally restrict how one gets there and it suitably expands the multifaceted experience of the thing.
I understand the reasoning to broaden the definition and wouldn't be against it in general. But if "immersion" is used as the label for the general category, then I feel there is a need to have another label, or a set of qualifiers, for the more specific category (something like "character immersion" or "impersonation immersion") to allow a useful discussion about the experience which started this thread.
 
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pemerton

Legend
I understand the reasoning to broaden the definition and wouldn't be against it in general. But if "immersion" is used as the label for the general category, then I feel there is a need to have another label, or a set of qualifiers for the more specific category (something like "character immersion" or "impersonation immersion") to allow a useful discussion about the experience, which started this thread.
Suppose that specific category is introduced - what possible basis does @Reynard have for denying that it describes @niklinna's BitD play?
 

Suppose that specific category is introduced - what possible basis does @Reynard have for denying that it describes @niklinna's BitD play?
Maybe I missed something here, but the idea of introducing specific categories of immersion would not be to deny other people's experience, but rather to identify defining properties of said subcategories. Having labels for them would then allow treating them like we treat different playstyles - equally valid, but maybe not compatible with one another.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Suppose that specific category is introduced - what possible basis does @Reynard have for denying that it describes @niklinna's BitD play?
To be clear, I am saying that the system and playstyle of FitD games is what keeps it from being "immersion." By the definition I gave in the OP, you cannot be immersed in zoomed out writer room mode. They're antithetical.
 

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