Is Immersion Important to You as a Player?

niklinna

Abstraction is a tool that streamlines gameplay.
That does sound really intense. More intense than I'd prefer if I'm honest. LARPing isn't a thing I have any first-hand knowledge of but isn't that kind of experience at least in the expected range?
Larping can get real intense in many ways, especially when you do it at a remote camp out in the woods. I've been chased in the dark of night by folks with foam weapons, heart pounding. I'm sure if it were a real bear or boar* or something my heart would have been pounding way harder, but still. I've also had emotional breakdowns at larp events, probably a fair part of why I stopped. When there's no support for that kind of incident, it's not as fun to go any more.

I also remember a larp Jason Morningstar ran at Big Bad Con a while back. The players were all soldiers in a totatlitarian state, and one of us had committed some act of treason so we were all being held in a cell, as interrogations went on in the next room. Everybody had a brief motivation & backstory that came out and often caused friction with at least one other soldier. Things got heated, but nobody broke...in fact, one of us falsely confessed and got executed just to protect everybody else. I recall Jason saying we were actually the first group that didn't break, but of course we had the escape valuve of the false confessor.

* Note: There were in fact wild boars that broke into people's tents during these events, so walking alone at night was in fact risky. Also a fellow fell off a short cliff one time and the ambulance took a while to get out there.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
In this thread we have (at least) @reelo, @innerdude and @Campbell contrasting immersion in setting (as narrated by the GM) with immersion in, or inhabitation of, character.
I don't see how you can have either without the other; as a large part of immersion in character is envisioning your surroundings and using your imagination to see-hear-etc. as your character would (regardless of whether the root input comes from the GM's narration, your own invention, or - probably most common - some combination of the two). In other words, you're looking at the setting through the character's eyes; and to me that's immersion in setting.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Immersion, as I've experienced and desired it, doesn't have much to do with the emotional state of my character and a lot to do with the rules.

What I want is to decrease the distance between my decision making as a player, and the decision making of my character, so that my choices at the level of the gameplay are as close a mirror as possible to the character's decisions in the fictional world. Thus, a system that serves immersion is one that:
  1. Adjudicates results at the level of individual actions
  2. Provides abilities/declared actions that exist in fixed, specific time intervals
  3. Does not provide abilities/actions that result from factors outside of a given character's personal powers
1. Very much this.
2. Fixed, specific time intervals can be overly restricting - turn-based combat and fixed-length combat rounds being the poster children for this - and can (and IMO frequently do) conflict with point 1 just above. Preferably, if an action takes x-amount of time to do or attempt, that's how long it should take in the fiction regardless of game-play concerns. (in D&D I've seen in these forums a few homebrew attempts at sort of rolling-initiative systems that eschew hard-coded combat rounds in favour of actions just taking as long as they take in a more granular measurement such as seconds or - in 0e-1e-2e terms - segments. From what I can tell these ideas add more complexity than the typical D&D player (or DM!) is willing to live with, but I can see the benefit behind it)
3. So, no meta-currencies. Got it. Love it.
In the situations when this is the case, the next point of conflict that's possible is a divergence in player vs. character motivation. Generally this isn't a problem if the goal is success at a given task, because I as a player trying to play a game well, and my character, as a person trying to achieve their goals in the face of obstacles, will make the same decisions and thus immersions is maintained. Picking the most effective gameplay move will satisfy both the character and player, thus maintaining immersion.
I get this, but at the same time I posit that if fully immersed character motivation ideally takes precedence to the point that player motivation becomes irrelevant: the character does what the character would do even if doing so runs directly against the player's interests or desires. (somewhat extreme example: the player really wants to keep playing the PC but the PC is faced with a situation where due to its established history and personality the in-character thing to do would be to permanently sacrifice itself for the survival of others; ideally here the PC sacrifices itself and the player just has to live with playing a different character henceforth)
This becomes a much bigger problem when the system prioritizes specific narrative outcomes, or story/emotional beats, because the actions I may take as a player to optimize success do not benefit my character's motivations. Immersion, as I experience it, is impossible in such situations. I may choose, for example, to undertake an activity that will likely fail, or which my character is ineffective at, because there's a meta-narrative reward that will improve my gameplay outcomes later, or in a strictly narrative sense, because my goal as a player is to hit a particular narrative beat or emotional state for the character. The character obviously does not want to experience failure/defeat, and would like to accomplish their goals, so we are at odds and immersion cannot occur.
Agreed. But what if doing the anti-narrative thing is in fact what the character would do, even though you-as-player know it isn't what you want? My usual example here is a situation where a player role-plays a character right out of the party; not necessarily due to in-party conflict, but due to the in-fiction fact that being elsewhere and-or doing something else is simply what that character would do at the time.

An example for a good-hearted Ranger type: "It's about a three-week round trip to take these rescued people back to safety, they're in bad shape, we can't take them with us into further danger, and if we leave them here in the wild to fend for themselves they're hosed. We're on a clock and can't all spare the time so I'll take them out myself; meanwhile you guys carry on without me. I'll see you back in town."

And with that I've just role-played myself out of the party (and the game, unless I can bring in a replacement PC somehow) for at least the remainder of that adventure.
Ideally, the non-system aspects of the game, the encounter design and worldbuilding and obstacles created by the GM or intrinsic to the module or scenario, should effectively challenge and stymie the character's attempts to achieve their goals, thus that as I player (and, ideally, as the character) I have to come up with novel applications of the limited actions/abilities I have to succeed, so that the resulting game is interesting.
Agreed. If it ain't a challenge, what's the point? :)
 

Voadam

Legend
I don't see how you can have either without the other; as a large part of immersion in character is envisioning your surroundings and using your imagination to see-hear-etc. as your character would (regardless of whether the root input comes from the GM's narration, your own invention, or - probably most common - some combination of the two). In other words, you're looking at the setting through the character's eyes; and to me that's immersion in setting.
Two PCs having an in-character intense conversation and debate. The setting and setting immersion is not necessarily a big factor there.

In contrast world immersion can be intense whether you are into the mindset of your character or not. You can have some pretty intense setting immersion passively from watching a movie or reading a book without being a specific character in the setting.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Larping can get real intense in many ways, especially when you do it at a remote camp out in the woods. I've been chased in the dark of night by folks with foam weapons, heart pounding. I'm sure if it were a real bear or boar* or something my heart would have been pounding way harder, but still. I've also had emotional breakdowns at larp events, probably a fair part of why I stopped. When there's no support for that kind of incident, it's not as fun to go any more.

I believe I've heard the term "bleed" used in that context, and it not considered a good thing.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Two PCs having an in-character intense conversation and debate. The setting and setting immersion is not necessarily a big factor there.
Not a big factor, but even then the surroundings said conversation takes place in can greatly affect how the conversation is conducted. Consider the differences between:

debating theoretical combat tactics around a quiet campfire (probably a normal conversation, though deep and involved)
debating treasury division over beers at a roaring tavern (loud, with much laughter and joviality between the arguments over who gets what)
indesicion over which merchants to rob in a crowded market (quiet, very discreet, minimal words, probably lots of hand signals and code)
a covert diplomatic argument in a side-chamber off the Duchess' throne room (intense urgent whispering)
In contrast world immersion can be intense whether you are into the mindset of your character or not. You can have some pretty intense setting immersion passively from watching a movie or reading a book without being a specific character in the setting.
We're not talking about books or movies, though, we're talking about RPGs; in which the fundamental conceit is that you are - somehow - being a specific character in the setting. Big difference.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@Lanefan

It's about being immersed in their personal world and like how they see their personal world rather than using them as a vehicle to inhabit and explore the greater fantasy world. That includes filtering out the details they would not care about, taking on their desires and emotions. Valuing the people they value. Trying to exist in the world as someone who fundamentally lives in it. I live in Denver. There are whole swathes of the city I have not seen or explored, nor will I ever. I have stuff going on, things I care about, stuff to get done. I exist in Denver, but I am immersed in it. I am immersed in my family, my friends, my job, my hobbies, my causes. The Denver I know is not the same Denver anyone else knows.

For me to feel immersed in a character and their situation I need to feel like they have an independent existence from me. That I get chance to experience a moment in their life as them, but it's just a moment. They should have an independent animus, reasons to get out of bed in the morning and strive.

Note: It is absolutely the case that some compromises will be made here (because game).
 
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Pedantic

Adventurer
1. Very much this.
2. Fixed, specific time intervals can be overly restricting - turn-based combat and fixed-length combat rounds being the poster children for this - and can (and IMO frequently do) conflict with point 1 just above. Preferably, if an action takes x-amount of time to do or attempt, that's how long it should take in the fiction regardless of game-play concerns. (in D&D I've seen in these forums a few homebrew attempts at sort of rolling-initiative systems that eschew hard-coded combat rounds in favour of actions just taking as long as they take in a more granular measurement such as seconds or - in 0e-1e-2e terms - segments. From what I can tell these ideas add more complexity than the typical D&D player (or DM!) is willing to live with, but I can see the benefit behind it)
Definitely I agree this can be a problem with turn-based combat resolution, and that's an area I'm used to compromise. Immersion generally suffers in combat scenarios, but that's often a trade-off for ease of resolution and sufficiently interesting gameplay abstraction. Like all aspects of game design, immersion is in tension with other design goals and you'll have to make trade-offs at some point.

Outside of turn-based resolution though, this has more impact on things like skill rules, particularly things like stealth rules, where you must specify the circumstances that call for checks ahead of time. For an easy example, consider a check to open a locked door. I need to know as a player what the costs of trying that action are (time, potential lost resources), what the potential failure points are (how many checks could be called for, what are the potential results of a failed check) and what my general chances of success are, so that I can make the best decision about trying the action. A game with an unbounded fail-forward system (or a system with particularly bad "success at cost" outcomes) will fail to be immersive, because the potential downsides of a failed check may make my decision making as a player not align with my character's putative lockpicking ability.
3. So, no meta-currencies. Got it. Love it.
Also, no meta-narrative resource management. A 1/encounter ability must be tied to a resource intrinsic to the character that refreshed on say a 5 minute time scale, not to an "opportunity" that they see arise in the opposition, because the decision to use the ability must be something both the character and I as the player can choose to do.
I get this, but at the same time I posit that if fully immersed character motivation ideally takes precedence to the point that player motivation becomes irrelevant: the character does what the character would do even if doing so runs directly against the player's interests or desires. (somewhat extreme example: the player really wants to keep playing the PC but the PC is faced with a situation where due to its established history and personality the in-character thing to do would be to permanently sacrifice itself for the survival of others; ideally here the PC sacrifices itself and the player just has to live with playing a different character henceforth)
This is fair, but I tend to think of character motivation as defining the victory condition of the game you're playing at any point. My motivation and decision making as a player is then based on trying to optimally achieve that objective. Personal survival is generally a reliable character goal, but if it isn't anymore, I can still as a player try to make good decisions to achieve whatever goal has superseded it if the character's motivations change.
Agreed. But what if doing the anti-narrative thing is in fact what the character would do, even though you-as-player know it isn't what you want? My usual example here is a situation where a player role-plays a character right out of the party; not necessarily due to in-party conflict, but due to the in-fiction fact that being elsewhere and-or doing something else is simply what that character would do at the time.

An example for a good-hearted Ranger type: "It's about a three-week round trip to take these rescued people back to safety, they're in bad shape, we can't take them with us into further danger, and if we leave them here in the wild to fend for themselves they're hosed. We're on a clock and can't all spare the time so I'll take them out myself; meanwhile you guys carry on without me. I'll see you back in town."

And with that I've just role-played myself out of the party (and the game, unless I can bring in a replacement PC somehow) for at least the remainder of that adventure.
This feels like a situation you'd have to accept some abstraction, not at the level of mechanical resolution, but at the level of character motivation. You're adding another goal to the character's motivations that mostly goes unstated "remain part of this group" and you might be prioritizing it over other motivations that might otherwise make more "sense" for the character. It's back to the abstraction necessary to play a game at all, the compromise here being that you agree to play as part of a troupe, even if that might not otherwise align with your motivations.
Agreed. If it ain't a challenge, what's the point? :)
Absolutely, but I'd push that challenge in this sense is a necessary outcome of the scenario, not the system itself, if immersion is to be maintained. This goes back to what I was saying about discrete timeframes earlier. If an action I can declare as a player has an impact on the narrative outside of the direct result (say, a mechanic that allows me to succeed by creating a future complication token that the GM can invoke to add another threat later) I cannot immersively take that action, because my calculus as a player cannot align with the character's decision making.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
@Lanefan

It's about being immersed in their personal world and like how they see their personal world rather than using them as a vehicle to inhabit and explore the greater fantasy world. That includes filtering out the details they would not care about, taking on their desires and emotions. Valuing the people they value. Trying to exist in the world as someone who fundamentally lives in it. I live in Denver. There are whole swathes of the city I have not seen or explored, nor will I ever. I have stuff going on, things I care about, stuff to get done. I exist in Denver, but I am immersed in it. I am immersed in my family, my friends, my job, my hobbies, my causes. The Denver I know is not the same Denver anyone else knows.

For me to feel immersed in a character and their situation I need to feel like they have an independent existence from me. That I get chance to experience a moment in their life as them, but it's just a moment. They should have an independent animus, reasons to get out of bed in the morning and strive.
Agreed, though I consider immersion to include looking both inward (to character) and outward (to setting), as one often directly affects the other.

Sure you might not know every bit of Denver but if it's snowing there today you-as-Campbell are probably going to do/see/think about things differently than you would if it were sunny and 85. The outside affects the inside, as it were.

The same applies to a character in a setting, only most played characters have greater means to directly affect their settings in big ways than do we on Earth.
 

Voadam

Legend
Not a big factor, but even then the surroundings said conversation takes place in can greatly affect how the conversation is conducted. Consider the differences between:

I agree the two can often be relevant to each other and intertwined.

Can is not must though. Your original quote was

I don't see how you can have either without the other

So I think that with giving it some more consideration you can probably see having one without the other.

debating theoretical combat tactics around a quiet campfire (probably a normal conversation, though deep and involved)
Sure, but this one would be pretty much the same in an inn, on a boat, in a carriage, or most anywhere during a quiet time. Even where the immediate setting is not entirely defined for the two PCs as the DM is dealing with another PC at the time.
debating treasury division over beers at a roaring tavern (loud, with much laughter and joviality between the arguments over who gets what)
indesicion over which merchants to rob in a crowded market (quiet, very discreet, minimal words, probably lots of hand signals and code)
a covert diplomatic argument in a side-chamber off the Duchess' throne room (intense urgent whispering)

We're not talking about books or movies, though, we're talking about RPGs; in which the fundamental conceit is that you are - somehow - being a specific character in the setting. Big difference.
Hearing a good description as a PC can get you experiencing the setting to the same extent as a listener to a storyteller or a viewer of a movie or a reader of a book without feeling immersed in your character. Feeling in character in the setting is a different step.

It is possible to be in a game and feel the setting is being evoked well but just not feeling particularly first person in character.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Definitely I agree this can be a problem with turn-based combat resolution, and that's an area I'm used to compromise. Immersion generally suffers in combat scenarios, but that's often a trade-off for ease of resolution and sufficiently interesting gameplay abstraction. Like all aspects of game design, immersion is in tension with other design goals and you'll have to make trade-offs at some point.

Outside of turn-based resolution though, this has more impact on things like skill rules, particularly things like stealth rules, where you must specify the circumstances that call for checks ahead of time. For an easy example, consider a check to open a locked door. I need to know as a player what the costs of trying that action are (time, potential lost resources), what the potential failure points are (how many checks could be called for, what are the potential results of a failed check) and what my general chances of success are, so that I can make the best decision about trying the action. A game with an unbounded fail-forward system (or a system with particularly bad "success at cost" outcomes) will fail to be immersive, because the potential downsides of a failed check may make my decision making as a player not align with my character's putative lockpicking ability.
Ah. That opens another can o' worms which I might as well spill out on the table:

Does true immersion require the players to, as far as possible, forget or ignore the fact that they are playing a game? I posit the answer is yes, that immersion means you're thinking like the character. So, instead of making the decision based on gameplay concerns you'd ideally make it fully in-character (and ideally the GM has given you enough in-setting information to do so, this runs both ways!).
Also, no meta-narrative resource management. A 1/encounter ability must be tied to a resource intrinsic to the character that refreshed on say a 5 minute time scale, not to an "opportunity" that they see arise in the opposition, because the decision to use the ability must be something both the character and I as the player can choose to do.
Yep, when applied to anything the character can normally physically do e.g. a signature combat move. When it comes to magic, I can see some limits e.g you can only cast so many spells in a day or this item only works x-times in y-amount of time, easily explainable in-fiction as the magic needs time to reload.
This is fair, but I tend to think of character motivation as defining the victory condition of the game you're playing at any point. My motivation and decision making as a player is then based on trying to optimally achieve that objective. Personal survival is generally a reliable character goal, but if it isn't anymore, I can still as a player try to make good decisions to achieve whatever goal has superseded it if the character's motivations change.
Again, that seems to look at it very much from a meta-side "playing the game" standpoint.
This feels like a situation you'd have to accept some abstraction, not at the level of mechanical resolution, but at the level of character motivation. You're adding another goal to the character's motivations that mostly goes unstated "remain part of this group" and you might be prioritizing it over other motivations that might otherwise make more "sense" for the character. It's back to the abstraction necessary to play a game at all, the compromise here being that you agree to play as part of a troupe, even if that might not otherwise align with your motivations.
I don't add such goals unless they make sense for the character. If I want full immersion then at-table abstractions have to almost - or even entirely - become irrelevant.

System abstraction e.g. to make combat work are in my view a different beast than at-table abstractions such as keeping the party together: one is necessary, the other is not.
Absolutely, but I'd push that challenge in this sense is a necessary outcome of the scenario, not the system itself, if immersion is to be maintained. This goes back to what I was saying about discrete timeframes earlier. If an action I can declare as a player has an impact on the narrative outside of the direct result (say, a mechanic that allows me to succeed by creating a future complication token that the GM can invoke to add another threat later) I cannot immersively take that action, because my calculus as a player cannot align with the character's decision making.
The answer, then, is to simply stop thinking like a player. Take whatever action the character would take in the moment and let the downstream consequences - if any - sort themselves out later. In fairness, I'd put this particular example down as a system flaw; in that ideally you-as-player shouldn't know how the GM-side mechanics work in cases like this and thus be free to make whatever in-character decisions you like without regard to those meta-concerns.
 

Pedantic

Adventurer
Ah. That opens another can o' worms which I might as well spill out on the table:

Does true immersion require the players to, as far as possible, forget or ignore the fact that they are playing a game? I posit the answer is yes, that immersion means you're thinking like the character. So, instead of making the decision based on gameplay concerns you'd ideally make it fully in-character (and ideally the GM has given you enough in-setting information to do so, this runs both ways!).
No, immersion exists when players are not faced with conflict between playing a game and making decisions in character. A system that is designed to maximize immersion prevents conflicts along these lines from coming up. What you're suggesting above is basically just illusionism on the player side, instead of the GM. Pretending not to know the rules (or perhaps actually not knowing them if you're a very specific kind of player) doesn't remove them from the gameplay loop, it just creates cognitive dissonance you have to cope with as a player to stay engaged.

I view failures of immersion as primarily design problems, not play problems. "Immersion" as I'm using the term, is a description of the state where there is no (or more realistically given the necessity of abstraction, as little as possible) tension between playing the game and making in-character decisions.
The answer, then, is to simply stop thinking like a player. Take whatever action the character would take in the moment and let the downstream consequences - if any - sort themselves out later. In fairness, I'd put this particular example down as a system flaw; in that ideally you-as-player shouldn't know how the GM-side mechanics work in cases like this and thus be free to make whatever in-character decisions you like without regard to those meta-concerns.
Proposing a meta-solution, "stop thinking like a player" is a patch to a design failure, not a solution to the problem. The full-illusionist solution you're proposing here is pretty repugnant though. In no other context would I agree to play a game I don't know the rules to; why would that be any different because that game has characters and a narrative?

The design of the system led to forced non-immersive decision, and the solution is not to use those mechanics if immersion is a goal. Generally my goal as a player, and my goal as a character, will be to optimally and efficiently overcome whatever challenges sit between us and our goal at any point. Systems like this either attempt to prevent any decision from actually being efficient or optimal with a goal of presenting a particular kind of narrative (or just a generally "interesting" narrative) or change the gameplay incentives so that player and character motivations diverge.

I suppose I'm not stating a second preference here that is relevant: I don't like games that don't give players agency. I'm not interested in games that don't present opportunities to make effective/optimal decisions outside of a TTRPG context (e.g. I wouldn't play a board game that used slots as a resolution mechanic) and adding the variable goals/narrative elements of a TTRPG doesn't change that preference.
 

pemerton

Legend
I do not for a nanosecond doubt that people have that experience and/or reaction. In particular you. I hope I didn't convey doubt about that. I might not prefer it for myself but that means exactly and only that.
No doubt was conveyed! I just thought I'd share an experience in response to your post.

I agree with you that "intensity" is a good way to describe it. It's why upthread I contrasted "light" (as in, light-hearted or non-intense) RPG experiences - I gave Against the Giants as an example, but there are heaps and heaps of others that could be given - with more "serious" or intense experiences. For the latter my preferred system these days is Burning Wheel, but I could imagine using a mechanically lighter system like Cortex+ Heroic (if it was approached a certain way, probably with the dice at the lower end numerically) or lighter still like Cthulhu Dark or even Wuthering Heights, if the zaniness of that last-most was kept under control.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
No, immersion exists when players are not faced with conflict between playing a game and making decisions in character.
That conflict doesn't exist if you ignore the fact that you're playing a game.
A system that is designed to maximize immersion prevents conflicts along these lines from coming up. What you're suggesting above is basically just illusionism on the player side, instead of the GM. Pretending not to know the rules (or perhaps actually not knowing them if you're a very specific kind of player) doesn't remove them from the gameplay loop, it just creates cognitive dissonance you have to cope with as a player to stay engaged.
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.
I view failures of immersion as primarily design problems, not play problems. "Immersion" as I'm using the term, is a description of the state where there is no (or more realistically given the necessity of abstraction, as little as possible) tension between playing the game and making in-character decisions.
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.
Proposing a meta-solution, "stop thinking like a player" is a patch to a design failure, not a solution to the problem. The full-illusionist solution you're proposing here is pretty repugnant though. In no other context would I agree to play a game I don't know the rules to; why would that be any different because that game has characters and a narrative?
It would be different because at the root of it you don't need to know the rules in order to role-play. That's what the GM is for. With the exception of character generation mechanics - which IMO should be kept as simple as possible - all you really need to know is that you become your character and think as it would. That's it.

Sure, most systems want you to learn combat mechanics and so forth; but IMO that's only because we can't act out the combats around the table - we don't have our characters' abilities and federal law might have something to say about all the killing we'd be doing.
The design of the system led to forced non-immersive decision, and the solution is not to use those mechanics if immersion is a goal. Generally my goal as a player, and my goal as a character, will be to optimally and efficiently overcome whatever challenges sit between us and our goal at any point.
My goal as a character might well be that. My goal as a player, however, is irrelevant.
Systems like this either attempt to prevent any decision from actually being efficient or optimal with a goal of presenting a particular kind of narrative (or just a generally "interesting" narrative) or change the gameplay incentives so that player and character motivations diverge.

I suppose I'm not stating a second preference here that is relevant: I don't like games that don't give players agency. I'm not interested in games that don't present opportunities to make effective/optimal decisions outside of a TTRPG context (e.g. I wouldn't play a board game that used slots as a resolution mechanic) and adding the variable goals/narrative elements of a TTRPG doesn't change that preference.
Not sure I get what you're saying here. Are you referring to narrative agency (e.g. where you-as-player have some say in setting design or elements), or mechanical agency (i.e. you always know the odds), or agency to freely have your character act as it would within the defined setting.

For me, only the latter of these matters; but it's absolutely essential. If my character doesn't know the odds - which would be most of the time! - then neither should I as player. I just have to muddle through, knowing only what my character knows and maybe doing the wrong thing sometimes. (an old-school example of what I don't like: 1e D&D's thieving-skill percentages should never have been player-side info) And IMO setting design is the purview of the GM.
 

grankless

Explorer
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.
It's actually extremely easy to make in-character decisions and also not offload the responsibility of knowing how the game works to the GM. You don't have to pretend that you're not playing a game. Ignoring rules feels like it would just make that harder to do things in character.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I think that definitions of immersion that require one to forget they are playing a game are problematic. I've heard lots of descriptions of immersion that don't quite meet that enormously rigorous criteria, but I don't think that should exclude those experiences form consideration. I've experienced what I would call immersive moments that didn't escape the gravity of knowing that I was playing a game. Granted both the above are completely anecdotal, but I think it's important to the question at hand.
 

Pedantic

Adventurer
That conflict doesn't exist if you ignore the fact that you're playing a game.
I'm defining immersion as a state where no tension exists between me as a player playing a game, and the character I'm portraying making decisions. Willfully ignoring that tension doesn't solve for its existence to begin with.
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 would actually agree with this as the goal, but we're disagreeing, I think, about how this can be achieved. You're proposing this can be achieved through either force of will to overcome cognitive dissonance, or through ignorance, and I'm suggesting that any mechanic that breaks this state is a design failure from the outset.
Not sure I get what you're saying here. Are you referring to narrative agency (e.g. where you-as-player have some say in setting design or elements), or mechanical agency (i.e. you always know the odds), or agency to freely have your character act as it would within the defined setting.
I'm talking about something between the latter two examples you give here? Agency in the sense that a player gets to make decisions, and that those decisions matter. The easiest example of a game with agency I can think of is Tic-Tac-Toe. You decide where to place your mark, and it is significant to the outcome of the game where you decide to do so (though, one level up from there, the strategy of the game is trivial, so I would describe it as a bad game). A game with no agency is something Snakes and Ladders, where you don't make decisions, and the outcome is determined entirely by factors outside of your control, or something like the lottery, where you can make decisions (pick a specific sequence of numbers), but those decisions have no impact on the outcome.

The most extreme version of the example game you're describing is the third case where players do not have agency, where players make decisions without any information, so those decisions don't matter, because the game would be as well played by a random number generator as the player.

That's a caricature of the position, because you'd likely expect some information even in your scenario (i.e. perhaps a thief has a better chance to pick locks than a fighter, even if the odds are entirely concealed). More likely, you're describing a scenario closer to Tic-Tac-Toe, where the optimal choices are trivial, or a game that alternates between states of agency and no agency from decision to decision.
For me, only the latter of these matters; but it's absolutely essential. If my character doesn't know the odds - which would be most of the time! - then neither should I as player. I just have to muddle through, knowing only what my character knows and maybe doing the wrong thing sometimes. (an old-school example of what I don't like: 1e D&D's thieving-skill percentages should never have been player-side info) And IMO setting design is the purview of the GM.
I would find such a game uninteresting, but not for reasons of immersion. If I don't have any agency as a player to make good decisions (or the agency I do have can only be used to solve trivial optimization problems) then I necessarily won't be at odds with the character I'm playing at any point. Such a design would arguably be very high immersion, but very low on other design goals I'd choose to prioritize.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I think that definitions of immersion that require one to forget they are playing a game are problematic. I've heard lots of descriptions of immersion that don't quite meet that enormously rigorous criteria, but I don't think that should exclude those experiences form consideration. I've experienced what I would call immersive moments that didn't escape the gravity of knowing that I was playing a game. Granted both the above are completely anecdotal, but I think it's important to the question at hand.

It also ignores the fact you can get so familiar with a game system (and this is even true of highly detailed game systems--it applies to me to both older versions of RuneQuest and to the Hero System) where the vast majority of time mechanics-handling is done by parts of your brain that require virtually no conscious engagement. Now, if you're super-focused on immersive play you may be unlikely to play such a game long enough to get there, but its still a situation that can occur.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
It also ignores the fact you can get so familiar with a game system (and this is even true of highly detailed game systems--it applies to me to both older versions of RuneQuest and to the Hero System) where the vast majority of time mechanics-handling is done by parts of your brain that require virtually no conscious engagement. Now, if you're super-focused on immersive play you may be unlikely to play such a game long enough to get there, but its still a situation that can occur.
That's a great point, and I completely agree. System mastery does indeed, IMO, make immersion easier.
 

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