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That Thread in Which We Ruminate on the Confluence of Actor Stance, Immersion, and "Playing as if I Was My Character"

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
And to me this is basically it. That one key part (not the only part) of immersion is when you've mastered the rules to a sufficient degree that they get out of the way. What the rules are does matter - but for the purposes of immersion they matter because some are easier to master than others and that familiarity is a vast help. There are other things the rules do, of course, including setting the tone.
I very much agree with the bolded part, and would merely add that one of the benefits of a simplified rules system (which D&D has not been since 0e/Basic; even after heavy kitbashing to strip things down it can still be pretty complex in any non-0e edition) is that it has less to do to get out of the way.
 

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I very much agree with the bolded part, and would merely add that one of the benefits of a simplified rules system (which D&D has not been since 0e/Basic; even after heavy kitbashing to strip things down it can still be pretty complex in any non-0e edition) is that it has less to do to get out of the way.
WIth the caveat that simple doesn't always mean less intrusive, more quickly resolved, nor even more consistent, I would agree on general principles.

Tunnels and Trolls is an example of simple isn't faster; combats can require pretty hefty dice pools, which slows combat down notably.

WEG d6 Star Wars 1E has the many pools issue, as well as everything must be declared for the turn except reactions before first actions can be rolled, and then you use the success roll as initiative, so every action impulse is a sort of who goes first. for low-skill characters in low numbers, lightning fast. Big parties (6+) with fair amounts of experience (skills in the 7-8 dice range), drive it to a crawl.
 

And for all the comments on disassociated mechanics the fundamental problem was unfamiliarity and an unwillingness or inability to adapt.
Sometimes mechanics just don't fit peoples tastes when they encounter them. It isn't a matter of being unwilling or an inability to adapt (in my case I tried to like 4E, but it just never really worked for me)
 

All mechanics are dissociated from the narrative. That's what makes it a mechanic
I know where you are coming from, but I cannot agree with this as a blanket statement. It seems to me like saying that “sentences” and “grammar” are dissociated from traditional written narrative, which is clearly not the case. For roleplaying, I’d say that mechanics are the way you construct narrative, much the way that using grammatical rules and constructs are the way you construct written narrative. Rather than dissociated, it seems they are fundamentally associated.

My guess is that we are more likely to agree on a modified version of your thought, augmented by this comment:
That one key part (not the only part) of immersion is when you've mastered the rules to a sufficient degree that they get out of the way.
If a mechanic is intrusive — in the sense that you have to consciously think about it as a mechanic rather than simply consider its effects — then I’d agree that it breaks the narrative flow and takes you out of that feel of being in a story, in much the same way that a sentence like “James had had a pleasant trip“ does. It’a mechanically correct statement, but not one that looks natural to me, so when I read it, I stop thinking about James and his trip and start thinking about the rules.

In much the same way, when i attack an enemy in an F20 game, if I roll d20 add my bonus and ask the GM if a 22 hits, I’m not thinking mechanics at all; I’m involved in the narrative, wondering if the next part of the story is me triumphantly landing a blow on the enemy, or dismayed by his strong defense. But if the enemy beats me in initiate and attacks me (PF2 rules) and I try to react to that, it takes me out of the narrative when the GM reminds me that since my turn has not yet started, I don’t have a reaction to spend — not that it’s a bad rule, just one that is not yet internalized by me. I stop thinking about the narrative and start thinking about the rules.

Another example: if I were to play a mechnic-free game in French, I could do it (badly) but it would not be possible for me to be immersed in it, because at every point I’d be thinking about the mechanics of speaking French; I have not internalized enough French “mechanics” for them to get out of the way. For me, the rules of roleplaying games are just one set of mechanics which are needed to play. Language, ability to roll dice and move tokens (whether physical or on a VTT), understanding social conventions — these are all “mechanics” which if you’ve internalized don’t stop your ability to feel in the narrative. I’ve been in enough situations where one or the other has been issue for someone at the table, definitely including me, and it does not seem to me that there is much difference in terms of interrupting narrative flow between trying to remember how to construct a future conditional in French, mixing up “!r 4d4+2“ with “/r 4d4+2”, or recalling which skills you can use to defend against a Provoke attack in Fate.
 

Also the issue isn't that dissociative wasn't hitting on something true. I think there was definitely truth in some of 4Es mechanics being dissociated and that being one of the conrtibuting factors to folks not liking it. But it is about volume and quantity. People too dissociative mechanics to an extreme level and started arguing any amount was a problem if you did't like it 4E. This is tru of most of the mechanics in 4E people didn't like. Here and there, they were mostly fine (especially as edge cases or as exceptions, or as things that didn't leap out). D&D, in my view always skirted the line with believability because it was a very hand wavy and abstract system. Fourth edition just pushed that lack of believability too far for some people (someone who doesn't mind Barbarian rage existing with the Barbarian, can understandably be more bothered by it if every class has that kind of ability). I think it was a combination of this, and the system being so unlike other version of D&D to many people, that they just couldn't get on board (I was in a number of groups and the reaction I saw in my area was about half of the players just flat rejecting the edition: and these were people who happily transitioned from edition to edition prior to that.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
Anyway, lots more to ruminate on, but I'm anxious and excited to hear what others have to say.

First. I think this essay is refreshingly honest.

When I play chess and I am deep in thought about the game and analyzing possible move combinations, I may be so focused that I am oblivious to the world around me. I am immersed IN THE GAME. I would never though even for a second equate this sort of immersion to what I am talking about in a roleplaying game. I never for example think I am the king directing his troops when I play chess. They are just pieces that I am moving around. So I do believe when a lot of us argue about immersion, we are confusing these two concepts.

For me, roleplaying immersion is being my character. Making decisions as my character. Living the life of a character. That is unique to roleplaying games and it's why I'm willing to commit to many many hours of time in such pursuits.

I also think you are right in declaring that the only pleasure you can get from a game is based on my definition of immersion. I really enjoy the game of chess. I am getting pleasure from such a game without ever getting the immersion I seek from a roleplaying game. Now, obviously, I am not saying Blades in the Dark is equivalent to chess. I am not. I'm just trying to differentiate where we might be dividing over immersion. Obviously creativity is fun and doing creative things is fun. Blades in the Dark is likely far more creative than a D&D session for example. It pushes different buttons and it also pushes some of the same buttons. No doubt there is a lot of overlap.

There is no need for anyone to become hostile about it. An approach has payoffs. We seek different payoffs on occasion.
 

S'mon

Legend
And now having significantly more experience in the realm of RPGs, I'm now wholly of the opinion that the pursuit of immersion is now much like the pursuit of "realism" in RPG play --- it's largely illusory, ephemeral, difficult to obtain, and generally speaking, impractical to attempt to achieve as anything more than a fleeting (if enjoyable) side-effect.

Some people value immersion a lot, some don't. Some aren't capable of it, or only to a very limited extent, and wonder why others value it so much. I'm the opposite; I value immersion hugely, see the RPG game table as rather akin to a seance or (moreso) a shamanic vision quest. I have a lot of trouble understanding how/why people can be so keen on board games like Descent, that have the trappings of RPGs but are non-immersive. Or narrativist story-creation games for that matter - fun pastimes, but not immersive. :D
 

S'mon

Legend
Immersion comes from the group, not the individual.

Having a group 100% engaged increases immersion. Having a group where two people are on their phone decreases immersion. This is one of the reasons why electronics are so damning - they remove immersion. Immersion's prerequisites are eye contact, listening, responding, asking questions, and then the RP starts to fall into play.

I would be willing to bet no one has experienced immersion in Roll20.
I experience immersion (as GM) in Roll20.
 

Campbell

Legend
Also the issue isn't that dissociative wasn't hitting on something true. I think there was definitely truth in some of 4Es mechanics being dissociated and that being one of the conrtibuting factors to folks not liking it. But it is about volume and quantity. People too dissociative mechanics to an extreme level and started arguing any amount was a problem if you did't like it 4E. This is tru of most of the mechanics in 4E people didn't like. Here and there, they were mostly fine (especially as edge cases or as exceptions, or as things that didn't leap out). D&D, in my view always skirted the line with believability because it was a very hand wavy and abstract system. Fourth edition just pushed that lack of believability too far for some people (someone who doesn't mind Barbarian rage existing with the Barbarian, can understandably be more bothered by it if every class has that kind of ability). I think it was a combination of this, and the system being so unlike other version of D&D to many people, that they just couldn't get on board (I was in a number of groups and the reaction I saw in my area was about half of the players just flat rejecting the edition: and these were people who happily transitioned from edition to edition prior to that.

The issue here is taking how one person might feel about a given mechanic and applying it universally to a larger population. The same mechanic that helps me develop a connection to the fiction and experience more of what my character experiences might seem off to you. Our brains work in different ways. We all have dramatically different experiences of the world, different insights into the way the world works.

The problem I have with "disassociated mechanics" rhetorically is that people were telling people how they must feel about a given mechanic even if it rang true to them. Like for me personally as a life long athlete the energizer bunny fighter rings somewhat less true than limited use abilities even though I also have some issues with the specific implementation.

Programming note : I do not want to get into debating the specifics of any mechanics in this thread.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
And this is where it starts to get interesting. Because after my recent experiences with Ironsworn, I'm no longer convinced that first person / single character perspective is a requirement for "immersion." Two sessions ago there was a dramatic moment where I can't recall being as "immersed" / in the moment / in suspense as a GM, ever. I was completely enthralled with the drama playing out in front of me, and I had almost zero final authorial say in the outcome. I wasn't "immersed" in the view of a single character, I was immersed in the scene as a whole.
I think there are two points here.
1. The word immersion is overloaded. I'm immersed when programming and playing chess. I'm immersed in solving the problems presented. I would not by any means say this is the immersion of which I speak when it comes to roleplaying games.

2. There is the immersion of viewing the fake world through the eyes of your character and acting and behaving as that character. That does mean that at least part of your character is some aspect of yourself.

I really do believe that #1 and #2 are confused in our discussions.


And the whole "association" thing goes back to the idea that "immersion" is best realized when you can only "see the world" / interact with the world / interpret the world as your character. I think this is much of what I'm trying to get at with this thread --- how, when, and why did this particular conceit become accepted as the mode of play that leads to that fleeting sense of immersion?

Well if you are pursuing #2 above, then it follows naturally that stepping out of character to do something is going to lessen immersion. In the same way that during a chess match, if I get up and go to the bathroom, I am going to break my immersion in that game.

Because without that particular conceit, the entire dissociated mechanics argument falls apart. If immersion can take place outside and beyond the confines of "playing only through my character," then the need to assert the primacy of "associative" mechanics falls apart.

I really think these attempts to categorize playstyles and define everything are great but the experience came first. I didn't like playing certain games. They just didn't feel right. Now that I have figured out why, I can avoid them but the feeling preceded my knowledge of the reason.

In retrospect, though the concept of "associative" mechanics is tautologically correct ("decision points taken by the player correlate to decision points made by the character), as I review the last decade of my RPG play,
I've been making this point for years but there are many who will still argue to the death about it.

But immersion? Hmmmm . . . not so much. And I'm sure there's some D&D purist that would claim that 8 years of playing Savage Worlds has blinded me to SW's "dissociations," such that of course immersion was impossible! "Don't you know how dissociative Savage Worlds is? Of course there was no immersion!"

But if the goal is to really experience that "slipping away of the real world into the imagined," how does mechanical "association" and "only acting through my character" really accomplish that?
It may not be known but it works for a lot of people. Probably not everyone. It's really not something reasoned out. It's experiential. We just reason after the fact as to why we get the experience we want.
So I don't think "immersion" is achieved just through "playing through the eyes of the character." Playing through the eyes of a weakly-realized, rootless-vagabond-murderhobo isn't immersive in any way.
I think for me #2 above which is what I really think pushes my buttons, immersion is best achieved as I described it. That may not be true for you even if you are seeking a similar type of immersion. It may also be true that you aren't even seeking the same kind of immersion. It's hard to say without being able to read your mind.
 

The issue here is taking how one person might feel about a given mechanic and applying it universally to a larger population. The same mechanic that helps me develop a connection to the fiction and experience more of what my character experiences might seem off to you. Our brains work in different ways. We all have dramatically different experiences of the world, different insights into the way the world works.

The problem I have with "disassociated mechanics" rhetorically is that people were telling people how they must feel about a given mechanic even if it rang true to them. Like for me personally as a life long athlete the energizer bunny fighter rings somewhat less true than limited use abilities even though I also have some issues with the specific implementation.

Programming note : I do not want to get into debating the specifics of any mechanics in this thread.

There isn't a claim of universality. What I am saying is when 4E came out, a segment of the gaming population didn't like it. I was one of those people (though I did try to play it and it just never took off for me). We didn't know why we didn't like it at the time. Most of us weren't versed int he ideas that went into the design (we just knew it was different by a large degree from prior versions of the game: I think most of us were expecting a slight shift forward, and some tweaks to tamp down stuff like power gaming---maybe some simplification as well as 3E could get very involved). What we got was a very different version of the game than we expected (I had someone in my group who was following the design teams stuff more closely and he wasn't surprised--4E also addressed many criticisms he had of 3E and he was happy with it). Justin Alexander offered up an explanation, dissociated mechanics, that resonated with many of us because it either clicked as 'aha, that sounds like it could be it' or it was something we were grappling with but didn't quite figure it out in our heads and didn't know how to put it in words. So it resonated as an explanation with a portion of the population who disliked 4E. I think it was definitely on to something there. But I think where it went off the rails was people over applied it, it became a kind of extreme thing where some folks where like 'well if dissociation is to blame for my dislike, then we should never play a game with an ounce of dissociation'. But I think a closer look at the issue shows for those folks, dissociation was only part of the problem, and where it was a problem, it was really an issue of volume.

I competed in martial arts so I understand your point on how that rang differently than you. It has been a while since I played 4E so I can't really handle the mechanics now well for analysis, but I would say I remember that stuff just feeling too well timed. It did reflect something real, but it was a little odd (like there might be a particular kick you are not likely to see more than once or twice per match, but that is because it is hard to land, not because you couldn't try to keep landing it if you wanted to). For a lot of folks, martial classes being that way felt very odd. That doesn't mean there weren't good reasons to not feel odd about it, or to think it was the best of all possible worlds in terms of implementing something from life the tis hard to simplify into a game mechanic. I had a lot of discussions with the friend mentioned above (who I wrote games with and saw eye to eye on many things). And he always raised good points about 4E in contrast to my criticisms. I don't think this is 'one side has a good explanation and argument and the other side is wrong" kind of thing. I think this is just an interesting moment in gaming where they put out a version of the game that landed well for some, not well for others, and figuring out why is difficult. Dissociation I think has survived as an explanation for many because it hit on something they felt but couldn't quite express. Doesn't mean it applies to you or to everyone.
 

S'mon

Legend
AIR 4e Fighters had ONE genuinely dissociated mechanic - 'Come and Get It'. It was modelled on a fictional trope, but not one that resonated with the critics.
 

Aldarc

Legend
There isn't a claim of universality. What I am saying is when 4E came out, a segment of the gaming population didn't like it. I was one of those people (though I did try to play it and it just never took off for me). We didn't know why we didn't like it at the time. Most of us weren't versed int he ideas that went into the design (we just knew it was different by a large degree from prior versions of the game: I think most of us were expecting a slight shift forward, and some tweaks to tamp down stuff like power gaming---maybe some simplification as well as 3E could get very involved). What we got was a very different version of the game than we expected (I had someone in my group who was following the design teams stuff more closely and he wasn't surprised--4E also addressed many criticisms he had of 3E and he was happy with it). Justin Alexander offered up an explanation, dissociated mechanics, that resonated with many of us because it either clicked as 'aha, that sounds like it could be it' or it was something we were grappling with but didn't quite figure it out in our heads and didn't know how to put it in words. So it resonated as an explanation with a portion of the population who disliked 4E. I think it was definitely on to something there. But I think where it went off the rails was people over applied it, it became a kind of extreme thing where some folks where like 'well if dissociation is to blame for my dislike, then we should never play a game with an ounce of dissociation'. But I think a closer look at the issue shows for those folks, dissociation was only part of the problem, and where it was a problem, it was really an issue of volume.

I competed in martial arts so I understand your point on how that rang differently than you. It has been a while since I played 4E so I can't really handle the mechanics now well for analysis, but I would say I remember that stuff just feeling too well timed. It did reflect something real, but it was a little odd (like there might be a particular kick you are not likely to see more than once or twice per match, but that is because it is hard to land, not because you couldn't try to keep landing it if you wanted to). For a lot of folks, martial classes being that way felt very odd. That doesn't mean there weren't good reasons to not feel odd about it, or to think it was the best of all possible worlds in terms of implementing something from life the tis hard to simplify into a game mechanic. I had a lot of discussions with the friend mentioned above (who I wrote games with and saw eye to eye on many things). And he always raised good points about 4E in contrast to my criticisms. I don't think this is 'one side has a good explanation and argument and the other side is wrong" kind of thing. I think this is just an interesting moment in gaming where they put out a version of the game that landed well for some, not well for others, and figuring out why is difficult. Dissociation I think has survived as an explanation for many because it hit on something they felt but couldn't quite express. Doesn't mean it applies to you or to everyone.
I hope you don't mind that I post this with some degree of ironic tongue-in-cheek humor, and please don't take this as being mean-spirited:
My experience is when people coin a term to describe a playtstyle they dislike or don't want to engage in, their analysis of said playstyle is usually the thing that isn't very deep
What you say here is about how I feel about the Alexandrian's "disassociated mechanics" article. ;)
 

MarkB

Legend
I think there are two points here.
1. The word immersion is overloaded. I'm immersed when programming and playing chess. I'm immersed in solving the problems presented. I would not by any means say this is the immersion of which I speak when it comes to roleplaying games.

2. There is the immersion of viewing the fake world through the eyes of your character and acting and behaving as that character. That does mean that at least part of your character is some aspect of yourself.

I really do believe that #1 and #2 are confused in our discussions.
I'd say there's even a third variant here - being immersed in the scene of the fiction, as though one were experiencing it as a movie or show. I think this is actually the one I tend towards most, followed up by immersion in my specific viewpoint character.
 

I hope you don't mind that I post this with some degree of ironic tongue-in-cheek humor, and please don't take this as being mean-spirited:

What you say here is about how I feel about the Alexandrian's "disassociated mechanics" article. ;)
But that gets at part of what I said to Campbell. I can analyze to understand why I don’t like something and why people sharing my preferences might not. I think it is fair to experience something and figure out why you don’t like it. But if you then take that dislike and try to analyze what 4E is all about (especially for the people who like it: and especially if you discount their stated reasons) your bias is going to influence your conclusion (and if your analysis of 4E leads to a negative, it should be viewed skeptically). Dissociation isn’t an experience everyone has with 4E, but there folks who heard about it and felt it matched sone of their negative reaction (that is a lot diffferent I think from sone of the sweeping style analysis I was responding to in that post)
 

Aldarc

Legend
(that is a lot diffferent I think from sone of the sweeping style analysis I was responding to in that post)
Is it? That seems highly debatable. It’s not difficult at all, for example, to read Alexandrian’s article as a sweeping style analysis that makes assertions about what is or isn’t a roleplaying game and its not so veiled sense of badwrongfun and onetruewayism.
 

Is it? That seems highly debatable. It’s not difficult at all, for example, to read Alexandrian’s article as a sweeping style analysis that makes assertions about what is or isn’t a roleplaying game and its not so veiled sense of badwrongfun and onetruewayism.
take it up with the Alexandrian. I wasn’t saying those things
 



Emerikol

Adventurer
I'd say there's even a third variant here - being immersed in the scene of the fiction, as though one were experiencing it as a movie or show. I think this is actually the one I tend towards most, followed up by immersion in my specific viewpoint character.
I would have thought that was just #1. Meaning you are observing something and intensely interested in that observation. I know chess and programming are kind of out there examples but I think what you said is what I mean as it applied to roleplaying games.
 

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