log in or register to remove this ad

 

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

MarkB

Legend
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.
The thing is, #1 is a separate thing that I can experience in roleplaying games - becoming immersed in the tactical-board-game element of the system and acting based upon optimal game-mechanical choices. That's something I used to do a lot, particularly in 3e and 4e (linked more to my attitude as a gamer at the time than anything specific to those systems, I think).

That viewpoint is distinct from viewing the scene from an in-fiction standpoint while being a dispassionate bystander, which in turn is distinct from viewing the in-fiction scene through the eyes of your own very-much-not-dispassionate character. But they could all be considered a sense of immersion.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
I can see what @MarkB is getting at here.

Three degrees, or types, of immersion:

-1- Immersion with the game mechanics. This is your chess example, and can be applied to RPGs as well at the at-table level.
-2- Immersion in the scene from within your character. You're seeing the game-world directly through the character's eyes.
-3- Immersion in the scene external from your character. You're watching your character move through the game-world, seeing both it and the scene around it.
 

I experience immersion (as GM) in Roll20.
That is awesome. I expected some to be able to do it, but I do believe it is rarer. I mean people can have a great date online too, but the immersion isn't quite the same. May I ask (since so many are discussing the definition of immersion) what your definition of immersion is?
 

S'mon

Legend
That is awesome. I expected some to be able to do it, but I do believe it is rarer. I mean people can have a great date online too, but
the immersion isn't quite the same. May I ask (since so many are discussing the definition of immersion) what your definition of immersion is?
Someone above said it - the regular world sort of melts away, and you feel like you are there. As GM I'm probably experiencing it more like a film viewer, identifying with the protagonists. It can be much stronger as a player. It's a sort of altered state of consciousness, but not that different from watching a film in the theatre; or TV to a considerably lesser extent. A good first-person video game can have some of the same effect; but with a good RPG it's much stronger. I still feel the emotions of when eg my LG PC in a Midnight game had to execute a prisoner during a raid.
 

S'mon

Legend
I agree with the posters saying we dwell too much on disassociated mechanics.
Technically, most of what we do in RPGs is disassociated: rolling dice,

I disagree on that; if your dice roll reflects an attempted action in world then it is not dissociated. The classic example is rolling a d20 to make an attack; the d20 roll 'becomes' the sword strike, a little bit. I think that's one reason D&D moved away from 1 minute combat rounds where the association was much weaker. Another example is casting a fireball and rolling 8d6; to a degree the player feels like they are unleashing this devastating magical attack as they roll the dice. This is one reason I can't do 'players roll all dice' games; as GM I need to feel the association between the orc attacking and me rolling its d20+5.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I can see what @MarkB is getting at here.

Three degrees, or types, of immersion:

-1- Immersion with the game mechanics. This is your chess example, and can be applied to RPGs as well at the at-table level.
-2- Immersion in the scene from within your character. You're seeing the game-world directly through the character's eyes.
-3- Immersion in the scene external from your character. You're watching your character move through the game-world, seeing both it and the scene around it.
1. Gameplay Immersion
2. 1st Person Immersion
3. Isometric Immersion
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
I can see what @MarkB is getting at here.

Three degrees, or types, of immersion:

-1- Immersion with the game mechanics. This is your chess example, and can be applied to RPGs as well at the at-table level.
-2- Immersion in the scene from within your character. You're seeing the game-world directly through the character's eyes.
-3- Immersion in the scene external from your character. You're watching your character move through the game-world, seeing both it and the scene around it.
@MarkB

I was lumping #1 and #3 together. I saw it as a focus on something external or separate from #2. I wasn't dividing up any further.
 

pemerton

Legend
There's an article from a game designer of interactive fiction, stored on the internet archives that I found fascinating.


I was fascinated by the separation between the three parts, or partitions of personality while playing interactive fiction---the player, the character-as-cipher, and the character-as-fiction.

And I think there's a connection to be explored about how immersion is achieved---or not achieved, or even desired---where the intersection of those three concepts carries some weight.

And I wonder if the in-character sort of immersion can only be achieved when the player and character-as-cipher aspects are set aside.
I haven't read the rest of the thread, but wanted to thank you for the link to Crimes Against Mimesis. It was a terrific essay, and although its about computer games it brings out so much that's useful for thinking about RPGing!

How many "immersion"-oriented D&D and similar games nevertheless involve the PCs collecting treasure in roughly-recognisable forms (potions and wands but not buttons or hair braids) from the rooms or bodies of defeated enemies? I'm fairly confident the answer is quite a few. But this is clearly a case of character-as-cipher rather than character-as-fictional-protagonist. Even the whole notion of the "adventure" very often reflects the same thing.

This is why I like to distinguish "immersion" from "inhabitation" of the character, where that gameplay aspect of the character really gets left behind.

For a blog dealing with a different aspect of RPGing, but actually grappling with some of the same character as game piece vs character as protagonist issues, you might be interested in this (which is linked to in the "Six Cultures of RPGing" blog that is mentioned in some other recent threads): The Sacrament of Death – Correspondence is about Diligence
 

pemerton

Legend
And I think we in RPG circles already understood the Reader-Player / Story Protagonist distinction, but I don't know that we've ever really separated "reader-player" from "game protagonist."
Ron Edwards has.

So has Robin Laws. You can see it in a game like HeroWars.

So has Greg Stafford. He does so in Prince Valiant (published in the late 80s).

It's true that D&D play hasn't really drawn the distinction. See my post just upthread of this one.
 


pemerton

Legend
Umbran said:
Most of us have probably had the experience of watching a movie or TV show, or reading a book, and forgetting that we are doing so. We become absorbed into the fiction, and the outside world drops away. You no longer sense the person sitting next to you in the theater. You no longer notice you are turning pages. That the real world exists is forgotten for the moment. That, in a nutshell, is immersion. Immersion is sought in RPGs for the same reason it is sought in movies, TV, theater, and books.
This is a good description, similar to what I was trying to elucidate in the OP. And I'd say that most of us have had an experience like that, at some point, in our RPG play "careers."

But in my experience, it's tenuous and fleeting. The very few times it happened, I remember thinking that it was an interesting, enjoyable feeling, but I couldn't pinpoint what it was that would have led to that moment.

<snip>

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.
Given that we - human beings - become immersed in flims, books, live performances, etc - it's no surprise that you as GM were able to become immersed in the events of play without having to adopt a first-person perspective.

What I look for in roleplaying is a lot closer to how I felt on stage growing up in the theater than it is to how I feel when getting wrapped up in a good book, movie, or TV show. When I watch a movie or read a book I get wrapped up in the narrative, but I do not feel like I'm there in the midst of what's going on in the fiction. I'm a fan. An audience member.

What I'm looking for when playing an RPG is bleed. That sense of being there in the midst of it all, taking an active part, feeling what my character feels. It's a profoundly different experience for me.
I have not acted since I was in high school (and was terrible at it!).

As a GM I want to have the feeling/experience that @innerdude describes. The "performative" aspect of RPGing, at least with my group, is never going have the polish that professionally published or produced work does. But the immediacy and engagement of being part of it does a lot of work to overcome that.

As a player I want something like what you describe. I will sometimes use my knowledge of people or ideas that are different from me/mine to help me understand who my PC is and what s/he might want. The immersion of play is different from that of GMing. I think players are more vulnerable.
 


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:

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.
Nope. I do NOT agree. I mean it quite literally when I say All mechanics are intrusive and all are dissociative to some degree; the question is not "are they dissociative?" It's "Do they give ways to alter the narrative that are worth the disconnection from story and interruption in flow?"

Even a timer mechanism for when the narration turns over to next player is dissociation from the story; it's a non-story element intruding.

The only form of RP play I can see lacking in dissociation is a high-trust no mechanics imrov group... and that fails to meet the standards for being a game. And then, even, many have a single rule - The GM decides the outcome of your actions - which is itself a limit on the story, an intrusion. Most such groups add a second: "Say 'yes, and', or 'Yes, but', and never say 'no.'" It pulls one out of the story due to the limits when you have to keep to those rules.

Personally, I utterly hate pure improv storytelling as a mode of play. (it does meet the definition of play, but not all play counts as being part of a game.) I find it both too open and too constrained all at the same time.
 

S'mon

Legend
I thought the recovery mechanics were supposed to be dissociated. And the action points. And the marks.

But they're not, are they?

"I catch my breath and patch myself up."
"I draw deep on my inner reserves."
"I pay special attention to That Guy."

The way APs are acquired (not spent) in 4e is pretty meta, but their use is very much not dissociated IME. Playing a 4e Fighter and drawing on my inner reserves to make an exceptional effort felt very immersive to me. I think someone upthread already noted this, that giving martial PCs limited resources is a lot more realistic than the traditional 'Energizer Bunny' Fighter.
 

S'mon

Legend
Nope. I do NOT agree. I mean it quite literally when I say All mechanics are intrusive and all are dissociative to some degree; the question is not "are they dissociative?" It's "Do they give ways to alter the narrative that are worth the disconnection from story and interruption in flow?"

I think by dissociative you mean "pulls me out of the story". But 'Dissociated Mechanics' is a term referring to a game mechanic that does not map to an in-world action - the mechanic is dissociated from the fiction. This may have an anti-immersive effect but that is not what it means.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
I feel like the associative/dissociative binary is a bit of a canard. They are superficially useful as labels, but that's about it IMO. The whole notion presupposes that there is some sort of 'pure state', or immersion I guess, that is magically not broken by rolling a die or broken by rolling a die, based on the reason for rolling that die. There is a point at which that idea doesn't really pass the laugh test for me. YMMV.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I feel like the associative/dissociative binary is a bit of a canard. They are superficially useful as labels, but that's about it IMO. The whole notion presupposes that there is some sort of 'pure state', or immersion I guess, that is magically not broken by rolling a die or broken by rolling a die, based on the reason for rolling that die. There is a point at which that idea doesn't really pass the laugh test for me. YMMV.
I disagree. The value of any gaming theory is directly proportional to how much of my hate for 4e D&D it justifies, and clearly associative/disassociate validates my hatred for 4e and puts it into an essay form using jargon, which means it must be correct; ergo, it is a highly viable way of looking at games.
 

Campbell

Legend
Nope. I do NOT agree. I mean it quite literally when I say All mechanics are intrusive and all are dissociative to some degree; the question is not "are they dissociative?" It's "Do they give ways to alter the narrative that are worth the disconnection from story and interruption in flow?"

Even a timer mechanism for when the narration turns over to next player is dissociation from the story; it's a non-story element intruding.

The only form of RP play I can see lacking in dissociation is a high-trust no mechanics imrov group... and that fails to meet the standards for being a game. And then, even, many have a single rule - The GM decides the outcome of your actions - which is itself a limit on the story, an intrusion. Most such groups add a second: "Say 'yes, and', or 'Yes, but', and never say 'no.'" It pulls one out of the story due to the limits when you have to keep to those rules.

Personally, I utterly hate pure improv storytelling as a mode of play. (it does meet the definition of play, but not all play counts as being part of a game.) I find it both too open and too constrained all at the same time.

I think there's a difference between a mechanic that intrudes on our usual thought processes and patterns and a mechanic that makes us feel less connected to the fiction. Sometimes it's those mechanics "that get in the way" that can lead to the most connection to the fiction if they get in our face in a way that feels more true to what our character would be experiencing.

Ludonarrative harmony does not necessarily come from a lack of mechanics. My own personal experience is that completely freeform play often reinforces existing real life social dynamics or what the participants think makes for a better story. The right game mechanics can help ground you more firmly into your character's perspective.

Edit : Just remembered that we're probably talking about different things here.
 
Last edited:

Nope. I do NOT agree. I mean it quite literally when I say All mechanics are intrusive and all are dissociative to some degree; the question is not "are they dissociative?" It's "Do they give ways to alter the narrative that are worth the disconnection from story and interruption in flow?"
Well then, I’m going to have to ask you to address the latter part of my post. Since there is no fundamental difference between internalizing the rules of language, and internalizing the rules of a game, and since if you do not internalize either, they will block an immersive experience, do you draw a distinction between game rule mechanics and all other mechanics that go into a roleplaying game, or not?

Based on your above statement, you would seem to believe that simply speaking is intrusive and dissociative to some degree, so the only fully immersive game is an internal one where players simply feel emotions (without internal vocalization). That seems a rather extreme point of view, so maybe there is some other way in which you feel that game mechanics are special in a way all other mechanics are not.

My position, and I think most people’s, is that it is the degree to which mechanics are internalized that distinguishes mechanics. Having rejected that premise, I am curious as to what you think the difference is. Specifically, how do the following two situations differ, immersion-wise:
  • Anton struggles with the game mechanic rules for grappling, which limits their ability to play in-character
  • Betty struggles with the language mechanic rules for English, which limits their ability to play in-character
And perhaps more importantly: Once they have internalized the relevant rules, why is Anton still limited in their ability to play in-character, but Betty is not?
 

I feel like the associative/dissociative binary is a bit of a canard. They are superficially useful as labels, but that's about it IMO. The whole notion presupposes that there is some sort of 'pure state', or immersion I guess, that is magically not broken by rolling a die or broken by rolling a die, based on the reason for rolling that die. There is a point at which that idea doesn't really pass the laugh test for me. YMMV.

This pretty much captures my thoughts verbatim. As I've noted previously, the term itself ("associated mechanics") makes sense --- a mechanic is "associated" if the decision process of the player maps to a decision process of the character.

But as @Fenris-77 says in the bolded part, the blunt instrument use of the term as a catch-all for why a game mechanic fails some arbitrary test for helping maintain "immersion" is misguided at best.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top