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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Emily Care on December 20, 2002, 09:02:47 AM



Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Emily Care on December 20, 2002, 09:02:47 AM
Hello all,

A conversation with friends prompted me to look back at recent threads about the sticky topic of immersion in role-playing.  There is an excellent and constructive discussion of it from not so long ago in this thread: Feeble attempt at defining immersion (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3654).  Ron, your list sounded like a good project.  I look forward to seeing it and wonder if it is something you'd like to open up to more discussion.

My comment here is more about why immersion is so hard to define.  

Immersion is subjective state of mind which each individual has unique requirements in order to enter.  What helps me do what I call immersing might absolutely block you from being able to attain what you call immersing. Our experiences of it might also be mutually exclusive.  If I could put it into words, what I describe as immersion (in character, game, world or other) might not accurately communicate what my experience is to you, or if it did what I described could be sufficiently different from your experience that you would not acknowledge my experience as immersion.

So, the reason why people argue about it is because, essentially, everyone else is wrong about what immersion is. The mistake is assuming that there is one definition of immersion that will describe all of the breadth of the different ways it is experienced.  

So, a list like the one Ron proposed would be meaningful in as much as it gave people shared terminology to describe their own unique experience.  Reminds me of the whole reason GNS arose. :)

Having said that, my personal suspicion is that there is a shared experience among everyone who speaks about immersion, and the real differences are in what one requires in order to experience that.  The differences include system, metagame and social concerns, description of setting, pacing, the whole gamut of what goes into role-playing.  And for me, that basic part is feeling like the actions of character or world that I narrate are originating in a source outside of my conscious mind--most likely my unconscious mind.  A friend quoted or paraphrased Samuel Delaney about one of two different approaches that one can have to art:"art is dictated from some unknown Other".  In role-playing, character immersion allows one to feel that the unknown Other in question is the character.

--Emily Care


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Emily Care on December 20, 2002, 09:07:51 AM
An empowering way we could talk about immersion here on the Forge is that everyone is a unique authority on what constitutes their immersive experiences. Heterodoxy.


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Sidhain on December 20, 2002, 10:07:59 AM
I think you may have something--a tip of it, I'm not sure what, but let me digress for a moment.


What I expect from "immersion" is being the character--feeling as the character, and thinking as the character (when I'm a player at least) my goal is to enjoy the being I've created to in part think as much like them as possible and play upon that as the game progresses. Its why I dislike games which brake the tension, the "scene" the "feel" of the moment with mechanics that require work and effort to make use of if they pull me out of the characters head to mess with some fiddly bit (whether rule, or physical object) then the game is as fault for hurting my experience--some games work fine by making these bits as unobtrusive as possible but some also try and make them a /focus/ of the game--hence why Deadlands doesn't work for me--it made the fiddly bit the focus, on the other hand Saga which also used cards worked for me because its fiddly bit was not the focus--it was just a resolution mechanic.


Now--that is what immersion is to me --feeling-- and --being---
Anything else outside of that is game concerns.

I recently played LOTR, and a friend whose not normally a GM ran it--but he is familiar with the world. His descriptions, pacing, everything brought Middle Earth to life--it only failed when he tried combat, because the mechanics unfamiliarity, and the combat descriptions were more -gamer- concerns and not Middle Earth citizen concerns. It was a good game all told for the experience--with a few fixable flaws to the immersion.


How to make the game immersive? Is a question games should approach, but the final impetus will always be /who/ is playing.

No matter the game if two players are talking about a TV show they saw last night--immersion is damaged. If on the other hand they are chattering about things their characters concerns immersion is supported, and while you can encourage this you cannot create rules to enforce it---forced behaviours create a strain, and tension and can be just as damaging to the immersion as out of character conversations.


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 20, 2002, 10:51:06 AM
Hello,

I'm very dubious about a thread which simply opens up "What immersion means to me."

It doesn't matter what any one person thinks "immersion" is. Immersion has shown itself, over and over, to be a synonym for whatever the speaker values during role-playing. It is, at most, being "into it." And what constitutes "into it" differs very, very widely.

Using the term permits people to agree without substance. "I'm all about immersion!" "Cool, so am I!" and then they play, and it's a big fight and a big stink. It also permits game texts to appeal, on the surface level, to a variety of people - again, this is an illusion of unity and shared goals, not a true agreement or a true widespread appeal.

Now, the trouble with making this point is that people universally read it to mean, "Hey! You're saying that what I care about most doesn't matter!" and dig in their heels with every fiber of their beings. They cry out in defensive fear and start attacking one another. And then I close the thread, and everyone feels marginalized, and grumbles start appearing that Ron is shutting down people who disagree with him.

Let's not do that again. Please, everyone, read Emily's post and realize that it is not a call for "What immersion means to me." Or rather, if it is, in order to derive some heterodoxy from rabid chaos, I call for no disputes whatsoever on this thread. None. Vive la difference, is what this one is all about.

Best,
Ron


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on December 20, 2002, 11:24:16 AM
I am having trouble understanding the question. What is immersion? Is it getting completely "lost" in the character the world or what? Do we really need to define the "what?" Or can we get away with simply agree that there is a state we can call "immersion" were the participants lose themselves completely in the activity they are partaking in? Or is engrossed a better term for what I'm saying. I get engrossed in, say, television when I watch it. (Probably why the wife tries to talk to me during shows about important shit. And waiting for commercials is no good. I am mesmerized by them, too) It works the same in games.

But what is this shared experience of which you speak? Looking at engrossment, again, you could have group of people over for movie night and you all sit and watch the smae movies, and thus have the same experience although each individual may have enjoyed different things, yaddah yaddah. Or, you could have Bad Movie Night where you rent movies that should be on MST3K and the group MST3K's it and has a ball doing that.Now say you have movie night and one person thinks the movie is cheesy and makes lame jokes all the way through. The rest don't mind and may chortle if he hits on something really funny but otherwise ignore him. But one guy is enjoy the movie and keeps saying "Shut up, Jack" with growing annoyance.

I am saying this to look at how a group can be engrossed or immersed in an activity, regardless of the activity, and how that engrossment can be disturbed. I hestitate to say broken. Disturbed seems like a better choice of words.

Is this too far off base?


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Alan on December 20, 2002, 12:53:05 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hello,
It doesn't matter what any one person thinks "immersion" is. Immersion has shown itself, over and over, to be a synonym for whatever the speaker values during role-playing. It is, at most, being "into it." And what constitutes "into it" differs very, very widely.


Hi Ron,

Ah!  I understand and I see.  You're talking about that pleasant feeling of engagement one gets from being interested in an activity.  I bet it would appear on a MRI as a particular neurological state.  What provokes it varies from person to person, but we're all looking for the sensation.  

Most of us can agree we like sugar, but to argue that only one kind of donut delivers the experience is to confuse the agent with the sensation.


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Emily Care on December 20, 2002, 02:23:14 PM
Quote from: Alan
Most of us can agree we like sugar, but to argue that only one kind of donut delivers the experience is to confuse the agent with the sensation.

Exactly. If we look at the agents indepent of the sensation, it may allow us to diffuse the charge around immersion.  

Describing one's experience of engrossment itself is very subjective and is only productive if everyone understands that no one else's experience undercuts their own experience. Just because my favorite donut is Boston Creme does not undermine your choice of Honey-Dipped.

It's like defining love.  Immersion and engrossment and even interest in a game are all going to be polyvalent by their nature: everyone may be talking about the same thing ie "what gets them into a game" but since we are all looking for different things each so called "same thing" is actually unique.  

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Or can we get away with simply agree that there is a state we can call "immersion" were the participants lose themselves completely in the activity they are partaking in? (snipped)

...I am saying this to look at how a group can be engrossed or immersed in an activity, regardless of the activity, and how that engrossment can be disturbed. I hestitate to say broken. Disturbed seems like a better choice of words.

Is this too far off base?


Not at all.  I think you've hit it on the head here.  Although it may be impossible to come up with a definition of immersion that will suit everyone, it is possible to talk about what encourages or discourages one's personal ability to experience immersion.  (Actually the broad definition of engagement Ron and Alan are talking about may be perfectly adequate.)  

Make sense?

I request that we just see if there's a useful analysis to be made here, rather than getting in to listing our personal experiences.  Plenty of time for that.

So the three parts I see so far are:
  • The sensation of immersion
  • Agents that encourage immersion (ranging from social contract to system elements)
  • Agents that discourage immersion (as above)[/list:u]
    Describing these things in a subjective manner rather than seeking an objective definition allows all experiences to be equally valid and makes them all valuable rather than mutually exclusive.

    Being able to classify what encourages or discourages immersion for an individual in a game could help
    1) individuals identify why a system or campaign or gaming group does or doesn't work for them, and what they themselves may be able to do to change that
    2) gives designers more to think about when writing a game (a good and bad thing :)
    3) can give participants in a game a common language to tell each other what they are looking for and perhaps avoid clashes in gaming style.

    --Emily Care


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: M. J. Young on December 21, 2002, 12:57:18 AM
Generally I just immerse in a character because I choose to do so. I have created a person in whom I am intensely interested, and I want to understand who they are and how they interact with others and with the imagined world around them. Maybe it's because I'm rather introverted--I can completely fascinate myself with no outside help. It's a bit like interactive daydreaming, really--and I was always able to become immersed in my daydreams; just ask my elementary school teachers.

Unlike Sidhain, I find that game mechanics interruptions do not throw me. I theorize: I am a deep and detailed thinker, and that means I'm not usually quick. I don't like fast-paced games. I referee who demands a quick answer or action or I lose my opportunity loses me as a player. If he goes into the book and withdraws from play* it gives me the opportunity I so greatly desire to think several steps ahead, to visualize the full layout of the situation and determine as many of the options as I can, and possibly to formulate a plan that's going to turn the odds in my favor.

*It is quite possible for a capable referee to go to the books and hunt down a rule without disrupting the flow of play; I've done it for years. If you've got five players, and one of them wants to do something for which you have to check the rules, it's not generally too difficult to find out what the other four want to do and to adjudicate the results while you're flipping pages in search of the section you need. But it's one of those little things you just don't realize you can do until someone suggests it and you try it, and then, duh, why didn't I do this before?

--M. J. Young


Title: long sample analysis
Post by: Emily Care on December 21, 2002, 09:18:05 AM
I'm going to look at Sidhain's and M. J. Young's posts as examples of how we may analyse the parts of the general process of immersion. I am in no way trying to define Immersion, just learning to break down how we talk about it.

Hope that's okay, you two! Please correct any mis-characterizations I may make your of experience.

Part 1: Sensation
(Descriptions of Sensations Involved in What One Person Experiences) as "Immersion":


Sidhain's experience:
Quote from: Sidhain
What I expect from "immersion" is being the character--feeling as the character, and thinking as the character (when I'm a player at least) my goal is to enjoy the being I've created to in part think as much like them as possible and play upon that as the game progresses.
and
Quote from: Sidhain
Now--that is what immersion is to me --feeling-- and --being---
Anything else outside of that is game concerns.

What we can take from this:
  • Sidhain's desired form of immersion is Character Immersion (Sidhain may also enjoy immersion in world or system, but not describe it here)
  • Sidhain's experience of immersion involves his or her feelings and emotions, which take on a pattern corresponding with the character's experiences etc.
  • Immersion is a major part of Sidhain's player experience, and is seen as a goal which if not achieved may detract from Sidhain's enjoyment of playing.
  • Sidhain's experience of immersion involves in-game experience only, metagame and system concerns break the immersion or constitute the boundary between immersive and non-immersive game activity.[/list:u]
    M.J.'s experience:
    Quote from: M. J. Young
    Generally I just immerse in a character because choose to do so. I have created a person in whom I am intensely interested, and I want to understand who they are and how they interact with others and with the imagined world around them. Maybe it's because I'm rather introverted--I can completely fascinate myself with no outside help. It's a bit like interactive daydreaming, really--and I was always able to become immersed in my daydreams; just ask my elementary school teachers.

    • M.J. is describing character immersion
    • Immersion is easy for M.J.
    • M.J.'s desire to immerse is motivated by his curiosity and interest in the character he's created and the character's interplay with the world around them.
    • M.J. immerses in many areas of his life. [/list:u]
      The fact that M.J. sees his personality as suited to immersion brings us to the next part of the experience to analyze:

      Parts 2 & 3: Enhance & Detract
      (Elements of the Game Experience that Enhance or Detract from Participant's Ability to Immerse)


      For Sidhain:
      Quote from: Sidhain
      I recently played LOTR, and a friend whose not normally a GM ran it--but he is familiar with the world. His descriptions, pacing, everything brought Middle Earth to life--it only failed when he tried combat, because the mechanics unfamiliarity, and the combat descriptions were more -gamer- concerns and not Middle Earth citizen concerns. It was a good game all told for the experience--with a few fixable flaws to the immersion.
      and
      Quote from: Sidhain
      Its why I dislike games which brake the tension, the "scene" the "feel" of the moment with mechanics that require work and effort to make use of if they pull me out of the characters head to mess with some fiddly bit (whether rule, or physical object) then the game is as fault for hurting my experience--some games work fine by making these bits as unobtrusive as possible but some also try and make them a /focus/ of the game--hence why Deadlands doesn't work for me--it made the fiddly bit the focus, on the other hand Saga which also used cards worked for me because its fiddly bit was not the focus--it was just a resolution mechanic.
      and
      Quote from: Sidhain
      No matter the game if two players are talking about a TV show they saw last night--immersion is damaged. If on the other hand they are chattering about things their characters concerns immersion is supported, and while you can encourage this you cannot create rules to enforce it---forced behaviours create a strain, and tension and can be just as damaging to the immersion as out of character conversations.

      Elements that Enhance Sidhain's Experience
      • Good descriptions of world (made by GM) that are consistent with Sidhain's expectations and desires enhance immersion
      • Pacing (though it is not made explicit what kind of pacing does so)
      • Other elements of GMing perhaps including (I'm completely speculating here) character development, plotting, character resources, etc. that were "genre consistent"
      • Players chatting OOC, while Sidhain is IC, about in-game issues can enhance immersion.[/list:u]
        Elements that Detract from Sidhain's Experience of Immersion
        • Mechanics not translated into game world descriptions (game as opposed to game world)
        • "Fiddly bits" (mechanics or tools like dice or cards) that take more than minimal time/effort to use to resolve in-game issues. Especially if the mechanics/item becomes a focus of play.
        • Other participants engaging in non-game discussion while play is in process.[/list:u]

          For M.J.:
          Quote from: M.J. Young
          Unlike Sidhain, I find that game mechanics interruptions do not throw me. I theorize: I am a deep and detailed thinker, and that means I'm not usually quick. I don't like fast-paced games. [A] referee who demands a quick answer or action or I lose my opportunity loses me as a player. If he goes into the book and withdraws from play* it gives me the opportunity I so greatly desire to think several steps ahead, to visualize the full layout of the situation and determine as many of the options as I can, and possibly to formulate a plan that's going to turn the odds in my favor.

          *It is quite possible for a capable referee to go to the books and hunt down a rule without disrupting the flow of play; I've done it for years. If you've got five players, and one of them wants to do something for which you have to check the rules, it's not generally too difficult to find out what the other four want to do and to adjudicate the results while you're flipping pages in search of the section you need. But it's one of those little things you just don't realize you can do until someone suggests it and you try it, and then, duh, why didn't I do this before?


          Elements that Enhance M.J's Experience of Immersion
          • (From prior quote)His long experience with immersive techniques and use outside of role-play.
          • Time to think ahead and visualize situations fully, and strategize.
          • Mechanics and rules adjudication by GM that are incoporated into the flow of game and paced well so that players are not left waiting around. Although mechanics interruptions per se are not an issue.[/list:u]

            Elements that Detract from M.J.'s Experience of Immersion
            • Fast paced games.
            • Short time period for deciding on in-character actions.[/list:u]

              There. Thank you Sidhain and M.J. for your descriptions.  I suspect more could go on each of your lists.

              If this is at all useful, we could use a framework like this to talk about our individual experiences.  Having it broken down allows one to notice if you're comparing apples and oranges, or just different kinds of apples.

              In the Spirit of Inquiry,
              Emily Care


Title: Re: long sample analysis
Post by: M. J. Young on December 21, 2002, 01:14:50 PM
Quote from: Emily Care
Elements that Detract from M.J.'s Experience of Immersion
  • Fast paced games.
  • Short time period for deciding on in-character actions.[/list:u]
My gut reaction was that this was wrong; that although I didn't enjoy fast-paced games, I still was immersed in the character. But as I considered it, I realized that this was probably correct.

If I'm playing a game and I'm immersed in the character, there are several steps in my thinking. I'm thinking, in a sense, in two minds at once. (I do this when I write, too, incidentally.) I ask what I would do, and try to find solutions; and I ask whether my character would do that. So all of my thoughts are filtered by this concept of the personality and nature and strengths and weaknesses and resources of my character. I'm actually pretty good at compiling vast lists of possible solutions, and then paring them down by filters. For example, in a tense moment of conflict, one of the possible solutions is "I hit him." That is not a solution that I ever take. It is counter to my preferences (and also plays very much against my strengths). But I've played characters for which this is a real option they would take. When I pass the decision through my natural, personal filters, "I hit him" is one of the first options to hit the cutting room floor; but if it goes through my character filters, it may well come out on top. Thus there is this intermediate step that is a bit removed from me that makes this "in character", as the actions are weighed according to that different values set.

 If you start rushing me to make decisions, I have to take out that intermediate step; I don't have time to compile the options, pass them through the character filter, and determine what he would do. I'm now working far more on the basis of what I would do. I've been forced out of character, the game has been reduced to Risk, and I am no longer immersed. I still "see" the world, but now much more as a strategy board in a war game.

 So yes, Emily, rushing the game destroys my immersion, and I think this is why.

 I hope that helps enlighten the analysis.

--M. J. Young


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Seth L. Blumberg on December 21, 2002, 02:19:51 PM
When I first saw this topic, I thought "oh, damn, here comes another senseless waste of electrons," but it's actually become quite interesting.  Good job, Emily.

My experience of "immersion" is not much like Sidhain's.  I don't think I've ever achieved a sense of "thinking like the character" in the same way that he describes.  If I did, I obviously didn't enjoy it, because it's not even something I try to do.

Instead, when I'm playing a game (using "playing" in opposition to "GMing" for the moment), I look for some of the same qualities that I enjoy in genre fantasy, namely, detailed world-building and well-realized characters.  I want to get a sense that the setting and situation, and the other players' characters, have some sort of Platonic existence unconfined to material reality.  I want these things to engage my imagination fully.  When that is happening, I am much more effective as as actor portraying my character; but that is not my goal.

One of the things that greatly improves the quality of my immersive experience is the appropriate use of language by other players.  I try to make the speech patterns of my characters distinct from my own, and I really wish that other players did the same thing.  It ruins the moment for me when characters use anachronistic language (or, rather, when players fail to use anachronistic language).

Players who are not paying attention to the game break my immersion.  If you nod off or start reading a book while your character is off-stage, even if you do it quietly and without the intention of interfering with my play, I find it intensely distracting.  The game should be the focus of everyone's attention.

Long periods during which my character is off-stage are another problem.  So are scenes in which game time is moving slower than real time--complex combat mechanics are a problem because they cause game time to drag, not because interacting with the system is a problem in itself.

Apologies for a rambling and unfocused post.  I hope it illuminates something for someone.


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Emily Care on December 23, 2002, 10:51:05 AM
Thank you, Seth. I hope people find this thread useful.  I think part of what I'm after is being able to better work with myself when my immersion breaks down.  Any thoughts from others as to whether looking at your immersion this way might help you do that?

Quote from: M.J. Young
I'm actually pretty good at compiling vast lists of possible solutions, and then paring them down by filters....
                    If you start rushing me to make decisions, I have to take out that intermediate step; I don't have time to compile the options, pass them through the character filter, and determine what he would do. I'm now working far more on the basis of what I would do. I've been forced out of character, the game has been reduced to Risk, and I am no longer immersed.


Thanks for the clarification, M.J.  I feel like I have a much better understanding of your specific process of immersion now.   The "filters" you describe are (at least part of) the internal processes you need to experience in order to feel that you are immersed. And you've identified some specific external factors which hinder this process.  

This leads me to some further analysis:

The process of immersion has Internal and  External factors.  

Internal
Processes-- thoughts and decisions made in the mind, or ways these come about, that allow one to immerse, ie M.J.'s "filters"
Performance (or Flow)-- what you "do" or create while immersed: have "in character" thoughts, easily create satisfying world or setting description, inspired strategic decisions, etc.
Sensations-- the emotional and physiological sensations one feels during the immersion. (This, along with Performance factors, sounds like Sidhain's "feeling and being") Includes simulated emotions of characters, and one's own feelings of fulfillment in response to experience of immersion, and negative feelings when it is disturbed.

External
World--descriptions of in-game settings, characters etc.
Game--mechanics, explicit system
Metagame--social contract issues, behaviour of fellow participants, volume of tv next door, etc.

The external factors often have the effect of hindering or helping the game participant from experiencing the kinds of internal sensations and processes that allow them to feel they are immersing. Sidhain's description of intrusive mechanics is an example of the oft reported problem of Game elements "breaking the illusion" and disrupting immersion in a game.  Seth describes having his immersion disturbed by World factors: language and setting description that are not period appropriate; and also by Social factors:  people showing they are not paying attention to the game by reading or falling asleep.  

With Performance or Flow, I try to get at the sort of Zen, or higher functioning quality to immersive play that many people describe. It's when things really "click".  Seth's describes it as a side effect of his immersion. He writes:
Quote from: Seth L. Blumberg
When that is happening, I am much more effective as as actor portraying my character; but that is not my goal



And another issue:

There are different parts of the gaming experience in which to become immersed.  Sidhain's description of immersion is centered on Exploration of Character. Seth gives us an example of Exploration of World and distinguishes it from Sidhain's experience
Seth writes:
Quote from: Seth L. Blumberg
My experience of "immersion" is not much like Sidhain's. I don't think I've ever achieved a sense of "thinking like the character" in the same way that he describes. If I did, I obviously didn't enjoy it, because it's not even something I try to do.

                    Instead, when I'm playing a game (using "playing" in opposition to "GMing" for the moment), I look for some of the same qualities that I enjoy in genre fantasy, namely, detailed world-building and well-realized characters. I want to get a sense that the setting and situation, and the other players' characters, have some sort of Platonic existence unconfined to material reality.

For each person, immersion may be felt to take place only when the game experience provides a certain kind of exploration of a particular area. This is, I am sure, an incomplete list.

Areas of Immersion
Exploration of Character-- character being played by person in question
Exploration of System-- mechanics, free-form adjudication etc.
Exploration of World--  elements in setting,  including other characters (pc or npc), their descriptions and interactions
Exploration of Strategy-- overcoming obstacles, achieving goals
Psychological Exploration--one's own responses to in-game material (may overlap with Theme)
Exploration of Story-- plot or narrative
Exploration of Drama-- narrative tension and suspense
Exploration of Theme-- narrativist exploration of questions and conflicts through setting and character
Social Interaction-- playing the game for the social and interpersonal interaction among the participants themselves,

"Problem" players, who distract others from play in disfunctional ways, may be people who are looking for their immersive goodies from the social sphere. By their actions, they are getting something out of making everyone laugh or pissing everybody off or whatever the responses are to their behaviour. Although this kind of exploration can also be part of perfectly constructive play.

"Immersion in Social Interaction" may sound like an odd concept, but if we look at immersion as simply the maximized positive enjoyment of a game, which is different for everyone, then it seems to fit.

Thanks for reading.

--Emily Care


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Seth L. Blumberg on December 23, 2002, 02:02:21 PM
Terminological quibble: I think using "Exploration" there is a mistake, unless you are proposing to amend Ron's SSSCC taxonomy.

Other than that, I think you have a good framework for discussing the various kinds of imaginative engagement. (The breadth of the subject goes well beyond anything I've ever labeled as "immersion," so I feel compelled to refer to it by a different name.)

Let me see whether I understand correctly. You are saying, based on my description, that I experience engagement mostly through Sensations and Performance, that (again, for me) it is contingent on World and Metagame issues, and that I am mostly engaged with the World?


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: M. J. Young on December 23, 2002, 11:58:22 PM
Quote from: In response to my comments, Emily Care
Internal
Processes-- thoughts and decisions made in the mind, or ways these come about, that allow one to immerse, ie M.J.'s "filters"

We all take for granted that others think the way we think, perceive the way we perceive, and feel the way we feel; I've discussed this in articles elsewhere. Yet it is still easy to fail to see what it is we do until we see what it is someone else does.

I identify with my characters so completely that I can take personality tests as them. It has never before struck me as strange; suddenly it does.

I say it hasn't struck me as strange. Years ago I put together a bit of a D&D Alignment Quiz in which the primary instruction was to answer each question as your character would answer it. Each of ten questions required you to rank each of four responses from most like you to least like you, and this all added up to suggest how strongly you felt about the four core values of the game. I never had any trouble thinking through the answers in character, and coming out in the alignment they appeared to be. I just assumed that everyone else could do so just as easily.

But I recently took an abbreviated Myers-Briggs personality profile; I came out INTP. (Short explanation: each letter is one of two opposing personality types, Introvert/Extrovert, iNtuitive/Sensing, Feeling/Thinking, and Judging/Perceiving. Longer explanations can be found with the quiz, at http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp for those interested.) But I went back and took the test four more times, once as each of my four protagonists from my novels. One of them--the woman character I always say is most like me--came out INTP. The other three came out ESTJ, ESTP, and ISTP. (Yes, I realized it was odd they were all Thinkers, no Feelers; although two of them came within 1% of the line.) Two were Extroverts to my Introvert; three were Sensing to my iNtuitive; one was Judging to my Perceiving.

What I find odd is that I could sit down and take a personality profile test as if I were someone else, and come out with a completely different personality. (No, I am not schizophrenic; I was constantly and fully aware during this that I was answering the way the character would answer, and that I was not the character.)

Is this something that others can do easily, or with some difficulty, or not at all? You've got me curious now.

--M. J. Young


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Emily Care on December 24, 2002, 07:53:16 AM
Points well taken, Seth.

Quote from: Seth L. Blumberg
Terminological quibble: I think using "Exploration" there is a mistake, unless you are proposing to amend Ron's SSSCC taxonomy.

Let's see. Drop the Exploration. What I called "Areas of Immersion" could instead be each person's Locus of Engagement.  Man that sounds high-falutin, but some definitions of "locus" hit the mark:

from dictionary.com:
Quote
Locus
   Pronunciation Key  (lks)
 n. pl. lo·ci (-s, -k, -k)

   1.A locality; a place.
   2.A center or focus of great activity or intense concentration: “the cunning exploitation of loci of power; the insulation from normal American society” (Clifton Fadiman).
   3.Mathematics. The set or configuration of all points whose coordinates satisfy a single equation or one or more algebraic conditions.

A locus can be a set of points that are equi-distant from multiple centers or foci, as in an ellipse. Each person's enjoyment of playing, or engagement, has a unique center or centers. It is the territory a game participant likes to inhabit. One can say that one's Locus is "Engagement as Character" or "Engagement with World", etc.

Quote from: Seth L. Blumberg
Other than that, I think you have a good framework for discussing the various kinds of imaginative engagement. (The breadth of the subject goes well beyond anything I've ever labeled as "immersion," so I feel compelled to refer to it by a different name.)

Thank you. I agree completely with the enlargement to engagement.  Immersion seems to be a degree of engagement.  

Quote from: Seth L. Blumberg
Let me see whether I understand correctly. You are saying, based on my description, that I experience engagement mostly through Sensations and Performance, that (again, for me) it is contingent on World and Metagame issues, and that I am mostly engaged with the World?

Yes. Exactly.  Although, I am curious about what part of  "Sensation" you experience. From your earlier post:
Quote from: Seth L. Blumberg
My experience of "immersion" is not much like Sidhain's. I don't think I've ever achieved a sense of "thinking like the character" in the same way that he describes. If I did, I obviously didn't enjoy it, because it's not even  something I try to do.

This leads me to believe that the sensations you experience are primarily in response to the activity of engagement, rather than the emotional feelings of the character you play. Since world, not character is your Locus, it makes sense that thinking in character would not be your goal.

Perhaps the feelings one has "as" a character, and the feelings one has in response to enacting being the character, or whatver one is engaged by, should be seperated in some way.  Feeling "as" a character is an indicator of a certain type of channeling immersion that is commonly described.  These could be Proxy Sensations.  Emotions felt for and as someone else.

M.J.: Wow, that's some strongly held experience of another personality you can hold. :)  I've never tried to take a personality test as someone else, though I often have multiple answers myself when I take those.  I think I come up I/ENFP.  It seems like this relates most to the Internal Performance and Sensations of Engagement as Character. Do you use the same Processes to do it as you use when playing in character?  This might be a good topic for a thread of it's own.

Warmly,
Emily Care

edit:  There's a thread right now in this forum about Game Design and Personality type. It's in the air. :)


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Seth L. Blumberg on December 24, 2002, 08:43:34 AM
M.J.: I can take personality tests "in-character" too. I just don't think of it as immersion, because for each question, I have to say to myself, "Now what would [character name] say?" I've always thought that, were I really immersed in the character, the answer would come automatically.

Emily: I like "Locus of Engagement," but then, I've always liked the word "locus" and tend to use it as often as possible. As for your curiosity about my experience of Sensations of Engagement, you had previously explicitly included feelings in response to the experience of engagement under that heading, and that's what I was referring to. Full Engagement is a very emotional experience for me, despite not usually involving Proxy Sensation.


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: M. J. Young on December 24, 2002, 09:48:57 PM
Quote from: Emily Care
M.J.: Do you use the same Processes to do it as you use when playing in character? This might be a good topic for a thread of it's own.

I don't know about another thread; but I would say that it is the same process. In fact, after writing that thread, I picked a character I'd played in a recent short-lived campaign, a female irda wizard of high sorcery in a D&D game, who seemed particulary different from me, and got ENFP (finally found a character who was feeling instead of thinking). I also noticed as I went through the quiz that a lot of the answers flowed very quickly, almost moreso than when I took it as myself (although that was the first time I'd seen the questions). It seems to be a matter of selecting core elements of who I am pretending to be, and then following them to their logical conclusions. I don't really have to think that much about most of the answers; I just "know" who this person is.

It may be that I have a sort of intuitive understanding of people. I've often correctly predicted an opinion, decision, or action of a friend, as a "that's the sort of thing he would/wouldn't do". These characters are easier in several ways--they are less dimensional, less complex; and it's harder to be "wrong" since they can't contradict. So it may be that I'm creating composites from people I know and then extrapolating their views and choices into the questions as I would into situations. (On the other hand, it comes to me that I've been credited with creating truly alien races who still make sense and have individual variation despite being entirely inhuman in their attitudes in some fundamental way, so I'm not certain whether it's as simple as it seems.)

--M. J. Young


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Emily Care on December 26, 2002, 12:00:43 PM
Seth:
Quote from: Seth L. Blumberg
Emily: I like "Locus of Engagement," but then, I've always liked the word "locus" and tend to use it as often as possible.

The best part is that we get to use the multiple: Loci. So appropriate to invoke a god of chaos when talking about immersion. :)
Quote from: Seth L. Blumberg
As for your curiosity about my experience of Sensations of Engagement, you had previously explicitly included feelings in response to the experience of engagement under that heading, and that's what I was referring to. Full Engagement is a very emotional experience for me, despite not usually involving Proxy Sensation.

Very interesting.  Proxy Sensation may be more central to Character Engagement. Since your Locus is World, what parts of the experience evoke emotional responses for you? The satisfaction of learning about a world and it's components or your personal reactions to the events your character is experiencing? What is your emotional component to engagement?

M.J.: What is your locus of engagement? Is character where you get the most focused enjoyment out of playing, and "lose" yourself? Or are there other aspects of playing (competition, drama, narrative, etc.) that allow you to feel you are immersed?  

Anyone else have thoughts on which of the following areas(or others you think of), specifically, are your areas of primary enjoyment, engagement and immersion?

Can you see areas that are not ones you enjoy, and are problematic for your experience of immersion?

Locus of Engagement:
Character-- character being played by person in question
System-- mechanics, free-form adjudication etc.
World-- elements in setting, including other characters (pc or npc), their descriptions and interactions
Strategy-- overcoming obstacles, achieving goals
Psychological Exploration--one's own responses to in-game material (may overlap with Theme)
Story-- plot or narrative
Drama-- narrative tension and suspense
Theme-- narrativist exploration of questions and conflicts through setting and character
Social Interaction-- playing the game for the social and interpersonal interaction among the participants
                    themselves,

--Emily Care


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on December 26, 2002, 01:33:27 PM
Now how does this Locus of engagement work? Do particular individuals focus on a single locus or are they all important to all player by varying degress and for a particylar individual does it become a loci juggling act to focus on the various loci at crucial points in certain circumstances?


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: M. J. Young on December 26, 2002, 05:16:34 PM
Attempting to answer both Emily and Jack here, let me start with Jack,
Quote from: who
Do particular individuals focus on a single locus or are they all important to all player by varying degress and for a particylar individual does it become a loci juggling act to focus on the various loci at crucial points in certain circumstances?

This is a subjective answer, but my inclination is that the locus is that point from which you experience the rest.

Quote from: That is, as Emily
M.J.: What is your locus of engagement? Is character where you get the most focused enjoyment out of playing, and "lose" yourself? Or are there other aspects of playing (competition, drama, narrative, etc.) that allow you to feel you are immersed?

I think that for me, what happens is I am identifying with my character, and all of the rest enhances my ability to do so, even as the identification with my character enables me to experience the rest in an "immersive" way. That is, I could sit around imagining that I am my character in a dining room eating dinner, but whether I eat my meat with my potatoes or finish one before starting the other is not all that interesting after a while. It is as things happen that my character is given the opportunity to react and interact, and so to express himself in the game. All of the potential loci you've identified can enhance that; each of them helps mold the character into who he becomes.

I'm reminded of a note I wrote in my literary journal years before I began role playing. It concerned the notion of "character development", which is something we've all heard mentioned in our English Lit classes at some point in our lives. My thought at the time was that "character development" was little more than the author putting the character in situations and understanding how it responded; but that idea of "how the character responded" was insufficiently understood by me then. The question is not merely how does the character respond to this, but beyond that how does this change the character? My characters are people; but they are also becoming people, just as I am still in the process of becoming someone. Interaction with other characters, setting, events, obstacles, issues, and even mechanics cause the character to become someone, not merely to reveal who he is but to go beyond that and change in response to the world in which he lives.

So I would say that a single locus seems to be the point from which the rest of the game is experienced.

Of course, this is all very subjective; I'd be interested in whether Sidhain, for example, sees it differently.

--M. J. Young


Title: thoughts on why immersion is a tar baby
Post by: Emily Care on December 27, 2002, 09:06:51 AM
Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
Do particular individuals focus on a single locus or are they all important to all player by varying degress and for a particular individual does it become a loci juggling act to focus on the various loci at crucial points in certain circumstances?


I anticipate that some people have multiple loci.   And yes, it would be a juggling game--in the individual, and also at the group level. The group has to balance the individual preferences of the players to keep everyone happy.

Quote from: M.J. Young
I think that for me, what happens is I am identifying with my character, and all of the rest enhances my ability to do so, even as the identification with my character enables me to experience the rest in an "immersive" way.

M.J.: The way I've used locus, it has referred to the area of gaming in which one experiences immersion or engagement.  It sounds like you are saying that you experience engagement in other areas than character, and that in order to do so, you need to be immersed in character. Is that accurate?  

If so, I would phrase it that your experience of Character Immersion is your primary Locus, which  functions an internal process that is required for you to engage in all of your various loci.  

Does this sound like it describes your experience? I am trying to be very specific in my use of these terms.

Quote from: M.J. Young
So I would say that a single locus seems to be the point from which the rest of the game is experienced.

Of course, this is all very subjective; I'd be interested in whether Sidhain, for example, sees it differently.


Exactly.  For you, the locus of Character is the most important factor in allowing you to engage with the various aspects of role-playing.

--Emily Care