*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 30, 2014, 05:08:00 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 74 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1] 2 3
Print
Author Topic: On immersion, fascination, and precious moments (long)  (Read 10258 times)
Frank T
Guest
« on: May 17, 2005, 12:48:51 AM »

I am posting this to actual play because it is my personal view on immersion, and on the question what makes a session special and legendary. Maybe it can spin off a more general discussion, but for now I am sticking with my personal experience.

I have played RPGs for over 15 years now, in very different groups and styles. Scattered along this gaming career lie some sessions that I would consider especially inspired and fulfilling, especially intense and captivating. They are those long talked about moments, the highlights, the ultimate goal. I used to believe that if I could see what had made those treasured moments so special, if I could sort out the determining feature, the master formula, then I would have my personal key to the best, most inspiring and fulfilling roleplaying.

In my early attempts, when I was still all by myself without any link to the German, let alone the international gaming scene, I used to define those moments by "the game world feeling real". The key seemed to be identifying with the characters and setting, forgetting about dice and numbers and just feeling the experience. When I first heard the term "immersion", I jumped at it and thought this was it. But what was it? The term isn't self-explanatory and no-one really seems to know what it is, if it is substantial at all. The term is a lose cannon, you never know what exactly people mean by it. Some people just mean getting into character, full force actor stance, and acting it out. That doesn't do it for me, though, at least not generally.

Then there was this "dramatism" thing. For many years I used to GM just exactly the way Greg Costikyan advises in Star Wars d6 1st Edition. Sometimes the fascination arose out of the drama, but then again sometimes it didn't. For a while I used to think it was atmosphere. A dense atmosphere meant a captivating game experience. Fair enough, but what composes a dense atmosphere? The more I tried to explain what I meant by atmosphere, the more everything else, like drama, like character and setting, moved into it. I still wasn't grasping it.

Then I learned of Creative Agenda. Tried to apply that. Couldn't.

Today I am going back to fascination and intensity. For me I can say that there seems to be no general, single thing that evokes fascination and intensity in roleplaying. I have the sneaking suspicion that many other gamers are just like me on that account. It occured to me when I read the thread My Life with RPGs and oYo's writing about "purity". Purity was back then, when game X was still fascinating. I cannot go back there. Things have changed, and I need new inspiration to bring back the intensity.

Well, maybe there is a pattern after all. See for yourself, if you will. If you have a minute or two, I shall take you back there. It is of course only a selection, I have tried to pick representative and prominent moments.

The enchanted swamp - about 1991

I was about 14 and playing with three girls from my class. I was the GM and in dire want to impress one of them. We were playing AD&D Dragonlance, one of my first times to GM. Up to then I had only played in a very chaotic (both senses) AD&D group of a friend's elder brother that featured fighting, solving riddles and betraying other player characters, thereby outwitting the other players.

I honestly do not remember the characters, but I do not think they mattered very much since none of the girls would bother with the role anyway. They were just exploring the setting. The game was a spontaneous one and I was just making up details of an enchanted swamp. I don't think they had to fight or solve any serious problems. It was all about that "hey, I am in an enchanted swamp" feeling. The girls still talk about one instance when I described to them an obscure object unbeknownst to their characters which turned out to be - a bar of chocolate.

I didn't get the girl, though, at least not at the time. ;-)

Cultist bikers in the desert - about 1992

I liked the Cthulhu background but had a desire for a little more action, so I used it with WEG's d6 rules. I was GM'ing with a guy from my class and his neighbor as players. And again, the actual role of the characters was abysmal, the most remarkable thing about them being their names - Banana Jones and Clay O'Patra.

I had actually used their background (smugglers) as a hook to get them involved with a gang of cultist bikers. They were sneaking up on a meeting in the desert, sex, drugs and summoning going on. I tried to evoke an atmosphere of dark and danger while we were sitting in my parents' garden in the bright sun, and obviously succeeded. The process of sneaking up, killing guards, watching and taking care not to get discovered really delighted the players, and some guy even stopped on the street to listen for a while. It turned out that he was a roleplayer, too.

Ghost spaceship - about 1995

I started a round of Star Wars d6 with more people from my school in 1995. The group consisted of two guys, three girls and myself the GM. One of the girls had also participated in the enchanted swamp game (not the one I was after, though, at least not at the time ;-) ). Characters started to matter more, they would still be clichéd, but they would have their defining features. We had, female: the cynical smuggler, the snappy gambler, the annoying kid; male: the dreamy scout, the old failed jedi.

The gaming was heavily GM-driven, spiced up with different aspects of challenge. The players used to say what they liked most about my GM'ing were my detailed and atmospheric descriptions. Then I tried to go a little further, starting off an adventure with a dreem sequence, foreshadowing the death of the player characters, and leading them onto a cursed battleship from the clone wars, haunted by the ghosts of a Sith witch and the lawful captain that had been seduced by her and had killed his own crew. The thing I myself remember most fondly about this session is how I actually got one female player to ask to please stop it because she was afraid, all players jumping like mad on the beating of a wall clock, and how all of them really feared for their characters. What the rest of the group remembers best is the indeed very funny joke of one player that finally cracked the horror atmosphere...

Death Knight and demon - about 1995

At about the same time I was a player in a game of "Das Schwarze Auge" (DSA), a German fantasy RPG with very detailed setting and rules. I was playing with more school friends, one of them also a player in the Star Wars group. My character was a juggler that started off pretty indistinct, but over time developed a profile as a good-hearted, slightly naive, brave and quite religious person. Everybody loved the character. This session here was the one that made him gain profile as religious.

The GM had taken the story from the Ravenloft novel "Knight of the Black Rose" and adopted it for a campaign. Our job was to follow a powerful undead lord who sought his treacherous servant. We should make him go away, which basically meant make him find the servant and prevent him from causing harm in the process. As we struggled to catch up with him, we had to pass a swamp that was haunted by will-o'-wisps and ghosts, and I failed a check, indicating that my superstition took control. I had great fun acting out fear and desperation, and everybody enjoyed the performance, trying to sooth me and so on. In the end I prayed to the god of light and justice, not normally the god that a juggler would turn to. The GM described how I saw a light and felt my fear ease. I could still hug him for that, it was just so great.

In the same session we fought a demon in an abandoned mill. Since we had no magic weapons, we could not harm it and had a hard time getting away. That fight was very intense, and everybody was biting their nails and eyeing every roll of a dice in anticipation. It was also the first time we used background music, the "Interview with a Vampire" soundtrack. I think I rarely imagined the game events as vividly as in this session.

Die Hard meets Star Wars - about 1996

I was reading and playing "Vampire - the Masquerade" again and thinking a lot about story, conflict, theme etc. At that time I was putting a lot of effort into writing my adventures, starting them with quotes, detailing on theme and background a great deal. One of my masterpieces, or so I perceived, was about a rebel agent in Star Wars who would play Empire and Alliance against each other to his personal gain. He would bribe imperial officers and stage some show fights. As the player characters came to his base, he would put up some Potempkin hangar deck, trying to hide the fact that most of the Starfighters he had supposedly bought did not even exist. I loved the whole background and wanted to pose the question: "Are we really better than the Empire?"

The players didn't appreciate that as much as I would have liked, but I still enjoyed breaking it down. Yet the session became a long remembered one since the player characters somehow ended up in a giant hotel with a bomb and legions of stormtroopers, and played "Die Hard" in the ventilation system. One player made a "mistake" that led the empire to capture them, and everybody was shouting at her. They were really digging it, and I was indicating to them that they now had messed it and there was nothing more I could do for their characters. They would be taken to Lord Vader, and I mean, you gotta play Lord Vader realistically, right? They really believed their characters to be in mortal danger, and all but one had already given up when that last player finally came up with an escape plan that worked.

The psychiatrist did it - about 1996

Another Star Wars adventure that turned out very well was a whodunnit. The characters were by that time commanding their own battleship, and there were some mysterious murders going on. It was by far the most delicate r-map I had designed up to then, giving them a lot of different possible motives and interesting NPCs to check out. To make it worse, I had a gang of Gamoreans capture the bridge and highjack the ship. All players were really giving their best to maintain an overview of the complicated situation and sort everything out. Not only did they have to solve some riddles, but they were also confronted with people who had quite sensible motives for what they did, and had to make a judgement and decide how to deal with them. Moreover, we did some very good full-length dialogues with very well-profiled NPCs. All five players recon that this was probably the best adventure in the whole campaign, which lasted for quite some time. For me, it was good mainly because I enjoyed my own background so much, and because the players were so devoted.

Vampires in Constantinople - about 1997

As the Star Wars and DSA campaigns were starting to fade out, my favorite became a game of Vampire Dark Ages with yet more people from my school. We really got into the Ann Rice "I have become a monster" thing, our characters being very nuanced and acting out of complicated motives. Play became much more player-driven as the GM (the same as in the DSA game) would often just pick up our schemes and turn them into adventures, also allowing us to create places and NPCs ourselves. I was playing an inventor and philosopher who was struggling with his faith in god and his place in undead society. My companions were a power-hungry aristocrat and a self-oblivious troubadour.

For once, I cannot pick out a single session. In our vampire games, many things blended. We would play very long sessions of 10 hours and more, in the process talking women, friendship, politics and other issues, drinking single malt and listening to music. At that time, we four were best friends, and that was certainly a part of what made those games special. On the other hand, we also did some very intense roleplaying, especially when our characters resided in Constantinople. The GM used the official background and managed to establish the NPCs very well, giving them a lot of flavor and personality. We loved every bit of it and tried to find out as much about the background as we possibly could. At the same time, we would involve ourselves in our personal struggles of love, responsibility and the death we dealt. It was all about the characters and what was going on whithin and between them.

Increasing our position and abilities was a bonus that added in nicely, I guess, more so for the aristocrat's player than for us others, but I won't deny that it really kicked me when I finally raised my Potence to 4. Very rarely, fights would occur, but I remember how they were very different from the rest of the game. The GM made it clear he would not twitch the dice and that we might die if we chose to fight. Once or twice, we would ruin the plot he had in mind by chosing to fight and prevailing. Those fights held a lot of suspense indeed.

Showdown with Obi-wan Kenobi - about 2000

I hadn't had any contact with the players of my old Star Wars group for years when, in a sentimental moment, I wrote an email to one of the players, with whom I had parted in anger. By sheer coincedence, we met each other just the other day on campus. We decided to revive the group and play one more game with the old characters. The rest of the bunch were delighted and said yes immediately. I staged the game after the Battle of Endor and wrote an introduction for every character, detailing what they had been doing in the meantime. The players didn't mind me deciding it for them, at least no-one objected. (In fact, they will not do player-driven play nowadays even if I plead them to.)

The adventure was about some secret Sith sect trying to go back in time and kill Luke Skywalker as he still was a child. I had the characters get into trouble and be rescued, once again, by an old friend, an NPC. Since he had saved them several times in the old campaign, this was a nostalgic moment. We would play the Indiana Jones soundtrack, as always. In the further course of the adventure, the PCs sought out Obi-wan Kenobi and fought the Sith side by side with him. The players still talk about that final showdown, when the failed jedi almost got killed and the others actually managed to defeat a powerful Sith warrior by ganging up on him.

Elevator to a floor that doesn't exist - 2003

By the end of 2002 I was getting involved in a lot of online discussion about roleplaying, learning that out there there was much more than I had imagined. Having been gaming with the same bunch of people for all my life, I sought a new experience and started to go to conventions. Most of the games I had there were not very good, but one was brilliant. It was a game of KULT. We played cramped in a very small room, with sunlight filtering through the window and birds singing outside, but it was horror all the way.

The GM made us create our characters on the spot, and I chose an aggressive, cocain-addict NFL player. The adventure was simple as can be: The characters are spat out by an elevator on a floor that doesn't exist, see strange disturbing things and get attacked by zombie-like creatures. The GM did a very good job describing. All players really engaged in acting out the scenes, cursing, shouting, accusing each other, reasoning with themselves etc. In the end, the characters would turn against each other. I really got into it and had a great time.

Legacy of evil - 2004

On a meeting with people from my German rpg forum, I had another experience with KULT that was just as good. We played in the middle of the night this time, with dark music and candles. The plot wasn't all that different, it was again about reality suddenly disintegrating. Yet this time it was more personal. I had given my character a dark secret, he had as a little kid watched his mother kill his father, who used to beat her badly and tried to rape her. She covered the whole thing up and never got arrested.

The GM picked that up and took it much further: She had the mad ghost of my mother come back from the future and hint that my father had been a demon. I had a real good time acting out the impact this had on my character. He got totally fatalistic, wanting to find out the truth behind the veil that was reality at any cost. Again, the interaction between player characters was crucial.

I have played more horror RPGs since then, trying to get back to that experience, but I couldn't. It has worn out very quickly, and today riddles in the dark and GM secrets tend to annoy me.
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2005, 10:07:18 AM »

Well, let's say that I'm playing gamism really hard, trying to level up a ton, and I'm fascinated by the game mechanics, and the game is so well balanced that the competition is intense... and I'm using my character as a pawn in-game to get the win without paying attention to what the character is about.

Is that immersion?

I think you're missing some part of what you're describing.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Frank T
Guest
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2005, 12:24:52 AM »

Well Mike, whether that's immersion depends on how you define immersion, doesn't it? That's why I'd rather name it intensity straight away, for then I can readily agree with your statement. I would ask you to enlarge on what you think I'm missing, since I'm not sure I know what you mean.

- Frank
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2005, 07:42:18 AM »

I'm trying to understand the point of your post. Is it that we should drop the problematic term Immersion to discuss these other terms? Or something else? If it is just using the other terms, then my point is that I think that there is something that's often covered by people's use of the term Immersion that the two terms that you're using don't cover.

If that's not the point...well then what is it we're supposed to be discussing here?

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Frank T
Guest
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2005, 09:25:54 AM »

Okay, let me try again:

1) I take it the term "immersion" is by no means established with a specific meaning here at the Forge. If it is, I would be grateful for some clarification. As far as I have heard the term used, it may mean "near-total suspension of disbelief", or it may mean "very strong identification with the character", or it may simply mean "being engaged very strongly into play".

2) If "immersion" were to be associated with "the game world feeling real", as was my first impression, then the real question is: How do you get there? Do all people get there the same way? Hardly. So I ask: How do I myself get there? I have posted those examples to show how I have got there in the past. Anybody see a pattern? I don't. I have not been able to reproduce any of these experiences, either. But maybe I'm just missing something.

3) I suggest that "the game world feeling real" is probably just an effect of the player really engaging in play. Play is exploration, so if you are really fascinated by play, no matter the style of play, then you'll become engaged in the process of exploration and the game world will also feel more real. I don't know what to make of this yet, but I would be interested to hear if other people share this perception.
_____

So, this thread is about two things, really. First, about the general idea that being fascinated by play, no matter the playing style, should promote a kind of immersion. Second, about the examples, if anyone has some analysis to offer. Maybe I should have made it two different threads.

Quote
I think that there is something that's often covered by people's use of the term Immersion that the two terms that you're using don't cover.


I would be interested in hearing what, according to you, people mean by immersion.

- Frank
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2005, 01:21:28 PM »

Quote from: Frank T
1) I take it the term "immersion" is by no means established with a specific meaning here at the Forge. If it is, I would be grateful for some clarification. As far as I have heard the term used, it may mean "near-total suspension of disbelief", or it may mean "very strong identification with the character", or it may simply mean "being engaged very strongly into play".
You're quite correct here. People, including myself, have taken a stab at it before, but nobody seems to agree on a useful definition. In part because even those with a vested interest in it can't seem to agree precisely on what it means. And worse, there seems to be a group who are dead set against certain definitons because these seem to privilege certain modes of play and such.

Quote
2) If "immersion" were to be associated with "the game world feeling real", as was my first impression, then the real question is: How do you get there? Do all people get there the same way? Hardly. So I ask: How do I myself get there? I have posted those examples to show how I have got there in the past. Anybody see a pattern? I don't. I have not been able to reproduce any of these experiences, either. But maybe I'm just missing something.
Ah, I get it. Yes, I think that you've identified a large part of the problem. Those who claim to have some special immersion feel can't point out how or when it happens with any sort of accuracy that would make it reproducible.

Quote
3) I suggest that "the game world feeling real" is probably just an effect of the player really engaging in play. Play is exploration, so if you are really fascinated by play, no matter the style of play, then you'll become engaged in the process of exploration and the game world will also feel more real. I don't know what to make of this yet, but I would be interested to hear if other people share this perception.
Interesting, but I disagree. Or, rather, there is a something that people get and want to call immersion that really is only delivered by a certain devotion to simulationism. In point of fact, there are things about gamism and narrativism that ruin this effect. Or so people (like myself) claim.

Quote
So, this thread is about two things, really. First, about the general idea that being fascinated by play, no matter the playing style, should promote a kind of immersion.
Well that's almost tautological. What's fascination? When you feel immersed? Rather, if it's a criteria for the phenomenon, then very much the question is what makes somebody fascinated. But that, sounds just as unanswerable as what makes a person immersed. It's just...something interesting. We can go around and around.

Quote
Second, about the examples, if anyone has some analysis to offer. Maybe I should have made it two different threads.
No, I think that if people have examples they should post them here. So we can see if something does emerge. I don't think it will, frankly, because they'll be talking about different feelings, I'll bet. But who knows?

Quote
I would be interested in hearing what, according to you, people mean by immersion.
I've been known to refer to something I call "Special Sim Immersion" simply to give it it's own term. Special Sim Immersion, when it occurs, results in a dualistic state of perception where you really do feel like you "are" the character. Not just that the world that the character seems "real." But that for the moment you feel that the character and you are one.

Note that there's no break with reality - any more than a person observing an optical illusion has had a break with reality. That's because of the dualistic state. There's still a part of you that's just you and only you. But that doesn't prevent the sensation from persisting when it happens.

I personally also have associated this feeling with something like being under the effect of some strange drug. That is I feel sorta "lightheaded" and giddy when it's happening. A feeling that I only otherwise get when I'm either waterlogged, or when I'm in certain very specific social situations that I'd prefer not to detail. It may well be the feeling that people get when they're drunk or high, but I can't verify that since I've never encountered either (yes, I've never been drunk in my 36 years).

Now, the latter part may just be very specific to me. Also, it's just possible that it has more to do with the social conditions at hand than with the in-game situation. But there are definite body chemicals like endorphins or something involved. I like to kid myself that this might be something like what some people encounter when they're having ecstatic experiences. So I won't put them on this sort of immersion. But my point is that it's a rather extreme state. It's not just being fascinated, or the experience being intense - I'd agree that those two things are true, but that they're not capturing the actual effect at all. Just requirements for the effect to happen.

Now, this may be rare - I wouldn't be surprised if, actually, people who had had an experience like mine weren't willing to share it for fear of ridicule. I've been ridiculed in the past for saying these things, in fact. But it's just my observations, and I'm betting I'm not all alone.

In any case, I do think that if not precisely what I'm talking about, then people do encounter some similar things. Your version of immersion, I'm thinking, may well have some similar feelings of involvement, but not as a character. Indeed, I don't think that I can have these feelings as a GM, but it seems that you can. So perhaps we're both fascinated, and having an immersion "effect," but in very different ways?

See how hard this is? If we ask for others personal definitions, everybody will come out of the woodwork and add theirs, and soon we'll have a zillion definitions.

BTW, one more thing to compare my version of immersion to. Have you ever been in a movie theater, and gotten tunnel vision, and lost the theater? Gotten to the point where you believe the events of the film are real in that same dualistic way? Very similar sort of thing.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
jdagna
Member

Posts: 563


WWW
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2005, 02:56:27 PM »

From what I've read here and my own experiences with whatever you're trying to nail, Frank, I'd say you're talking about a self-hypnotic state.

If you look at stage hypnosis, you're dealing with people who report being aware and in control of their actions and environment, yet simultaneously influenced by what the hypnotist is telling them.  If the hypnotist says "Look, you're naked!" they try to cover up, even though part of their brain is aware that they're still wearing clothes.

Regression hypnosis works very similar - even when people say "I see the man" they're still aware of watching themselves from a third position.  Interestingly, many skeptics doubt the validity of regression hypnosis because it appears to be as much about imagination and creation as it is about memory.

My mother used to be big into New Age stuff, including hypnosis/meditation in which someone would lead you through an imaginary adventure.  Ever the skeptic, I pretended to go along, but resisted the point of being guided by the third person.  Most people used these kinds of things to meet or get advice from a "spiritual ascended master."

Hopefully at this point, I don't even have to illustrate the similarities to RPGs and the feeling that the world is real.  In both cases, you feel an altered sense of consciousness, but not a loss of awareness.  Someone leads you through the experience but without taking away your control.  Your imagination is unleashed in a sort of free-associating kind of way where your ideas seem to come out of their own accord.

In my own experiences, the deep immersion kinds of feelings often happened in cases like hypnosis would - comfortable settings, no interruptions, people you trust and situations that demand your full attention (like a watch on a string, maybe).  But the stage magician proves that it can happen any time you are willing to go along with the process.

As a player, I've had this kind of thing happen many times.  

I used to play a posting board game where I often had to read over my own posts to know what I wrote.  What was interesting about that format is that we had some GM powers such as the ability to create scenery and direct other characters (even other PCs, though they got a veto if they didn't like it).

I had one character who saw a flying ship taking off from the edge of a cliff and he just jumped off after it.  I remember thinking about halfway through it "Boy did he just take a stupid risk" because the feeling was very strong that the decision came from somewhere other than myself.  Normally a tactical person myself, some of the other players commented on how boneheaded most of my plans were when I was playing that guy - but that was the character, with plenty of bravery and not much sophistication.  Thing was, I didn't have to intentionally dumb down anything to fit the character.

There have been plenty of other cases as a play, but I've had it happen as a GM as well.  It happens to me a lot more often as a player, but since I am a GM about 85% of the time, I've still had a few.

In one set of cases, we had a very extended dialogue between characters - I was playing with a friend in high school and we'd often do sleep overs where we played in the dark without dice so that nobody would yell at us for staying up all night.  These experiences were more like what most players feel because I was basically just controlling one character then.  

However, I had another case, where it was very clear that the players had gotten deep into a situation, so much so that they came up with some plan I had absolutely not expected.  As I was furiously ad-libbing the rest of the adventure, I had that same dual sensation, in this case like I was sort of a floating camera following behind the group.  Interestingly enough, the players revealed in a post-game discussion how awesome it was that I'd planned for them to do that.  

In a third case, I managed to rig a scenario up so that it actually scared the players, not just their characters.  And, in the way that you often feel afraid when other people are, I had a sympathetic reaction so that I very much felt afraid of my own creature.

Anyway, I think the sense of immersion partly requires surprise, so I don't think there's any way to plan for it.  I've generally seen it happen when the following conditions happened:
1) I had character(s) and fellow gamers who were very familiar to me
2) Emotions were strong, in a sort of positive-stress way
3) The game sessions were not being disrupted by phones, wives, kids, parents, smoke breaks, etc.
4) Something unexpected happened (something that still fit perfectly into the game world, you just didn't see it coming)

It might be very interesting to get a hypnotist to try running an RPG and see what comes out of that...
Logged

Justin Dagna
President, Technicraft Design.  Creator, Pax Draconis
http://www.paxdraconis.com
Mikko Lehtinen
Member

Posts: 41


« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2005, 05:07:52 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I personally also have associated this feeling with something like being under the effect of some strange drug. That is I feel sorta "lightheaded" and giddy when it's happening.

Sounds very familiar, Mike.

The creepiest special effect I sometimes get is that I lose the ability to judge distances and sizes. I look at the other players, and they seem to be very, very far away, they all look like giants, as big as the stars... I enjoy this altered state of consciousness, but usually I don't tell other players about it, at least not until the end of the session. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it's the absolute roleplaying nirvana for me.

When does it happen? My stress level needs to be waaaay up for a long time. I need to be genuinely scared about the situation somehow. There must be an extremely important and pressing "hard question" that I need to answer right now. It could be a Gamist challenge or a moral question. In either case it needs to be a question of life or death. It could be simple fear of dying, or fear of "losing your soul", of doing something terrible. (Simulationist horror has occasionally worked very well, too.)

And then everything goes boom! My character might lose "everything". Suddenly, the unbearable stress is gone, and some kind of euphoria takes me over. I could cry or laugh easily, depending on the situation. Usually these scenes change my character in a dramatic way. A warrior might become a pacifist, a good man might turn evil, or the character could kill himself, having betrayed all his ideals. Interestingly, often these breakpoints have shifted the focus of play from Gamism to Narrativism.

Of course this is the extreme case of immersion for me, if I want to call it that, and why not. "Being the character" is quite important to me, and "hard questions" (N or G) really help me to get there. Oh, and the group needs to have a good shared understanding of our Creative Agenda (for the session) before the immersion can really happen.
Logged

Mikko
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2005, 05:19:08 AM »

Justin, sounds like what you're talking about is similar to my experiences. What I'm not sure about is if this matches Frank's or not. Mikko's as well.

Try to keep on topic for the thread, however. The actual examples of conditions are good as they are part of what was asked for. But the details about the feeling that we're going into might not be germane. That is, the thread is not about cataloguing experiences like mine, but looking at the use of the term immersion, and whether there's a way to come up with a reasonable definition, or alternative terms that will do a better job.

I think. Frank will correct me if I'm wrong. I just don't want my example of a potentially alternate form (might not even really be alternate), to derail the thread.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Frank T
Guest
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2005, 06:55:06 AM »

Thanks all for the replies, especially Mike for getting this on track. I doubt we can come up with a reasonable definition of immersion here, but we might be able to near it by giving different examples. Hence I think we're still on topic. The real question, however, is not what immersion is. It's where immersion comes from.

Mike, I like your comparison with intoxication. I have never thought of it that way, but yes, it feels similar. I seem to have had smaller doses than some of you, but I have felt it for sure.

Mikko, your "hard questions" might just compare to my "intensity", in terms of that different styles of play can all lead to the result of immersion. I myself have had that feeling in games that were 100% Sim, but also in games that had a great deal of Gam in them. I haven't yet had it in Nar games, but then again, I haven't played nearly as many Nar games. Plus, I've only started recently, and I'm getting picky these days.

Which leads me back to oYo's idea of "purity" (see above). Would any of you agree that it was easier to reach the state of immersion when roleplaying was still new and you were not as familiar with its mechanisms and dynamics?

I have found that many things I used to like in the past have lost their appeal to me. Also, the more I have discussed roleplaying, the more I have come to understand roleplaying, the less tolerant I have become about contradictory and dysfunctional input by other players. I analyze the process of roleplaying much more than I used to. Knowing and understanding something very well tends to lessen your ability to still be fascinated with it. And my assumption is that fascination, a certain "sense of wonder", are the key to immersion.

[Clarification: I do not suggest that immersion is the same thing as fascination, at least not any more. I just think that fascination is an important stepstone on the way to immersion.]
Logged
Frank T
Guest
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2005, 07:12:24 AM »

One more: I find the subject of GM immersion very interesting. I can relate very well to what jdagna wrote on that point. As you can see from my examples above, I've had some immersive GM experiences, but those were also marked by the players really getting into it first, and me as the GM getting "drawn along". This might also be the key to immersion in games with high player empowerment. On the other hand, if everybody is empowered, then who gets to draw along whom?

An aspect of GM immersion less dependent on the players was, in my experiences, the background of an adventure. If I had real good NPCs and a great backstory I could identify with, I might dig that so much that it was sufficient to get me immersed.

As an afterthought, I may well have reached the state of immersion all by myself on several occasions, when making up the next adventure and speculating about how it might go. Same applies to making up a new character or coming up with a new campaign idea. I would pace around my flat, talk to myself and go all dizzy and lightheaded about all this cool stuff and how it might turn out in play. Can anybody relate to that?
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2005, 11:13:49 AM »

I think I'm seeing something that's a thread here between some of the examples. I think that fascination is a somewhat correct term at least to the extent that it implies a surrender of control. A conscious decision to allow somebody else to have control over some part of your state. Even in the reported GM cases, it's when the GM gives control over to the other person that it starts.

I've never been hypnotized, but I'm wondering if Justin is more correct than we think. I wonder if the mental states are equivalent in some ways. Alexander, you reading? Know anything about this?

So, Frank, would it be safe to say that your statement might be something like: "Fascination is a pre-requisite for this sort of immersion?" The problem with this sort of thing is that, if you don't define Immersion, then it's impossible to say whether or not the statement has any merit. The pre-requisites then have to serve as the definition. It might be simpler to drop immersion from the conversation, and simply start talking about fascination. That's problematic, too, however, because of the common usage of the term fascination. Perhaps Immersive Fascination?

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
jdagna
Member

Posts: 563


WWW
« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2005, 11:44:38 AM »

Quote from: Frank T
Would any of you agree that it was easier to reach the state of immersion when roleplaying was still new and you were not as familiar with its mechanisms and dynamics?


I don't find that to be true.  My first case was about three years after I started playing and most of the experiences happened two or three years after that.  In fact, I think familiarity with the system helps.

I haven't had many of those immersive experiences in the last five or six years, but that's largely because I've shifted my gaming focus.  Now that I design games, I'm almost always more concerned with watching how the rules play out and the like and the SIS is less important.
Logged

Justin Dagna
President, Technicraft Design.  Creator, Pax Draconis
http://www.paxdraconis.com
Mikko Lehtinen
Member

Posts: 41


« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2005, 04:41:30 PM »

Mike and Justin, I agree: I feel that this "hypnotic state" that at least some of us have been talking about has very much to do with the surrender of control.

My most hypnotizing roleplaying situation? It was Simulationist Call of Cthulhu. It was easy to give the control to the GM in that game, because we felt that it was impossible to "win" in CoC. We played because we wanted our characters to eventually lose sanity. There was no need to make up clever ways to combat the horrors, and we could just concentrate on being scared. I believe that the GM really hypnotized me in that session. I screamed when he told me about the horrors that my character saw. ;-)

This lack of control has been present in the Gamist or Narrativist games that I told you about, too. I may have used author stance to make decisions that get my character to the situation at hand, yes. But then something unexpected happens, boom!, and I feel that there's really nothing more that I can do about the situation. And for a while, I can just concentrate on being scared/sad/lost/confused/hopeless/crazy, whatever. I can allow the GM and the other players to hypnotize me.

Answering "hard questions" and other player choices help me to get in these dramatic situations, but if I want to get hypnotized, I need to give up the control at some point.

IMO "hypnotized" is a much better word for this particular state of mind than immersion. Immersion has a much wider meaning to me than hypnosis. I can be immersed even when I'm not hypnotized, but I can't be hypnotized (at least not in the roleplaying situation) if I'm not immersed first.
Logged

Mikko
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2005, 07:24:37 AM »

Just quickly, I think that one of the reasons that there's an urge to use the term Immersion for this is that the feeling has some similarities to being underwater. That is, there's this almost tactile feeling that you're being surrounded by the world in question. Does that make sense?

Also, I note that mikko says that it's his ultimate goal in RPGs. I wouldn't go nearly that far. I'd say that I like it, but that I'm not willing to, say, switch modes of play in order to seek it out. That is, I personally find it a fun accident of play when it happens.

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Pages: [1] 2 3
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!