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Author Topic: 'Immersionist' rather than 'Sim...'?  (Read 5121 times)
Domhnall
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« on: May 31, 2005, 02:28:15 AM »

I've been reading through past posts regarding Sim.  I am a bit confused as to why Sim is not instead titled "Immersionist" as it seems closer to the mark.  As with most issues, I'm guessing that this was already debated and I didn't find it.  Could someone link me to that debate please.  

Thanks.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2005, 02:59:55 AM »

Actually, this one I don't specifically remember. Most want to make immersionism a creative agenda, instead of supplanting the name of simulationism....

Anyway, here's why it won't work: immersionism is widely understood to be a technique preference, where you value deep character immersion as a play technique. Because this is a radically different thing from the creative agenda of simulationism, we couldn't call simulationism immersionism even if we wanted to. The word's already taken.

Another reason is that not nearly all simulationist play requires or encourages character immersion, so calling it immersionism would be very confusing.

To illustrate, consider that I've designed a game that I routinely refer to as a "narrativist immersionist tabletop larp". Immersionism is a åsychological technique you might want to employ as a player or designer, not a creative agenda. You can use deep immersion in narrativistic or gamist play, as well.

In what way does immersionism seem closer to the meaning of sim to you? Perhaps there's some misunderstanding about the nature of sim going on here?
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GB Steve
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2005, 03:40:49 AM »

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
Another reason is that not nearly all simulationist play requires or encourages character immersion, so calling it immersionism would be very confusing.
Can you give some examples?

I wrote something about the kind of games I like to play here. Although the question of G, N, or S was really throwaway flippancy on my part, the two forgites that answered came up with N or S/character - S/colour.

This got me thinking that there might not be much difference between the two when approached through certain techniques, such as immersion (which I tend to use). I think that if the player's technique is immersion you might even be hard pressed to say whether they were G, N or S.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2005, 04:58:48 AM »

Short answer:  Simulationist players are happy when they get it right to the source material, whether that makes a true statement about humanity or not.   Narrativist players are happy when they say something true, whether that is accurate to the source material or not.

If you look at a single instance and say "Hey, this was very much true to the source material and therefore a true statement about humanity (or very true to humanity and therefore true to the source material" then you have learned precisely nothing about the CA being pursued.

Mapping your thoughts and motivations to those of the character (i.e. Immersion) has no close link to either of these goals.  If you play My Life with Master, and revel in how true it is to the source material of the Master/Minion relationship as shown in various horror films, then you are pursuing a Simulationist CA, even if you would never, ever, want to think about what's happening in the mind of the minion you're playing.

Clear as mud?
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2005, 05:06:01 AM »

Quote from: GB Steve
Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
Another reason is that not nearly all simulationist play requires or encourages character immersion, so calling it immersionism would be very confusing.
Can you give some examples?


Sure.

- In my youth we played a lot of Twilight 2000. It's a game about the aftermath of the third world war with lots of rules. The game's really hard to play in any agenda but sim, but it's also near impossible to immerse in it - you're expected to do lots of complex calculations, and the rules have all kinds of things to say about character reaction. For instance, the combat rules decide when you character hesitates in battle instead of doing anything useful, which can't help immersion too much. The practical result was that the play experience was very simmy (lots of history, weaponcraft, military lore and geography in our games), but not in the least immersive.
- Middle-Earth roleplaying game and Rolemaster are another example. I've not played the latter, but the former is very familiar. When we played it in my youth, the game was very much about exploration of wilderness survival, strangely enough. Stuff like how far you can move in a day, in what manner you pack the rations, what kind of shelter you seek for the night, all were central to the experience. No doubt all of this was inspired by LotR. However, I don't remember the game being very character immersive for the most part. I couldn't tell you anything about the characters I played, the focus was much more in the experience of being in Middle-Earth. Characters were just a thin veneer on the experience of touring the mysterious wildernesses.

In general I consider immersionism in the sense Nordics use it a rather marginal and rare condition of play. It requires a game with character focus and very natural, simple rules. Most games fail to support this because they're either focusing on something else than character, or have such complex rules that the psychological requirements of immersion never get to activate.

The most common varieties of simulationist play could perhaps be characterized through the following phenomenons:
- setting matters
- modeling matters
- character matters
These are all simulationistic priorities, but people are used to thinking of them as somewhat separate values. However, they're just different facets of the single goal of appreciating exploration. Consider the why behind focusing on one kind of simulationism:
- keeping up a common, realistic setting baseline allows us to deduct even more detailed information about the setting, which is what exploring an imaginary situation is about
- modeling character action through rules allows us to generate unexpected chains of consequence, which is what exploring an imaginary situation is about
- figuring out character thoughts and motivations allows us to generate believable character reactions to different situations, which is what exploring an imaginary situation is about
See? The different simulationistic focuses are based on different methods of exploration, but they're all about the same general goal, exploring the material at hand. That's why they're all lumped under the name of simulationism. In general you get the most efficient simulationist exploration by combining these methodologies.

Contrariwise, immersionism doesn't fold neatly into a sub-class of simulationism, because it's a technique, not an agenda. You could go into immersion to make narrativistic decisions as well, or to get a peculiar kick out of a gamist experience. The nar variant exists and is proven as a concept, but I can't think of ever hearing of gamist immersionism. Might mean that it's too cumbersome for what we humans are, or just that nobody's thought of it yet. Gam-wise immersionism would most likely surface as a requirement for the activity - this game is about doing stuff in immersion, so not doing so is not playing the game. I don't know how feasible that would be.

Also, let me emphasize that character-focus sim is not necessarily immersionistic. Complex point-buy systems like GURPS are quite feasible for a kind of character-sim without immersion. Going even more psychological, MLwM can be played as character simulation without a bit of immersion. That kind of play is all about modelling character reaction, not experiencing it (which is what Nordics require of genuine immersion to differentiate it from character-sim).

Quote

This got me thinking that there might not be much difference between the two when approached through certain techniques, such as immersion (which I tend to use). I think that if the player's technique is immersion you might even be hard pressed to say whether they were G, N or S.


I agree. Or rather, I think that one of the peculiarities of immersion as a technique is that it "levels" the differences between agendas to a great extent. If you're limited to expressing yourself through character immersion, then all your actions can be justified in terms of character exploration, whatever your actual goals. Thus immersion as a technique works as a kind of interface between potentially very different agendas. It's no wonder that many people take this as a sign of immersionism being the crux of what roleplaying is about.

Immersionism is the Lunar religion of roleplaying.
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2005, 11:32:00 AM »

I think that gamist immersion has happened in my experience in games that have a strong simulationist/gamist support structure, such as many of the early TSR games. I specifically remember Star Frontiers, Gamma World, and a particular fantasy heartbreaker playing out like this.

What drives immersion in these games is the need to see the situation from the character's eyes, to really know what it is he knows and sense what he senses as much as possible, so that you can find the way to beat the challenge. Part of the payoff is that you can have very vivid memories of entirely imaginary situations.

One example I often cite was a Star Frontiers module in which we had to cross a wide chasm. Pillars of crystal rose up from amidst a river of lava below; large fungi grew around the caves. We focused our attention on every detail--how we could turn the growths into construction materials, what it would take to use stalagtites for safety lines, how hot we were and how we could deal with that, what path we should take. By the time we had gotten our characters across this obstacle (a very gamist obstacle) we combined the feeling that we had beaten it with the very clear mental images of exactly what we had done to do so.

That's gamist immersion.

--M. J. Young
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