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Author Topic: Feeble attempt at defining immersion  (Read 26389 times)
Wart
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« Reply #15 on: October 02, 2002, 08:07:42 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
But "immersion," people do arrive with. I am convinced, pending some substantive argument, that providing a definition is going to be terribly alienating and excluding to many, many visitors to the site. The existing jargon is scary and some people feel threatened by it, but I think the number of people who feel outright terrorized and insulted by a definition of immersion (no matter how wondrous) would be much greater.


I think it's a shame that we're allowing ourselves to be cowed by people's baser instincts, but then I'm the sort of person who, if given a choice between the two, would prefer my creations to be loved by a few rather than merely liked by many.
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contracycle
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« Reply #16 on: October 02, 2002, 08:21:17 AM »

I'm inclined to think that a) simulation is the mode of play, that b) the description of GNS modes it embodies are fair enough, and that c) it is a form of hypnotism.  This is partly becuase I have been hypnotised and see some similarities with my experience under immersion.  I also see other similarities: that both are conducted by voice and, sometimes, eye contact.  We often recommend play locations that are quiet, and in which external stimuli are at a minimum.

Frankly, I would not be surprised to find that the mental mechanism at work is the same one operating when an ecstatic celebrant "channels" a god or spirit.  It may be that this also explains "hypnotic regression" to "past lives"; in a sense the subject is really RPing.

All of this is speculation - I am no expert.  But just on my own anecdotal experience it seems to me that this may well be the case.  I am aware of a sense of "waking" up; Marco's anecdote about confused about the weather strikes a similar chord to me.  I don't think it occurs particulalrly frequently; the moments I am thinking of are a handful.
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Wart
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« Reply #17 on: October 02, 2002, 09:06:42 AM »

Contracycle,

What you are talking about seems to be another issue of how we define immersion. I'd describe what you're describing as "deep immersion", whereas some would say that it's "channeling" and that "immersion" just means "feeling what your character feels, whilst OOC stimuli are `tuned out'".

The longer this discussion goes on for, the more I think we need to define what we mean by "immersion", otherwise any discussion on it within the Forge is going to be problematic. Whilst it would be nice if this definition could go into Ron's essay (since so much of the Forge's discussion is based on it), if it has to go elsewhere (perhaps a "Forge glossary", compiled by several individuals and compiling both terms that arise in Ron's essay and other commonly-used Forge terms which don't appear in the essay) then so be it.
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Merten
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« Reply #18 on: October 02, 2002, 10:17:32 AM »

Quote from: Wart
The longer this discussion goes on for, the more I think we need to define what we mean by "immersion", otherwise any discussion on it within the Forge is going to be problematic. Whilst it would be nice if this definition could go into Ron's essay (since so much of the Forge's discussion is based on it), if it has to go elsewhere (perhaps a "Forge glossary", compiled by several individuals and compiling both terms that arise in Ron's essay and other commonly-used Forge terms which don't appear in the essay) then so be it.


I think one of the problems of the term "immersion" is that it's (based on my all too quick read on Ron's essay) not really anything like the terms "gamist" or "narrativist" or "simulationist". Those seem to be terms that try to define, in a way, the style of play. Immersion, on the other hand, is something that tries to define a state ("I'm In Character, now - I'm immersed - I am the chracter, now, thus I see what the character sees and feel what the character feels") or experience.

To confuse the matter further, immersion is probably a very personal thing - everyone sees and feels it in their own way, and everyone might have their own way to reach that state - if they reach it, or even want to reach it.
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Jukka Koskelin | merten at iki dot fi
M. J. Young
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« Reply #19 on: October 02, 2002, 10:37:05 AM »

Quote from: Wart
The longer this discussion goes on for, the more I think we need to define what we mean by "immersion", otherwise any discussion on it within the Forge is going to be problematic. Whilst it would be nice if this definition could go into Ron's essay (since so much of the Forge's discussion is based on it), if it has to go elsewhere (perhaps a "Forge glossary", compiled by several individuals and compiling both terms that arise in Ron's essay and other commonly-used Forge terms which don't appear in the essay) then so be it.


Oddly, I had exactly the opposite impression: the longer this discussion goes on, the more I see the wisdom in Ron's decision not to try to define it.

The logical reason for wanting to define it is so that when it is used everyone will know what it means, and so "be on the same page" as it were; but seriously, when you first came to The Forge, did you start by reading all the articles, and then join the discussions on the forum? I'll admit that I didn't; there are articles there I have not yet read. In fact, I had read the critical GNS article perhaps a year before I started doing the forums, but had to go back to refresh my memory when I started getting involved in the discussions. People generally make guesses at what is meant by gamist, narrativist, and simulationist, and it frequently leads to threads primarily about straightening out the definitions as presented in the article.

But as Ron says, immersion is a whole other animal. A lot of people have some vague idea of what GNS is about, and from that standpoint they accept correction when they make mistakes on it. But everyone on this thread has an opinion about what immersion means, and already there seem to be debates on that. Is it like a hypnotic state? Does it merely mean being very much in character in all decisions? Is it less than that, being totally engrossed in the game? I would say that there have been times when I have been immersed in a game of Pinochle, so totally focused on what cards I hold, what cards have been played, what meld has told me about my opponents' and partner's hands, whether my 10 is good in this suit yet--such that if the phone were to ring I might not hear it. Yet there is nothing in that to do with character stance; that's an extremely gamist sort of immersion (and I've seen people do this with chess, too, for example). I would not dare to begin to say that one definition of immersion is correct and all others are wrong.

More to the point, were we to decide that "this is what immersion means on The Forge", we're just going to create arguments with people who a) didn't think it means that and b) want to know why we insist that this is what it means. Doesn't it make much more sense, as Ron suggests, to eliminate the term as meaning anything other than "very involved in some way", and then create other terms that express what we mean?
Extreme Actor Stance, for being the character so totally that you think and feel like the character?
Complete Focus, for being so involved in the play of the game that the world around you fades from your mind?

I don't see it as being cowed by the biases of others. I see it as conceding that we don't control language, and cannot define all words that are in common usage by others. To quote as much from memory as I can,
Quote from: Lewis Carroll in the Alice stories
"There's Glory for you," Humpty Dumpty said.

"I'm sorry," Alice answered, "but I don't know what you mean by that."

"I mean, there's a good solid knock-down argument for you."

"I don't think 'glory' means that."

"When I use a word, it means exactly what I want it to mean, no more and no less," Humpty Dumpty stated.

"The question is whether you can make words mean whatever you want."

It is all well and good to say that we want to standardize some terminology here so that we can discuss things with a certain amount of shorthand, not defining everything in detail every time we use a word; and it is perfectly reasonable to say that I can't start a thread about "Narrativism" by redefining it into something completely unlike the normal usage of the word here. But we can't rewrite the entire language, and we can't expect people to abandon their own meanings of words in which they have invested a great deal of meaning and significance merely because we think it would be more convenient for us to divest it of whatever meaning it has to others and give it some specific meaning useful here. Not only is it rather rude to tell people that those definitions are incorrect, it generally doesn't work.

--M. J. Young
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Marco
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« Reply #20 on: October 02, 2002, 12:35:12 PM »

MJ,

I don't agree. Suppose the definition is fixed at (something like) this:

Quote

Immersion: A state where the person is engrossed in the medium in the same way that one can be said to be "lost in a book" (many have associated this state with intense empathy with the character(s) ). Colderidge coined the term Willing Suspension of Disbelief, as a state when we allow ourselves to "forget" that they are reading a book (or watching a movie or playing a game) and might say they are "caught up in the story."

This has been broken down into the following categories:
Temporal --  [defn]
Spatial -- [defn]
etc.-- [defn]

Some things that we associate with Immersive play:
1. Playing in character.
2. Emotional identification with character (the player reports feeling as the character feels)
3. Surprise at breaks in the action (the player reports a jarring feeling when something happens in the environment to disrupt play)
4. etc ...

Some things that, for purposes of this discussion are NOT immersive play (although in other contexts that word would make sense):
1. Extreme concentration that is not associated with identifying with the character (such as the concentration of a chess player)
2. Treating the character as a pawn or game-piece.
3. etc ...



Now, you might come along and take issue with this--however--and this is important:
1. The definition is (I think) acceptable to most people (I took the first paragraph from pieces of several different web pages discussing immersion in books and stories.  It is *not* a special definition that is at odds with a general sense of what immersion is.

2. The two specific "what we associate" and "what we don't" are not all inclusive and discsss what is reported, not what's felt (so who cares if the player is hypnotized--if I report "being lost in the game" and you report "being hypnotized" it's not disagreeing with the fundamental description).

3. It's a useful definition--it lets out concentration around solving puzzles (now, one can argue that if the character is pondering a puzzle and so are you then it's immersion ... and hell, if you're reporting feeling Immersed, and you are identifying with the character, I'd agree--it doesn't argue that sometimes a gamist interlude won't be immersive ... crunchy combat doesn't break my immersion ... so that's fine).

4. Most importantly it *does* give a common ground, it isn't prescriptive. If someone comes and angrily says "I'm immersed when treating my character as a pawn," one can say sure, chess can be an immersive game in terms of concentration--but most lit majors or film critics think that its a different phenomena than is involved in film (which, again, most people will agree with, I think--in Meditation the terms contemplation or concentration and immersion are different and seen as complementary). You don't just have to say "we decided that wasn't the case here."

So I think it's useful.
More over, I think it's necessary. Arguments about things like "railroading" (is it always disfunctional?) can be decided with a glossary.  

To put it another way: even a discipline as fuzzy as literary analysis has terms for things like immersion. If GNS can't then we're screwed.

-Marco
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Valamir
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« Reply #21 on: October 02, 2002, 12:38:46 PM »

If this were a democracy, you'd get my vote.
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contracycle
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« Reply #22 on: October 02, 2002, 01:43:06 PM »

First of all, I do think a glossary is a good thing.  IMO all specialised discussions attach specific meanings to words that have different meanings in other contexts.

That said though - and I say it because I'm going to disagree with Marcos sample definition above - I tend to think that Immersion as I conceive of it is a distinct thing from GNS.  IIRC, Immersion has always been a contentious and special case because it is a radical claim to a qualitatively different experience than routine "supension of disbelief".

IMO Immersion is related strongly to the nature of RP as distinct from other media.  We are deliberately trying to think differently; to alter our conscious state.  To absorb and process spurious data as if it were true.

I don't think its coincidental that my best experiences with this mode occurred in a game that was almost a tabletop LARP; there was very little use of characer sheets or die rolling.  There was almost nothing that drew you out of the illusion; and I got deeper and deeper into it.  This is rather different than my usual mode of SOD, which is perfectly serviceable in a more mechanically driven game and which I enjoy.  That I recognises as SOD; as imaginative commitment.  IMO, Immersion is imaginative commitment to the point of trance.

My own counterargument to this would be that, even if it is a trance state, it may be that only being crashed out of it drew it to my attention, where normally I would have slipped in and out without noticing.  But I feel that the crash sensation was too significant to discount; it was not the normal sensation I have when engaging in the real world aspect of the game in conventional play.

In this regard I think I can see what the Turku school are getting it; they are actively seeking this mode.  Whether this is a good or bad thing is open to debate, but I do think there is an extreme form of the RP phenomonon.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #23 on: October 02, 2002, 01:49:37 PM »

I'm for a midlle-ground approach. We should have a Theory of Immersion in which there are several different specifically defined sorts of Immersion. Character Immersion (deep Character Immersion would just be a level of this ona spectrum), Game Immersion, etc.

Then, when a person used Immersion you could ask them what sort they meant, and they could hardly have a problem with such constructions (just as few have problems with GNS as these are jargon associated with a specific theory). They could even say, "none of the above, more like...", and you would be further along than you were before.

Howzat sound?

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #24 on: October 02, 2002, 01:53:26 PM »

Mike,

I think that'll do it! Does anyone object to me creating such a list, probably after watching this thread simmer for a while longer? Some of the entries on it would proffer "terms that work for us at the Forge" as alternatives, pending such terms, and some wouldn't.

I'll start with the five I've identified - does anyone think those are off the beam, or maybe want to add others?

Anyway, this has been an astoundingly helpful thread and the only discussion of immersion-as-a-term I've ever seen that didn't break down into hurt feelings.

Best,
Ron
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contracycle
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« Reply #25 on: October 02, 2002, 02:02:49 PM »

Incidentally, I'm perfectly happy for the term to be abandoned and some other lable used.  That might obviate the danger of trampling on toes without leaving it in undiscussable limbo.
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Marco
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« Reply #26 on: October 02, 2002, 06:10:34 PM »

Contra,

I didn't mean to imply immersion in any GNS context simply that if it were to be used in any RPG Theory (of which GNS is one) discussions that there had to be some common ground.

While there's literally no way to argue with you, I'd say that what you're describing as Immersive play is simply "deep" immersion. Someone (Clinton?) related a tale where he played and wound up thinking like a mentally regressed character--that's *deep* immersion. I've seen players take personality traits of their characters away from the table (that's deep immersion).

Just as hypnotherapists describe different degrees of hypnosis, I merely suggest that immersion comes in different levels of depth. I think being "lost in a book" (whatever that means to you) describes the same thing as being immersed in a game pretty well and everyone would know what you're talking about.

-Marco
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Andrew Martin
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« Reply #27 on: October 02, 2002, 08:41:29 PM »

Quote from: Marco
Someone (Clinton?) related a tale where he played and wound up thinking like a mentally regressed character--that's *deep* immersion. I've seen players take personality traits of their characters away from the table (that's deep immersion).


That's one of the reasons why I forbid players to roleplay evil characters. A former friend of mine regularly roleplayed evil characters and I think that experience changed or warped his personality. He's now no longer a friend. One is what what one thinks.
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Andrew Martin
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« Reply #28 on: October 02, 2002, 08:48:05 PM »

Ahey, :)

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Does anyone object to me creating such a list<...>

I'll start with the five I've identified<...>


Since no one else replied, I'll go ahead and state that I'd like that list to come out. :)

Cheers,

J.
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Merten
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« Reply #29 on: October 02, 2002, 09:11:09 PM »

Quote from: contracycle
In this regard I think I can see what the Turku school are getting it; they are actively seeking this mode.  Whether this is a good or bad thing is open to debate, but I do think there is an extreme form of the RP phenomonon.


Well, contracycle, that's the best definition I've seen so far. I'm only a hangaround member of the Turku school (in a sense, saying that "immersion" something that's only attached to the few fellows who live in Turku and write liveroleplaying games is a bit misleading, though - driving towards total immersion is quite common phenomenon in Nordic games), but I can recognize the playing style from your description. Perhaps I should ask the writer of that paper and several other self-styled roleplaying theorists giving their opinion on that one.

It's funny that you say call it "an exterme form of the RP phenomenon", though, since personally I don't think I even could do live-roleplaying in any other way - or, in a sense, even tabletop roleplaying. Must be a cultural and learned thing.
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