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Lame Discussion: Immersion – Part 1

posted on June 27th, 2006 by jay

Golden Jew: I disagree; I think you’re confusing immersion with theming… I think immersion applies to a very specific demographic, which, although I hate it, I’ll term “hard core gamer”… Because I think only a certain class of gamer– the RPG lovers, for example, really gets into true “immersion” and the desire of going into a different world. And in fact, I’d argue that’s what spawned the MMO, taking the RPG immersion to a persistent level. I think you don’t see that same level in FPS/platformers… most people there play it for the gameplay, not the theme (but we all do love Mario.)

Stefan: Okay, I’d add in some other genres to RPGs. Adventure gamers, tactics-based FPS/3rdPS, and simulation players all also play games in order to pretend to be someone else… Which is why immersion (which I’d argue includes plot) is vital to them, even if it doesn’t matter to other genres’ players.

Horatio: Well I guess there’s this definitional issue of theming versus immersion. And I think that theming at some point becomes immersion. At which point I still argue it’s going to be important to every genre. Now you can say its obviously more important to some genres, like RPGs or MMORPGs but I think at its core, gamers are much happier with immersive genres of almost anything from FPS, to platformer, to RPGs and I don’t think you can trivialize ‘liking Mario’ like Golden Jew does because he fucking sells games just based on his universe. Same for Megaman, Zelda, Sonic, any of those guys. People buy into it for the universe, more so than the gameplay.

“We must fight the dreaded aliens of the planet Meteos!”
“You mean line up colored blocks?”
“…yes.”

Pat: Not puzzle games — it’s disorienting that Meteos has a story.

Horatio: So I mean, whether or not its a good thing, I think we are all easily swayed by a universe and so developers should focus on creating them

Christian: Immersion is absolutely critical. Gaming is like any other piece of entertainment. A lack of immersion means you’re probably thinking about one of its flaws, or about something else entirely. At that point the game isn’t doing so well at entertaining you, or at stimulating any senses.

Jay: I never notice immersion until it is broken, so even though i will argue I never want to be other people and I treat games like interactive books (I was never Ryo Hazuki but I did care deeply about that persons life)… I will still notice when KoToR characters make mention of the black and white buttons. So in a strange way I sort of agree that immersion doesn’t really exist because I never lose myself as a player in the game, but I do notice when immersion is disrupted, so it must be something.

Golden Jew: I think we’re confusing immersion– there’s really the “wanting to be the character” and “loving the gameplay so much you play endlessly.” Like, I can spend hours slaughtering people in an FPS, but never do I think I’m an American soldier killing krauts or a future robot dinosaur killing people in UT. At the same time, I can totally get caught up in FF10’s plotline about me being a dying civilizations dying fantasy dream. But they’re two very different things, and accomplished by different mechanisms of the designer– good gameplay vs. storytelling.

Jay: To contradict a point I made earlier – being immersed doesn’t mean you have to believe you’re taking part, I can get into a book to the point where I don’t realize I’m reading. If I stop to think I obviously know I am, but when it’s happening I lose site of the fact… the same can happen and does happen in games for me. I don’t think I am personally involved but I can become engrossed to the point where I don’t consciously realize I’m playing a game.

Stefan: Jay already sort of made my point, that immersion can occur at different levels. Most gamers never start thinking they’re a character, but when they can not be actively reminded that they’re separate from the character… Then subtle crossovers start to occur, such as emotional connections to the characters or the environment. Which can range from sorrow when a character dies to the sort of careful contentment of a sim plane pilot monitoring all his instruments and attempting a perfectly level flight, even though there are no “real” passengers.

How can a game with so many options not be immersive?

Jay: Horatio, you’re overemphasizing the importance of theme and immersion. There is something pure and magical about an entirely plotless shootemup. Gradius V’s worst part is the 20 seconds of plot.

Horatio: Well but that depends on who you are. So like, Golden Jew mentioned before immersion is for the hardcore and at some level yes but a lot of immersion is about attracting casual gamers. Golden Jew says that he’d play Unreal for hours without immersion but imagine Unreal was all about mannequins running through gray mazes. A lot less people would play because you’d see it as a raw videogame. Casual gamers like seeing graphics. They like the guns, they like getting medals for kills, they like product placement. Look at Harry Potter. People love it because it’s an entire universe with Bertie Botts and its own sports. I mean a lot of it is just what you consider ‘immersion’ to really be, but I think anything that makes the universe more easy to slip into is immersion and like some games can do it entirely through mechanics. But like I said, why do you buy a bunch of like top down shooters? Because they differentiate themselves through other ‘theming’ or basic immersive elements.

1 Comments

  1. Stefan said on June 27, 2006:

    It actually was Megaman II that I played through.

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