Author Topic: Immersion, What is it to You?  (Read 1467 times)

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Clarity Offline

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Immersion, What is it to You?
« on: April 24, 2017, 08:48:30 PM »
I hear it talked about it a lot, that some aspect of a game is immersion breaking, but I honestly don't really get it. To me, an ooc channel, or pages, or discord, or skype are no more, or less immersion breaking than the others.  But that might be because when ever I roleplay, out of necessity, I'm also usually working, doing house stuff, dealing with kid, and 101 other things. Any OOC channels or other things people consider 'immersion breaking' is the least of my concerns when it comes to RP.

Admittedly, I don't like spam on my screen between emotes, but I deal with that by diverting channels into another window, but that's less about immersion and more just my own personal quirk. That's not just channels but score, who, and anything that might spam a screen.

I think the closest thing I can think of as being immersion breaking for me, is when something is very un-thematic, such as on a fantasy/medieval setting, people fist bumping, high fiving, or slapping people on the ass and referring to very modern slang.

I'd be curious to hear what immersion means to the various people that play RP MUDs and MU*s. Is it about distraction? Is it about losing yourself to the story like you would a book? How is it that some aspects of communication break immersion? What other things break immersion for you?

Is immersion largely an RP MUD concept or is it used a lot on MUs too?
“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” Winston S. Churchill

Tehom Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2017, 09:26:02 PM »
To me, the only thing that I really struggle with is when something absurd/insane happens for OOC reasons, but the game's culture dictates that you're supposed to respond to it ICly, which leads to situations I find impossible to reconcile. As a hypothetical example: a game system requires people to enter commands to eat, or some other passive process, and if they forget to, they die. Having someone keel over next to me when they had food in their inventory would be totally immersion-breaking to me if I'm forced to respond to it ICly, because I would consider it impossible to do so - it's a situation that could never reasonably occur. I'm able to roll with just about anything silly someone does, but the moment I'm asked to pretend that an impossible scenario is rational, I just would rather stop than continue, since it feels like I'm no longer really roleplaying.

Clarity Offline

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Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2017, 10:25:10 PM »
@Tehom That very much is in line with my own thoughts on immersion, in that it's more things like that which I find hard to reconcile, more so than channels. Other examples would be things like, on Haven, if you wear heels to bed/when you log off, you get a fairly sizable penalty to attractiveness. It's very easy to forget to type remove shoes before logging off, though in reality, for most of us, instances like this are rare.

“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” Winston S. Churchill

Many Faces Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2017, 12:09:45 AM »
If you're not immersed in a game, especially if you're dealing with constant real-world interruptions, you're not going to be as bothered by things that would break immersion for someone else.  If you've never experienced what (really, mostly Jeshin and me) are going on about, I can draw you a parallel you may have had.  The experience is not unlike reading a really good book.  You're absorbed in it, you're picturing the scene, you're emotionally invested in where the story is going... and then the author hits you with a two-page rant about some real world political crap and their political enemy is silenced by how obviously right the author is.  It completely kills the experience.

We do tend to focus more on preventing immersion-breaking stuff in the game design discussions.  It's because people playing casually will ignore a lot of things players trying to get absorbed in the game will be upset by.

An OOC channel can break immersion just by existing if you're playing with people you know use it to metagame. It can also be a problem if you can't mute it and someone's going on and on about their day.  I don't think even people on casually are playing a game to hear someone else gripe about their RL job.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2017, 12:13:57 AM by Many Faces »

Reiloth Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2017, 10:55:23 AM »
Immersion is well described here. I think there are many levels of immersion. When I play Witcher 3, for instance, I enjoy the immersion I get from the excellent graphics, the good storywriting, and the violent combat finishers. As far as a third person RPG goes, it's the tops for immersion. I don't really have immersion breaking moments while i'm playing it -- As you state, Clarity, that would require an alien spaceship coming down from the sky or something thematically 'wrong' with the setting to make me boggle my head. I can pause the game and check my phone, or turn it off at any time and save.

With a RPI MUD inparticular, immersion is a little bit different (and perhaps more absorbing). Without any of the trappings of OOC channels or communication, the only means to interact with the game is through IC actions of your PC. You can't pause the game, and you can't 'save' your game either. Adding in the spice of permadeath, you suddenly feel the urge not to look away. I've lost many a character to going AFK or picking up a phone call or answering the door. As in life, death can happen in an instant.

I think this couples with the immersion, intensifying it, which as Many Faces points out, can make the 'immersion breaking' moments all the more startling and visceral. Akin to a man in a clown suit and makeup showing up to a Renaissance Fair, when something stands out in the crowd, it draws attention I think the most of all from people trying to stay in character and 'be that character' while they're playing it.

What is immersion breaking for me? Typically when someone talks in 'bro speech' in a fantasy-ish setting. "Dude" and "Awesome" and "Sick" and other things like this. I don't need people to go full thee/thou, sometimes that can be immersion breaking too depending on the setting. But to at least speak within the normative nature of the world. Typing in all lowercase can really bug me too -- In a text based game, can't people take the time to use proper punctuation and CaPiTaLiZaTiOn?
"You will have useful work: the destruction of evil men. What work could be more useful? This is Beyond; you will find that your work is never done—so therefore you may never know life of peace." ~ Jack Vance

Clarity Offline

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Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2017, 07:43:22 PM »
With a RPI MUD inparticular, immersion is a little bit different (and perhaps more absorbing). Without any of the trappings of OOC channels or communication, the only means to interact with the game is through IC actions of your PC. You can't pause the game, and you can't 'save' your game either. Adding in the spice of permadeath, you suddenly feel the urge not to look away. I've lost many a character to going AFK or picking up a phone call or answering the door. As in life, death can happen in an instant.

I think if any RP Mud or MU* was such that going to the bathroom, getting a drink, or moving away from the keys for a few minutes would result in character death, I would not be able to play it. I need a game to be a bit more forgiving and understanding of RL. This is particularly more so because of my time zone, while most of you guys are on, in the evenings, it's the middle of the day here, or afternoon. I've got work, kid, life. I need a game where I can say, hey.  can we pause, I need to afk for 10 minutes cause kid is having a melt down. Or got a phone call, or any of the other hundreds of things that  are more likely to crop up during the day.

If RP Muds and MU*s required that level of participation and immersion, then it's not something that I would be able to partake in, and that saddens me.

“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” Winston S. Churchill

Jeshin Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2017, 11:31:45 AM »
I think immersion is important as it's part of what makes text-based games so compelling. That being said different people have different levels of immersion and obviously there are different levels because MUSHs almost universally lack the danger to character at any moment by coded events that MUDs can provide and yet you will see MUSH players discussing immersion. While I think that there are other levels and it's something I'd like to explore in another post in this thread I'll use my grossly simplified explanation of immersion here for now.

Immersion is when you stop engaging with a meta perspective and instead engage the game as it occurs.

This can mean enjoying a good roleplay scene and just going with the flow without thinking about who is writing this character or other meta aspects of the dialogue/actions. This can be a tense chase scene where you were attacked and are no fleeing from your attacker attempting to evade them and return to safety, not thinking about anything but the next move you are making (codedly). It can be a lot of things.

Many Faces Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2017, 02:44:59 AM »
I think if any RP Mud or MU* was such that going to the bathroom, getting a drink, or moving away from the keys for a few minutes would result in character death, I would not be able to play it. I need a game to be a bit more forgiving and understanding of RL.
Those are valid concerns.  However, I will say a game doesn't have to be lethal if you walk away to immerse you.  It's more about you getting involved enough in what is happening to your character that you feel and think on their behalf and forget there's a you for a while.

Dunski Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2017, 06:21:44 AM »
I think "immersion" is a bit of a misnomer, at least in the sense that people actually become absorbed in the world they're playing in and forget that it's a game. What's usually meant by immersion is how realistic and believable a scene/character/whatever is. A player can be talking on Skype, changing a baby and doing Kegels all at the same time while still being a perfectly capable judge of whether or not some piece of roleplay is valid, so "immersion" is the word that tends to get used simply because it's easy and most know what's meant, even if the player isn't remotely immersed.

I haven't been literally immersed in years. My mind is always analyzing the roleplay, making note of this and that, spamming 'who' and whatnot. At no point do I ever forget that I'm sitting at a desk playing a game, but roleplay can still be enjoyable, and I tend to use the word "immersion" to describe the feeling of appreciation that I get for a well-roleplayed scene or character.

Leech Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2017, 11:49:54 AM »
Immersion is when you stop engaging with a meta perspective and instead engage the game as it occurs.

I agree with this.

Immersion is up to the other players around me and not so much the world. As has been said ad nauseum, when people use jarring unthematic language, immersion suffers. I will forever hate the people in Inquisition settings who say "amen."

Achaea has an interesting culture developing wherein by pointing out OOC behavior you,  the whistle blower, are breaking immersion. An example would be trying to get OOC talk about skills to a channel specifically designed for OOC chat. They would rather deal with the question than have somebody sit there and explain ICly that "That's crazy talk! We don't know what computers are here in Achaea!"

I've experienced the most startling moments of immersion in small, personal scenes, where the line between my own struggles and emotions really aren't so different from my character's, or where the characters around me display a relatable struggle/emotion. For me, immersion comes in much the same way it might from reading a book: through being able to see myself or the world around me echoed in the writing.


Clarity Offline

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Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2017, 05:04:14 AM »
i think immersion and what it takes for someone to become immersed in the roleplay and even what people define that is, and what things threaten that is a very individual thing. And what might effect one person might be completely different from another as is evidenced by people's responses, though some similarities can be noted and cross over.

One of the aspects mentioned by a few people was things that conflict with the game setting, such as a character greeting someone with 'hey bro' in a medieval setting. Would this be something you'd expect staff and/or players to police? What would be your ideal approach for keeping players to the defined setting?
“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” Winston S. Churchill

Reiloth Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2017, 10:58:59 AM »
i think immersion and what it takes for someone to become immersed in the roleplay and even what people define that is, and what things threaten that is a very individual thing. And what might effect one person might be completely different from another as is evidenced by people's responses, though some similarities can be noted and cross over.

One of the aspects mentioned by a few people was things that conflict with the game setting, such as a character greeting someone with 'hey bro' in a medieval setting. Would this be something you'd expect staff and/or players to police? What would be your ideal approach for keeping players to the defined setting?

Make rules about it, or even triggered reminders for players. Ping words like 'dude, awesome, tubular' and other words out of place in your setting. Make a list of what these words are, and have a document that has suggestions for appropriate words to use. When someone uses the word in game, either have code remind them, or shoot off an email. Most people that break immersion in this way typically don't understand why it's immersion breaking to other people -- After they figure that out, they also typically stop doing it.
"You will have useful work: the destruction of evil men. What work could be more useful? This is Beyond; you will find that your work is never done—so therefore you may never know life of peace." ~ Jack Vance

Leech Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2017, 11:33:07 AM »
Iron realm games generally have a few helpfiles on immersion breaking language. Outside of more casual RP games like that, I would expect staff to enforce it very diligently. I've had very bad experiences when staff don't enforce the theme they are trying to cultivate. Even Sindome, which arguably serves as one of the most prominent examples of a heavy-handed staff, is better off for the amount of time their staff puts in to enforcing theme.

Reiloth Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2017, 11:43:17 AM »
Iron realm games generally have a few helpfiles on immersion breaking language. Outside of more casual RP games like that, I would expect staff to enforce it very diligently. I've had very bad experiences when staff don't enforce the theme they are trying to cultivate. Even Sindome, which arguably serves as one of the most prominent examples of a heavy-handed staff, is better off for the amount of time their staff puts in to enforcing theme.

Absolutely Staff should help reinforce it -- But only relying on Staff to reinforce (without having documented rules that are very up-front and when you log in for the first time, and other coded reminders) means people will slip through the cracks, and more importantly, it turns them into the 'punisher' and the 'enforcer'. This should clearly be a facet of Staffing but not 100% reliant on Staff reinforcement.
"You will have useful work: the destruction of evil men. What work could be more useful? This is Beyond; you will find that your work is never done—so therefore you may never know life of peace." ~ Jack Vance

Many Faces Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2017, 03:26:34 PM »
Make rules about it, or even triggered reminders for players. Ping words like 'dude, awesome, tubular' and other words out of place in your setting. Make a list of what these words are, and have a document that has suggestions for appropriate words to use.
I'd add that people should be told to report problems instead of trying to correct other players.  I've had some complete assclowns trying to police my language via metagaming because they decided what I wrote was inappropriate based on their being ignorant shits.

For example, I'm describing a situation ICly using an extremely common borrow word.  For those of you unfamiliar with "borrow words", they're foreign words that wind up in widespread use and often don't have an analog in the language they've been imported into.  The jackass I was speaking to ICly keeps trying to indicate the word he thinks I should have used, which was hilariously wrong as there is no English analog, because as stated previously he was a jackass.  I won't say what word it actually was, but it was akin to trying to get someone to stop saying "deja vu" and say "repeated event" instead.

For another example, I've also had someone correct a typo I made speaking by saying how the word should have been spelled.  I had accidentally included a second "L" in the word.  So I repeated the word, spelled wrong again intentionally that time, and asked how it sounded different.  No response.  Unsurprisingly.

Reiloth Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2017, 05:09:51 PM »
Make rules about it, or even triggered reminders for players. Ping words like 'dude, awesome, tubular' and other words out of place in your setting. Make a list of what these words are, and have a document that has suggestions for appropriate words to use.
I'd add that people should be told to report problems instead of trying to correct other players.  I've had some complete assclowns trying to police my language via metagaming because they decided what I wrote was inappropriate based on their being ignorant shits.

For example, I'm describing a situation ICly using an extremely common borrow word.  For those of you unfamiliar with "borrow words", they're foreign words that wind up in widespread use and often don't have an analog in the language they've been imported into.  The jackass I was speaking to ICly keeps trying to indicate the word he thinks I should have used, which was hilariously wrong as there is no English analog, because as stated previously he was a jackass.  I won't say what word it actually was, but it was akin to trying to get someone to stop saying "deja vu" and say "repeated event" instead.

For another example, I've also had someone correct a typo I made speaking by saying how the word should have been spelled.  I had accidentally included a second "L" in the word.  So I repeated the word, spelled wrong again intentionally that time, and asked how it sounded different.  No response.  Unsurprisingly.

Something to note -- While someone may file a complaint about another Player, or even a Staff member, it doesn't give the complaint immediate validity simply because they took the time to complain. I've found while Staffing ArmageddonMUD (and playing there) that punishment seemed to arise out of thin air due to baseless complaints filed against me (or that I saw filed against others). Most of the time, people don't have a perfect perspective of what is going on, and they color a situation with their own perception. Who can blame them? But it's definitely the responsibility of Staff to not automatically punish (or even contact) a player that they don't perceive to have broken the rules of the game.

This is important -- Staff shouldn't be ruling on RP, and how someone is playing, if they are playing within the rules they themselves published. If there are rules about that, have at it (though I don't think it's Staff's place to be judging people's RP). I've just found that Staff figure they have carte blanche with how they treat players/their game, while only following the rules they agree with.
"You will have useful work: the destruction of evil men. What work could be more useful? This is Beyond; you will find that your work is never done—so therefore you may never know life of peace." ~ Jack Vance

Dunski Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #16 on: May 07, 2017, 11:07:56 AM »
One of the aspects mentioned by a few people was things that conflict with the game setting, such as a character greeting someone with 'hey bro' in a medieval setting. Would this be something you'd expect staff and/or players to police? What would be your ideal approach for keeping players to the defined setting?

Roleplaying games (the real kind, not the "RPG" kind) are, on the bottom, an inherently flawed concept because players themselves can ruin the game. A scene is only as good as its worst RPer. In many ways, it's like a movie: if there was a scene with some great actors and one completely terrible, amateurish actor, it would be a crap scene. You couldn't expect the audience to just ignore the awful actor and pretend only the good ones are there, and the same basically goes for RPing. This is why there's always a lot of animosity between players of these games: a bad player will directly detract from the fun that others are having. People will groan and roll their eyes behind their backs, hoping to cross paths with them as little as possible.

You can't really do a whole lot about it, though, unless it becomes obvious that the player in question is intentionally trolling to grief other players. In the case of a newbie, they can be guided toward better roleplay, but some players just never become good. Really good RPers are actually quite rare, and it's strangely uncommon for people - even those who have been RPing for years - to surpass the passable. Most will move beyond the "hey bro" stage, but few will become good enough that they genuinely enrich the game they play. Even something as simple as clean, decent emoting is a feat that many never achieve.

In a ruthless sense, the best roleplaying game would be one that's run like a film studio's casting process, where anyone who falls short of a given standard is simply told not to come back. You couldn't realistically do this, of course -- for one thing, there simply aren't enough players in the genre. Nevertheless, it would probably be the only way to ensure that a game's playerbase contains only good RPers. The next best thing is to systematically reward good RPers and give nothing to the bad ones, which would at least encourage bad players to get better, and otherwise limit their presence in some aspects of the game if they don't improve. But while games like Armageddon and Shadows of Isildur have reward systems that ostensibly do this, bad players often get rewarded anyway for things like willingness to play some clan's sergeant for a long stretch of time.

At the end of the day, bad RPers just become those pseudo-pariahs that other players don't want anything to do with. Every game has them, we all know them, and we all sigh a little when they walk into the room. The staff can't justify banning them for being bad at playing the game, nor should they, and players can't do a whole lot about a player who has proven to simply have no talent for RPing. The best thing players can do is not to become too insular in their efforts to escape bad RPers, because that's an easy and common pitfall that hurts the rest of the game just as much as the bad players do. As callous as it may sound, it's better for the game to ignore the baddies and try to play "around" them than to try to avoid them altogether and thereby make the game feel empty and cliquish. There's no perfect solution.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2017, 11:12:14 AM by Dunski »

Tehom Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2017, 02:47:29 PM »
A roster system/application process is sort of the bare minimum for screening you can do to make sure someone isn't so out of bounds that you'd need to politely ask them to leave anyway. I view it as just a sanity check that someone playing a knight in a medieval RPG doesn't run around yelling that he's Batman (one memorable application mentioned this as his intent).

Auditions for characters that are more important in the sense that they're  affect the stories of a greater number of players isn't really a bad idea, though. You may not be able to firmly control quality, but you can make sure that the best roleplayers are positioned to have the greatest impact, while someone people despise roleplaying with isn't acting as some obstacle for a large number of people. People will become insular and avoid other people for any number of reasons, so your primary task is just to make sure that someone's only option to avoid dealing with someone they can't stand roleplaying with is to quit, while providing enough systems to incentivize people meeting those outside of their comfort zone and evaluating whether or not they'd want to continue RPing with them.

You could probably build a fairly reliable model of how cliques form over time in any new environment, because it's fairly predictable: people just run into those who they enjoy RPing with, encounter a few people they hate, and then they have no real impetus to try to engage with anyone else: they already have the RP they enjoy, so trying to find more people is more likely to annoy them than give them a good roleplay experience. The problem is they're more likely to just quit rather than try to find someone new if the RP grows stale or their partners quit, since finding new partners with preferences compatible to theirs while sorting through people they'd rather not RP with is more work than a lot of people want to deal with.

Many Faces Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #18 on: May 11, 2017, 12:05:19 AM »
There actually are additional options for managing bad role players.  One I'm keeping to myself, because if I go ahead with it I don't want anyone to know it's happening for sociological reasons, so I can gauge the results more accurately.  The other is designing your game so that the metagame closely resembles what players should be role playing in the first place.  That won't do anything about the Batmen of the world, but for most people who suck honestly it's worth a shot.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

I was designing a game where there would be a type of "evil, corrupting power" a small minority of people would have, that could be viewed as a blessing or a curse to the person who got it, and they were supposed to be feared and hated universally.  That probably made some of you roll your eyes because countless games have failed miserably at that.  You can probably think of three games off the top of your head where pretty much everyone who could play those characters did, with no difficulty finding friends.

So how did I design them to be feared and hated?  I took a look at why everyone hates thieves with a burning hatred and panics at the thought a pickpocket may be present.  Their crimes are invisible.  Everyone assumes they are cheating.  Likewise, everyone assumes thieves are played by corrupt players because it's an "easy" way to get lots of free stuff.  Most games have no direct defense against theft, especially after-the-fact.

So with these people, their power works invisibly (meaning either you or an outside party could not confirm they did anything visually), the rules explicitly state nothing they do with these powers is punishable by staff as long as they don't violate OOC content rules (they could "cheat" or turn corrupt without risk to their account), and there's no direct defense against this power especially after-the-fact.  Also, it is assigned randomly and players may not even know they have it until some point after playing for a while.

Likely end result?  Metagamers would treat someone with this hated, feared power the same way their players treat thief players, which would be pretty much how the docs describe them acting.  There would be limited distinction between them and good role players who were following the docs because they don't suck.

Dunski Offline

Re: Immersion, What is it to You?
« Reply #19 on: May 11, 2017, 09:15:58 AM »
That would all depend what the power in question actually is. In order to get the same result as the hysterical anti-theft mentalities that prevail in a game like Armageddon (which you're obviously referring to), the corrupted element that you describe would have to actually do something similar. The reason people hate pickpockets so much is not only because it's perceived as cheating, it's also because thieves have the ability to take something away from players. People often define their characters a great deal by their possessions, so losing a rare and interesting item is infuriating. An evil power would need to similarly hurt players in ways that can't just be shrugged off like damage or a temporary debuff can. This, in turn, creates a fine line that can easily be crossed into griefing territory. You can be sure that if you give players the ability to, say, lower somebody's stats permanently, there's going to be problems. Stealing people's items is, in fact, the perfect balance between evoking that sense of furious indignation and not actually making people want to quit because of what they lost.