Immersion versus Story

edited March 2008 in Story Games
On the What’s up with rpg and rewards? thread it was suggested that there was a conflict between character immersion and story gaming. This is something I have seen before, as an implication rather than as an explicit statement, and it confuses me, because I just can't see it.

Maybe I'm being dumb? Maybe I'm missing something? Maybe no one is claiming this in the first place?

Why don't I see a conflict, two main reasons

(1) Most importantly because I don't see the interest in a story that has characters (as opposed to a story about a whole culture or whatever) that is not *all about* those characters, and if it all about them, then there is nothing to stop you being immersed in them too. I can live and breathe my character, and in the process of doing that tell a fascinating story about him or her. I can live from moment to moment and still bear in mind the goals and story arcs of what we are doing, and the eventual end that my character may come to, whether or not my character would like it.

I don't see anything magical in this, it's just what we do when we RP. I can't think of a campaign I've been in (since I was a child anyway) where the players were not always playing with this double perspective, what do *I the character* want and what do *I the player* want and what does *I the story* want. Sure there can be a tension there, but its a good tension and most people have no trouble with it at all (as suggested on the Player vs. Actor thread). Playing with one half of your mind in the character and the other in the story (or any other weighted split you like), is just what we do.

(2) People are good at following many different roles at once, it's what we all do all the time. In work I am an employee, but also I am me, and I can simultaneously hold two sets of goals, interests, and even viewpoints at the same time while there (e.g. I can hold the views of my company on a subject, and my own views, at once). Similarly in a game 99% of the time paying attention to both the story and my character at the same time is no harder than playing and keeping an eye on the clock for the bus at the same time.

But maybe others don't feel the same way?
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Comments

  • This is very close to a discussion or two I've had two days ago, once I make a long coherent post about it (and other related stuff), I'll link.
  • edited March 2008
    Posted By: HituroBut maybe others don't feel the same way?
    Lots, apparently.
  • Posted By: droogLots, apparently.
    Yep, though I never really got it either. I'm actually more "immersed" in the game in nominally "story-games" then in "normal" rpgs. But I've since come to the conclusion that they probably mean something radically different from what I mean when I say "Immersion". ^_^
  • Big mystery to me as well. I have no idea of the number of times where I have met views such as "The *something* gets in the way of my roleplay/immersion", loads of times, face to face or on forums, blogs. I have no idea what they mean.

    *system, dice, structure, anything really.
  • I don't think it's all that mysterious. The Immersionist wants to only play their character, through the mindset of their character and with only the info they have as their character.

    What no one wants to be the bad guy and just say is that this can be an incredibly self-centered stand to take, since, at minimum, one other person to constantly cater to that player, and possibly more, especially in a tabletop game situation. ( LARPs might be able to get around this more easily).
  • Posted By: Lord MinxI'm actually more "immersed" in the game in nominally "story-games" then in "normal" rpgs. But I've since come to the conclusion that they probably mean something radically different from what I mean when I say "Immersion". ^_^
    They do. :)
  • Yeah, Stuart's right. Or, rather... Immersion has never been well defined. There are a lot of discussion all over the net about the subject. And this term gets locally defined by everyone using it. Which means that discussions about it rarely illuminate. People talk past each other constantly.

    But that's despite the fact that there definitely is a phenomenon, or more than one, that seems to fit the term. So I think that people will continue to hack away at the problem.

    For the purposes of the discussion that you're coming from, David, however, there are a couple of potential points of view that bear looking at.

    - Immersion Broken by Authoring -
    There are some who claim that, whatever Immersion is, for them it's broken when they are forced by play to consider the game at all from outside of their character's POV. No, this definitely isn't what many people mean by immersion, but it's a very common part of the definition for many people.

    For these people, they do not want the responsibility for doing anything other than "playing my character." Because that's the part of play that they find interesting. They see the dichotomy between player and GM as being that the GM exists to "Play the world" so that they don't have to do any of that. There are various reasons why one might want this as a creative mode (jncluding "feeling the pain" below), but often the reason is that it supports the illusion that the game world is an objectively real place. It makes the characters and world seem like they have a life of their own.

    - Sympathy vs Empathy vs Actually Feeling the Pain -
    Sympathy means that we understand the pain of another, and feel for them that they feel pain. But we don't really know what the pain is like. Empathy is slightly deeper where we feel for the character because we've been through what they've been through, and so our feeling for them is more personal and accurate, and may evoke emotions in ourselves that are caused by the pain, or at least the memory of the pain.

    But there's an even deeper level... no, we don't feel the pain of our character when they get hit by a weapon... it'd take somebody really masochistic to want that from play. There are people, however, who make themselves associate so closely with the character that they're no longer feeling "for" the character, they *are* the character, effectively, and feel the emotions of the character. When the character breaks up, they actually feel like somebody broke up with them.

    Now this last level is probably vanishingly rare. If it does happen, it probably only happens for very short bursts of what we sometimes call "channeling." And it actually often involves players being in trance states, or other altered levels of consciousness. I'm quite certain that if we put them on a encephelogram, that we'd clearly see their brainwave state change when they hit this level.

    I've been there, actually, and it's extremely pleasurable. In a sort of drug-induced euphoria way. I think it simply trips certain brain chemicals. But I digress...

    The point is that, for these people, any sort of "outside" interference in concentrating on "being" the character ruins the chance to get to this sort of state.


    So what you're calling immersion in yourself, David, is really probably more at the "Sympathy" level. You don't want to actually feel the pain that the characters are feeling directly. You feel sorry for the character, but you don't feel like you just broke up with somebody, or had a loved one die.

    The point being that the player who is looking to "immerse" by some of the above definitions will eschew keeping the story arc in mind, etc. It may be true that some people are capable of shifting back and forth very quickly between these states, too. You might be one of them. But consider, also, that if you don't find it fun to be a GM, as many people feel, that you might feel that way because you do not like making up "Story Arcs." Feeling much more comfortable simply characterizing your character.


    So... sure, for some people they probably both "immerse" by some definition, and also can keep the story arc and such in mind, and play to both of those things effectively. But many people do not like to do so, or just aren't interested, or it actively messes with their fun to do any "Authoring" level activity at all.

    This is where the dichotomy lies with this sort of play, and nowhere else. It's much simpler, therefore, to think of "immersion" in this context as that sort of play where people simply do not want author stance play. But if that messes with your own personal definition of Immersion, then think of it as "non-story" play vs "Story and character play."

    Don't let the semantics of the term confuse. There is a real dichotomy here, no matter what the definitions of the term. Can people both "immerse" by some definition and be story-conscious? Sure. But not for everyone.

    Mike
  • Posted By: komradebobWhat no one wants to be the bad guy and just say is that this can be an incredibly self-centered stand to take, since, at minimum, one other person to constantly cater to that player, and possibly more, especially in a tabletop game situation. ( LARPs might be able to get around this more easily).
    Actually my own bitter experience tells me that LARPS are far worse for the most part

    And sure, some people can be too self-centered for the game, ignoring the other players / characters when they can't be ignored and so on, but usually that's called a bad gamer, rather than a bad gaming concept.
  • Mike gets it. :)
  • Posted By: Mike HolmesSo what you're calling immersion in yourself, David, is really probably more at the "Sympathy" level. You don't want to actually feel the pain that the characters are feeling directly. You feel sorry for the character, but you don't feel like you just broke up with somebody, or had a loved one die.
    I see what you mean, and of course it's a sliding scale. Yes generally I'm probably in the Sympathy-Empathy range, but not always. I've been so angry at things in character I've left the building, I've been so distraught at things happening to my character I've cried, I've fallen in love in character and found it disturbingly like being in love out of character. That would be fully into the Feeling the Pain level, and I know what you mean about surfacing from that state to the sudden awareness that you are still actually playing a game. I get that.

    But since few people play at that level what you we are talking about is whether there is a contradiction between Sympathy and Story, or Empathy and Story, rather than between Feeling the Pain and Story, and I'm not conviced that there is for most people, most of the time.
  • But since few people play at that level what you we are talking about is whether there is a contradiction between Sympathy and Story, or Empathy and Story, rather than between Feeling the Pain and Story, and I'm not conviced that there is for most people, most of the time.

    You can try to define it however you like, but Mike is correct when he says:
    This is where the dichotomy lies with this sort of play, and nowhere else. It's much simpler, therefore, to think of "immersion" in this context as that sort of play where people simply do not want author stance play. But if that messes with your own personal definition of Immersion, then think of it as "non-story" play vs "Story and character play."

    Don't let the semantics of the term confuse. There is a real dichotomy here, no matter what the definitions of the term.

    The last bit covers you:
    Can people both "immerse" by some definition and be story-conscious? Sure. But not for everyone.
  • edited March 2008
    What I find fascinating how, while for me its a sliding scale, where I can enjoy different levels of immersion at different times, for others it's not only a goal in itself, they are also aiming for a single level over all the others. Like, I've been at the "Feel the Pain" level too sometimes and it was cool and really rewarding, but it's not the one (or even an important) reason I game for and sometimes I actively prefer other levels. For me the immersion part of gaming is like ... a zoom or something. I'm constantly zooming in and out, depending on the situation and my personal preference and mood at the moment and this can switch multiple times in the same "scene".

    I'm wondering how heavy for people here the connection "Immersion"-"Character" is, but that's probably for another thread.
  • Posted By: HituroAnd sure, some people can be too self-centered for the game, ignoring the other players / characters when they can't be ignored and so on, but usually that's called a bad gamer, rather than a bad gaming concept.
    Perhaps that's what bugs me, then. Usually I associate Immersion as A-1 priority with gamers who are likely to engage in many self-centered behaviors and very few group oriented ones. I doubt I'd have any problem with a player who had Imm as #1 priority who also contibuted in other ways to the overall effort.
  • edited March 2008
    I think this is related to the topic here. On theRPGsite I started a thread about RPGs: The Choose Your Own Adventure Lineage. Immersion (as per the examples Mike has given above) is definitely part of that approach to RPGs.

    Edit: It's not the only part of that approach. ;)
  • Mike nails it, I think.

    What I've seen in my own group with a couple of my friends (and if I'm honest, in myself too) is more aversion to Authoring than anything else. We're a little spoiled in that we've got a few people who really do enjoy GMing a game and do a great job with it, which means that we can support players who just want to focus on their character and interact with the game world solely through that character's actions. If someone doesn't like doing the kind of stuff involved in Authoring and does like doing the stuff involved in playing a character, this is only a problem if the game requires that everyone participate in Authoring. Personally, I like doing Authoring stuff better when I'm the GM in a trad game than I have in the more-collaborative systems we've tried. (Although maybe that's because I can't really have fun in the game unless my friends are having fun too, and some of them simply can't have fun with Authoring...I don't know.)

    And to address komradebob's post, I don't think it can really be called selfish unless the person "catering" to the player is getting absolutely nothing back from the experience -- which is, in my experience, hardly ever the case. People wouldn't ever be a GM unless it was fun! Being the guy who plays the world and provides the opposition is a kick, and just because it's a different kind of fun than what the players are having doesn't make it a lesser fun.
  • Mike makes very good points. Immersion is also a hasty, personal thing that happens inside one's head. It's hard to quantify and it's hard to generalize - and thus, very hard to compare. More food for thought:

    In the simplest form, character immersion can be thought as avatar play. You act as yourself in a fictional envinroment (and LARPs take this one step further, since the envinroment is not fully fictional). Trying to model your psyche away from your own and towards some kind of fictional image of a person is the central challenge.

    The problem with storytelling is that no such thing exists in our reality - we can't mold the events of our life according to how we want it to go. There's no author stance here - if you walk into cafeteria and get hit by a car on the way, there's no story there - car comes from somewhere and bump, you're broken carcass of a man. Since character immersion is trying to be like a real world experience, only in an imagined world, storytelling is initially an alien concept to it. But this really is a sliding scale and probably depends a lot about personal preferences. Some players want to be total black boxes, some want some control, some want more. It's also an aesthetic issue.
  • edited March 2008
    Posted By: Accounting for TasteAnd to address komradebob's post, I don't think it can really be called selfish unless the person "catering" to the player is getting absolutely nothing back from the experience -- which is, in my experience, hardly ever the case. People wouldn't ever be a GM unless it was fun! Being the guy who plays the world and provides the opposition is a kick, and just because it's a different kind of fun than what the players are having doesn't make it a lesser fun.
    I've seen that sort of behavior first hand. It's player as consumer and nothing else.

    No, I don't find GMing for entirely self-centered players a kick.
  • I'm not sure I understand what people are talking about by "self-centered players" here. Does that mean players who don't want to play with shared GMing duties?
  • Posted By: StuartI'm not sure I understand what people are talking about by "self-centered players" here. Does that mean players who don't want to play with shared GMing duties?
    Not necessarily. You can have an extremely traditional set of rpg mechanics and still have very self-centered players. An Immersive that is also extremely passive and engaged little in terms of extra-game activities ( munchies, rules knowledge, out-of-game suggestions, giving the GM feedback, whatever) would fit, too.
  • I don't see what that has to do with immersion...

    You could have any sort of player not bring cheetos or know the rules. :)

    (I'm still unclear on the other points. out-of-game suggestions -- like what's on the pizza? GM feedback -- like if they're having fun? I'm genuinely unclear on what you mean.)
  • I'm talking about player-as-consumer, and I've seen it more with people who describe themselves as what I'd call immersionists than with any other group.

    Is it that you don't understand, Stuart, or that it offends you that I feel that way?
  • I don't understand what you mean by player-as-consumer.

    I'm not offended. I'm trying to understand you.
  • edited March 2008
    Here's the key point, David. I'm kinda skeptical, too. But there are people who insist that it's problematic for them. Why would we bother second guessing them? We'd have to assume that they have some bad motive for saying that authoring is problematic for them.

    And what would we do if it turned out to be true that they were wrong? Are we going to convince them? I don't think so.

    It's much easier to simply say, "If you don't like this element of my design, then, sorry, but the game isn't for you." We know that our way isn't wrong, so it's not like we need to defend ourselves, right? So where's the controversy? In the end we're talking about play preferences, and to each their own.

    Mike
  • Posted By: StuartI don't understand what you mean by player-as-consumer.

    I'm not offended. I'm trying to understand you.
    OK, fair 'nuff.

    If I go to a concert, I'm not really expecting to do anything other than pay my money and enjoy the performance. Player-as-consumer is essentially treating gaming the same way, except there is no reciprocity. The player-as-consumer is enjoying, but not giving anything back.

    And it's a behavior I've seen more often with people who tend to prioritize as the #1 fun-bit immersion, than with any other notable personality trait.

    I also think that sucks.

    Mind you, if a player that really doesn't "give back" does other stuff, I don't mind as much. For example, a player-as-consumer in a game I'm organizing, who organizes a different game that I particpate in as player. Cool. Reciprocity exists.

    More clear? Less muddy?
  • When I'm DMing -- meaning I'm not getting the "immersion" thing because I'm in full author mode -- I get a lot out of my players *being* immersed and really into the game. I think it's awesome when they choose actions not based on what makes the most tactical or number crunching sense, but because I've described the ghouls chasing them through the moonlit woods and they get freaked and decide to run for it. (true story)

    These were new players that didn't know the rules, didn't bring snacks, and didn't offer any sort of reciprocal GMing, or anything else. I *think* they're the kind you'd call "player-as-consumer", except I DO get something out of it... so they're not. :)

    If you're equating a player not taking author stance as being a consumer, I disagree with you, but I'm not "offended". It just shows we want different things from our games.
  • In that other thread, I was referring to a very particular kind of immersion: "deep in character immersion." My definition of character immersion is being able to unconsciously, reflexively, automatically portray a character. My definition of deep immersion is doing everything reflexively, unconsciously, automatically. So my argument below was about a very particular form of immersion. Other types of immersion are irrelevant for my argument below, (including deep immersion without character immersion, or character immersion without deep immersion). And I have had at least one person claim sincerely that they my model does not apply to them, so YMMV. That said it works for me and at least half a dozen others:

    My claim was then it is hard to consciously manipulate elements of the system that can not be interpreted within the character model while both deep immersed and character immersed. Since story elements generally are not interpretable by the character model (the character usually doesn't understand they are inside a story, and have powers to change the story, and even if they did, might not understand the concept of there being an audience they are trying to entertain) and oftentimes seem to require conscious thought (Player Bob just saw Pan's Labyrnth last night; if I narrate in some stuff from that movie it'll entertain him!)

    Quoting myself:
    Well, there is a phenomenon that it can be hard to do constant, deep (character) immersion and respond to PLAYER-level rewards. Because while deeply immersed, it's hard (or I would claim, axiomatically/definitionally impossible) to consciously think about player-level ("metagame") issues. (I do think it is possible to subconsciously/intuitively respond to player-level rewards while deeply immersed, but there's still a limit to how adroit one can be at maximally responding to rewards that have no in-character interpretation) So if you have a reward structure that gives player-level only rewards, a deeply immersed player will be less responsive to the reward system then she would be she was not character immersed.

    On the issue of selfishness, I'll point out that while I am deep in character immersed, I don't really care about whether others are generating a "awesome story" as opposed to a "good story" or even a "mediocre story." It's hard for me to make a special effort to contribute to the story (since I can only do direct story changes that are so simple or intuitive I can do them unconsciously) but in turn, I don't really care if others fail to make the special effort. So it's selfish in one sense (I'm expending mental energy to increase my own enjoyment [alot] that could in principal been used to increase others enjoyment [a little]) but it's not as if I expect other players to entertain me. I'm quite happy with a social contract that says "everyone focus on their own enjoyment, subject to some minimum constraints." If the group demands a contract that says "Everyone ignore their own fun, and just try to entertain each other. If we all do this it'll be awesome!" then that's probably going to be inconsistent with immersion.

    It's tied to the notion that I'm in the camp that calls these games "hippy games." I could care less about good stories; what I am interested in is systems that smooth over logistical issues like balanced scene time, pacing, facilitating communication, so people don't have to spend conscious effort handling these things. An extreme example being is if the system handles logistics so smoothly that a GM is not required, that's a big step forward.
  • edited March 2008
    For a short period, I enjoy it too. For the long haul? No way. I've done it before, and I wouldn't do it again.

    Unless actual cash was involved. Then I might think about it.
  • edited March 2008
    To go at a slight tangent, and totally fuck up everything everyone has said so far:
    Posted By: StuartWhen I'm DMing -- meaning I'm not getting the "immersion" thing because I'm in full author mode
    There have been times when, as a GM playing, or even during campaign design, I experienced the same sort of feeling that people describe as character immersion, except that I felt that the world I was emulating (or creating) was alive and that figuring out what would happen next, what the bad guy's plan was, what the name of the building was, anything and everything about the world was just as easy as looking across the room and seeing something. For brief (never more than a couple of hours) segments of time I felt like I didn't have any decisions to make at all, I just looked at the world and said "okay, that's what's there" and wrote it down/told the players.

    Unrelated: The idea that it is selfish to be a consumer if your pals don't mind or enjoy it is goofy.
  • Posted By: JDCorley The idea that it is selfish to be a consumer if your pals don't mind or enjoy it is goofy.
    Ah, but I do mind.
  • edited March 2008
    <blockquote><cite>Posted By: JDCorley</cite> For brief (never more than a couple of hours) segments of time I felt like I didn't have any decisions to make at all, I just looked at the world and said "okay, that's what's there" and wrote it down/told the players.</blockquote>

    This is what I call "Setting immersion" (setting details come to you reflexively) plus "deep immersion" (you aren't consciously thinking about anything)

    I personally think there is a slight qualitative difference between this state of mind and character immersion + deep immersion. It's hard to describe. Each of the different kinds of immersion is a neat altered state of consciousness, but character + deep leads to a particularly peculiar altered state of awareness. At least for me.

    What the OP is referring to is I think "character immersion" (character actions come to him reflexively) withOUT "deep immersion" (He needs to consciously "still bear in mind the goals and story arcs")

    My holy grail is character immersion + "narrative immersion" (reflexively, subconsciously altering the character and setting to behave according to certain narrative goals). To some degree this is necessary anyway (like reflexively avoiding certain taboo topics, like rape) but the goal is to expand the set of narrative issues I can handle subconsciously. But there will always be a limit I think; I could always do better handling narrative stuff if I focussed my full conscious mind toward them, and some story mechanics seem to practically demand complex conscious manipulation. The goal is to find story mechanics that are so incredibly intuitive that they can be handled reflexively. (Polaris' ritualistic phrases being the best thing I've found so far)
  • edited March 2008
    Posted By: komradebobAh, but I do mind.
    Yes, but your minding is not what makes them selfish (either), it's them continuing to do it if you say you mind and if they agree to stop. Sort of like playing Jay-Z in the car when you don't like Jay-Z. It's not playing Jay-Z that is selfish. It's not doing what you have told your friend you would do.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyPosted By: komradebobAh, but I do mind.
    Yes, but your minding is not what makes them selfish (either), it's them continuing to do it if you say you mind and if they agree to stop. Sort of like playing Jay-Z in the car when you don't like Jay-Z. It's not playing Jay-Z that is selfish. It's not doing what you have told your friend you would do.

    I see it more like accepting a bunch of beers at the bar, but never picking up a round.

    And doing it every Friday.
  • edited March 2008
    Speaking as someone with many years' background in improv, I'll throw in two comments:

    1) One definition of a "good improviser" is someone who is fun to play _with_. I think it's more helpful to think in those terms than about selfishness. (And BTW, it is fascinatingly paradoxical in the context of a performance for an audience. In the context of a game around the table, it seems almost tautological.)

    2) In improv, a player is called upon to be simultaneously "in character" (react in the moment, act naturally, etc) and consider the story arc (find conflict, look for an ending). Put another way, they must be both actor and writer (as well as director, set designer, etc). I think it's certainly possible to do the same in RPGs. It's also clearly a skill, requiring practice to develop.

    Steven
  • edited March 2008
    Posted By: komradebobI see it more like accepting a bunch of beers at the bar, but never picking up a round.

    And doing it every Friday.
    Really? Maybe it's just me, but I see buying a round as gift-giving. I decide to do it because I want to give a gift to my pals. I don't expect anything in return, not then or ever. If I buy a round every Friday and my pals never do, I don't see that as selfish on their part, it just means they are not moved to give gifts in that way. So that particular analogy is meaningless to me. I like giving certain things, even if I don't receive in return.

    Edit: I mean, they're my pals, they give me something (amusement, companionship, etc.) at some point even if it's not beer on Friday, but I don't think that's what was meant.
  • edited March 2008
    Well, to abuse the analogy, I think it's more like going over to a friend's place to socialize, never drinking any beer (even though others may be drinking), and never bringing any beer (even though all the other drinkers bring beer). They're there to exchange beer, I'm just there for something more minimal.

    And a group of all deep-in-character immersives are analogous to no-one drinking beer and noone bringing it.
  • edited March 2008
    Posted By: JDCorleyPosted By: komradebobI see it more like accepting a bunch of beers at the bar, but never picking up a round.

    And doing it every Friday.
    Really? Maybe it's just me, but I see buying a round as gift-giving. I decide to do it because I want to give a gift to my pals. I don't expect anything in return, not then or ever. If I buy a round every Friday and my pals never do, I don't see that as selfish on their part, it just means they are not moved to give gifts in that way. So that particular analogy is meaningless to me. I like giving certain things, even if I don't receive in return.

    I can drink a lot of beer, JD. Let's us start hangin' out.
    And a group of all deep-in-character immersives are analogous to no-one drinking beer and noone bringing it.
    Er, no, not for the GM. In a GMless situation? Sure, but I've met very few Immersives who also go for GMless stuff, for exactly the reasons mentioned earlier. Which basically brings this full circle.
  • edited March 2008
    2) In improv, a player is called upon to be simultaneously "in character" (react in the moment, act naturally, etc) and consider the story arc (find conflict, look for an ending). Put another way, they must be both actor and writer (as well as director, set designer, etc). I think it's certainly possible to do the same in RPGs. It's also clearly a skill, requiring practice to develop.

    Steven

    If I were being paid to act for a large external audience, I wouldn't try to immerse. I would stay on the conscious level. It'll be half as fun for me, but my performance would probably be 10% better.
  • @cydmab: Most people who talk about Immersion and mean "no authoring stance please" (as per Mike's post at the start of the thread) aren't talking about Deep Character Immersion... unless they're LARPing in Scandinavia. ;)
  • perhaps, but he was referencing the other thread, where he was either talking with me, or some vague mysterious group "it was suggested that there was a conflict between character immersion and story gaming. This is something I have seen before, as an implication rather than as an explicit statement, and it confuses me, because I just can't see it." My position is that character immersion is indeed consistent with story games, but "deep immersion + character immersion" is oftentimes undermined by a particular class of story/hippy game mechanics.
  • However you want to define the words, as Mike noted above -- the Immersion that means "no author stance please" does not work with story games.

    That's not to say people can't enjoy BOTH at different times, but when someone wants the Immersion that means "no author stance please" then a game that requires them to take author stance isn't going to work for them.
  • Posted By: HituroThis is something I have seen before, as an implication rather than as an explicit statement, and it confuses me, because I just can't see it.

    Maybe I'm being dumb? Maybe I'm missing something? Maybe no one is claiming this in the first place?
    People are claiming it, but from what I've seen and experienced it's a false dicotomy. The assumption of most players are that, since in order to get immersed in the games they are familiar with they must ignore the system as much as possible and "get into character" is the way to do that, the assumption is that is what must be done to get immersed.

    So, when games come along with a new approach, using system as a way to enforce/support story, the reaction is often: "Whoa, hey, if I have to think about anything that's not my character, like the system or authorship over the world, it's going to take me out of the immersion (because that is how it works in all the other games I've played, going back to learning how to roleplay in D&D)."

    But I have never seen that actually happen. There's an adjustment period sometimes, and this can range from up to an hour to maybe a session, maybe two, depends on the person. But everyone, everyone I've played with, eventually gets immersed into the story while continuing to hit the system. And most of the people I've story gamed with came at it either from a traditional "deep immersion" stance or from chat room and LJ roleplaying where "deep immersion" holds a similar pedastal position to "good roleplaying." I know its a false dichotomy.

    That's not to say there aren't preferences. For a variety of reasons people might prefer the traditional systems, including the way you get immersed (getting deep into character by shutting out the rules and/or authorship instead of getting deep into character by integration of the rules and/or authorship). But in my experience, and I want to be clear on this, I've never had someone be unable to get immersed, even if they ended up prefering a different method. At most they needed two sessions instead of, say, an hour, but eventually it clicked, always. So, the idea that a story game and immersion don't go together is bullshit. Some of it is people taking their preference as a gospel truth, as is quite common on the internet, and most are simply going with the gut instinctual response based on their preconcieved assumptions without even trying.
  • Posted By: komradebobPlayer-as-consumer is essentially treating gaming the same way, except there is no reciprocity. The player-as-consumer is enjoying, but not giving anything back.
    This is where I'm getting lost. How is playing -- and by this, I mean engaging with the game, having fun, helping people around you have fun -- not giving anything back to the game? Are you assuming that someone who isn't acting as an Author in the full story games sense just sitting there on his chair drooling slightly, saying nothing and just picking up and rolling dice every few minutes? Because, and I hope you'll pardon me for saying so, that's just a shitty player: it has absolutely fuck-all to do with immersiveness or preferences in Authorial-vs-Character stance or whatever, it's just some jerk being a dead weight.

    Playing in a game IS a way of giving back to the game; there are so many opportunities for a "pure player" to contribute to the experience and improve everyone's fun -- including and especially the GM's fun -- that I'm not sure where this is even coming from. Not everybody has to have, share, or use narrative authority to be a productive, proactive, kickass part of a game. Seriously, I'm surprised that anyone would even imply otherwise!
  • If you're creating, you're not just a consumer.
    If you're just consuming, you're not creating.

    You're talking past each other.
  • All of the players I've met that I'd call dead weight have had immersion as a primary focus. That's why I associate those two things. I believe I've already mentioned that, though. Repeatedly.
  • There's probably generalized negative stereotypes about all sorts of different gaming preferences.

    I'm sure we're all familiar with the tactical gamer who is into resource management and stat optimization... they're a powergaming munchkin twink.

    And the character actor who wants to stop the game every 5 minutes to deliver a soliloquy to the group, or keeps trying to drive the session in the direction they want it to go... they're a prima donna emo method actor.

    That doesn't mean you can't have players who like the tactics, or the roleplaying who are lots of fun to game with.
  • edited March 2008
    One problem is that, in a RPG, your character is "made" not only by what you do, but by how the other react, too.

    I mean: you play a big, tough, scary-looking guy. But in reality, you are 5' hight with glasses and a lisp. You NEED the help of the other player, every one of them, to maintain the "illusion" when you play-act: they all need to "be conscious of the story", at the author-level, enough to remember acting scared when you talk to them.

    Also: to really play your character, you need somebody for him to interact. Say that you play someone really scared of women. You NEED someone to play a woman for you to show his fear, or that will never enter in the game, and your character will only exist in your head. Often this is the GM's work, but (1) he need help in this - the other players has to be conscious of your needs, or they will never go somewhere where the GM can play a woman, for example, and (2) you must TELL SOMEBODY about this, tell in some way to the other player what you need to be able to "live" your character. You must think as an author at least a little before the game, if not during it. But really deep-immersive players often dislike even this bit of "authoring".

    (So they are often frustrated, and it's really only their own fault, not the system's, but I digress...)

    I think it's for this reason that many people dislike having this kind of deep-immersive players in the group: they are high-maintenance, the GM has to guess what they want from the game, the other players have to guess to, and they don't tell it. It's a lot of work, guessing what he/she could enjoy, and having to fight against his desire to "don't tell you, or it will ruin he/her fun"

    I have seen it work when there is only one of these players at that table, or two at most, and they are well-liked enough by the others that they will gladly make all the work required to make them enjoy the game. But every one of these players is a player that will NOT make that work for other, because "It will ruin his fun", so if there are too many of them at the table, they will be frustrated because "the other players" (who play exactly like them) "don't play in a way that allow he/she to express her character"

    There is obviously a functional version of this: the player that can immerse when he want to enjoy his immersion, but know how to get "out of character" when he need to, to talk with the gm and the other players about what they want from the game, or has learned to use the system to show them what he want (keys in TSOY, kickers, the choice of fallout in DitV, the "Issue" in PTA, etc.). This kind of player usually doesn't have any problem in playing story-games (in general: he could have problems with the ones that require being ALWAYS in a director's stance, like Universalis for example) because many of these usually separate the instances of authoring power from the play-acting.
  • edited March 2008
    (Cross-posted with Moreno)

    See, I wonder if the whole "immersion/story dichotomy" thing is really a product of character immersion simply being taken too far. Anything can be done to extremes, and extreme behavior is the quickest way to mess up a group's social contract. I see the discussion as being muddled because some folks who claim to be immersive can still obviously regulate the tendency so they can function socially in their groups, or their groups are such that they don't have to self-regulate. Others clearly can't do this, or won't do this, or there's a large clash of expectations.

    For myself, I've encountered the dichotomy mostly as having everything to do with status relationships, and not very much to do with anything else. People, by and large, do not want bad shit to happen to them. This extends to emotional responses that paint them in a bad light, like losing their temper, showing embarrassment, acting involuntarily out of fear, etc.

    Stories, however, to be good, require these things to happen to protagonists. They have to get hurt, and they have to fail, they have to be dumb occasionally, and they have to show the bad side of themselves. That is a hallmark of good conflict. A protagonist who just plows through any conflict without consequences is boring, and a protagonist who never succeeds at anything is sort of ridiculous. At some point, the protagonist has to lose status... if only to create an opportunity for them to regain it or surpass their previous status.

    Sometimes, when a player in an RPG is fully immersed in character, they reflexively push as hard as they can against any game events that will change their status, and get angry or frustrated as players when it happens anyway as it inevitably must in any story. And I don't mean this in the Big Model Narrativist sense of story, I mean it in the "any series of sequential events that's remotely entertaining from an external POV" sense of story. Sometimes, that backlash can be so disruptive that it effectively halts the game, or turns the whole thing into little more than wish fulfillment, making the GM back off on providing relevant adversity because he doesn't want to create a social problem.

    Some mechanics can accelerate this process - I'm looking directly at an instance of SotC play I had where a player flatly told me that he could not make a decision to accept a compel because he couldn't separate his perspective from his character's, and his character would never allow for the complication to happen. SotC is not for him, and I can accept that. To that player's credit, though, he's a good sport when the fall of the dice lowers his status, because well, he can't do anything about that.

    But is it really fair to say, even given the above, that the dichotomy is really between story and immersion because of the nature of those two things? Perhaps it's better said that some people can become *so* immersed as to be socially disruptive in some groups... just like some people can become *so* competitive, or some people can become *so* directorial (and yes, I've had PTA games where exactly that has happened). Any behavior, taken to extremes, can fuck up the mojo.
  • DM Lady: "The thief, Black Leaf, did not find the poison trap, and I declare her dead."
    Marcie: "NO, NOT BLACK LEAF! NO, NO! I'M GOING TO DIE!

    :D
  • Moreno covered my thoughts much better than I did.
  • Posted By: Max HigleyIf you're creating, you're not just a consumer.
    If you're just consuming, you're not creating.
    I'll slighty mis-quote Max in order to say, that the false dichtonomy I'm seeing is that if you're not not doing anything "extra-game" as a player, you're automaticly a consumer. It's entirely possible to create new stuff in the game while functioning in the context of your character. The effect is just more subtle. It's also entirely possible to bring out whatever the innermost urges your character has - it's just a lot slower process.

    But:

    (Deep) Character immersion is preference that rarely works well along with other preferences. A lone character immersionist in a group is a sad player, soon enough. Likewise, a lone player favoring author stance is going to be really out of his depth in a character immersive group, either being bored to death in matter of minutes, or being chased out of the building for that irritating and endless extrovert chit-chat.

    Getting kicks from things going down for your character is something of a matter of being able to separate yourself from the character before and after the event, not during it.

    Character immersive players are high-maintenance, but luckily in a group full of them, they maintain themselves.
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