Tuesday, February 07, 2006

System and immersion

I have been trying to write something about systems helping immersion for a long time now, never really getting to it. Then I stumbled onto this thread on RPGnet, discussing what immersion is but quickly turning into a "Can rules ever help immersion" war. I had to post in it anyway. You can either read all 140 post made this far or just read my own post right here:

First, immersion is certainly not all or nothing. Simply "feeling" the game world and "shared imaginary space" is a form of immersion. For this discussion to have any meaning it needs to be narrowed down to character immersion, or even deep character immersion.

To have any form of "deep" immersion in a character it is not enough to feel *for* the character and try to think as it would. You need to go one step further and *be* the character, your and its mind being one. In practice this will never be a total unification, but it can be darn close, both in table top and larping.

Most mechanics do hinder this process but not all. In many cases I can feel more immersed when having stats that are never used for anything than my own reference. Defining my characters in this way makes the risk of having to reason around if I can do something smaller, resulting in less breaks in the immersion.

Well defined procedures for how a scene is ended and how and when you talk out of character can help immersion too, as it also reduces the need for reasoning, with others or in your mind. A smaller portion of the brain capacity is needed if you got a strict procedures, leaving more for you character.

So, mechanics in the form of resolution systems seldom, maybe never, help immersion. Mechanics in the form of a strict framework for play can often help it.

I also agree on the near religious aspects of immersion. Exactly what it is can never be fully explained or defined, only experienced. A good thing is that in a game striving for immersion, everyone can immerse to their own ability and liking, filling in the rest with acting. You are never forced to immerse and are never excluded for the inability to do so. No one but you should be able to tell the difference anyway.
Maybe I get around to making my "real" post about system and immersion some day...

Related, I just found out about this forum focused on immersive play (seems down right now). I have not yet abandoned my plans to start or help starting a forum focused on Nordic style free form and larping, but right now it isn't moving at all.


Blogger w176 said...

I donät really argree with you on whatever rulesand systemts can helt immersion but i was intresting reading throught, one of the really nice counter arguments (from mine point of view) on why rules dont ruin immersion.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Jonas Barkå said...

I don't quite follow you on what you agree on and what you disagree on. Do you care to elaborate a bit?

1:04 PM  
Blogger w176 said...

It was two in themorning i got no idea what i ment. Well, let's see. *Reads the post again.*

In you argument rules are just a system of thougt for you to stucture you own understanding of the game and the character and the story around.

Hence, your helped by the rules, but thats just because you used to thing that way about games. And thats not really diffrent fron any otherway to gain an understanding of the story, like someone who prefer to draw a picutre of their character to get an better understanding of the character or larper that dp the same tthing by sewing the chartaters eqipment get an better understanding or a storyteller that like to draw mindmaps over their stories.

While it might help you it isnt not really the same as the rules if helpfeul if your not used to think that way, more then for exaple drawing a mindmapmiight be. O that the generally is helpful. So i still think that rules is an unessery layer of abstaction betweenm you and the story and character.

That might have been what i ment.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Jonas Barkå said...

I agree when talking about understanding your own character (which in fact did), writing a poem or drawing a picture is as good a way do defining it as stats.

But stats got the added benefit of being somewhat well defined, making it easier for the gm to get the same image of your character as yourself. Numbers on a defined scale is much less abstract than handing over a poem to the gm.

Any time when there is a misunderstanding between the player and the gm about the extent of a characters ability is a time when immersion is lessened.

In some kind of games "skills" is of very low importance and then I too prefer an abstract way of describing the character. But when they are important I find the good old stats being the best way to handle it.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Jonas Barkå said...

I also want to add that I appreciate your comments. Constructive criticism is always a good thing.

11:12 PM  

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