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Author Topic: Feeble attempt at defining immersion  (Read 20331 times)
JMendes
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« on: October 01, 2002, 09:17:25 AM »

Ahoy, :)

I'm bringing this over from the Site Discussion forum, specifically the thread on the forge vocab.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
What about the even more problematic ones like Immersion <...>


The following is a piece of formal discussion on the subject of defining interactive fiction, in rec.games.int-fiction. It may or may not be applicable to the discussion, so take it with a grain of salt. (For those who don't know, interactive fiction generally applies to text adventure computer games.)


[Andrew Plotkin's definition of interactive fiction modified by me]
> A program which reveals a story (or related stories), created by an
> author (or authors), to a player (or players); such that

the player may be reasonably expected to achieve a frame of mind in which

> the range of available action is only partially known and
> must be understood in terms of the story world; and such that the
> majority of important results of the player's actions are unique
> results, specifically created by the author to support that part of
> the story which the player is experiencing.

[I then proceeded to] formally define
the aforementioned frame of mind as 'immersion'.
[End r.a.i-f quote]

My poin, one could define immersion as 'a player frame of mind in which the total range of options available is completely understandable by the character in terms of the story world'.

This definition was good enough for text adventure games but has some drawbacks for RPGs. The main drawback of this definition is that it tends to exclude some metagame considerations. (For instance, in L5R, spending void points is always an OOC decision, with the PC usually surprised at their own performance.)

Anyway, it might make a starting point, so I thought I'd quote that. :) Ignore at will.

Cheers,

J.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2002, 10:19:49 AM »

Hi there,

Good reference. I've found, however, that people bring definitions of "immersion" to discussions without wanting to determine a definition for the purposes of that discussion - and they get very upset, surprisingly so, when others have different definitions.

Here are some examples.

1) Just as you describe, which is pretty close to what I call Actor Stance in my essay.

2) As #1 but with a very strong Explorative (imaginative) element of identification, such that the role-player is feeling very much as the character feels.

3) A strong commitment to the imaginative content of play in any fashion at all, including goals of play or in-or-out of character, or whatever.

4) Being emotionally engaged and excited by play of whatever description that person most enjoys.

I have a lot of private emails people send me about the way that I "dismiss" immersion in my essay, often with very angry and defensive evidence that "it exists," always describing one of the above four things. Since these things are definitely not the same, and since the emotional commitment to the given person's definition seems to be so high ... well, my take is that we're better off deconstructing the issue into independent parts that address anything substantive, and leaving the term to evaporate slowly, if possible.

But that's my take. Anyone else?

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2002, 11:12:50 AM »

I understand your reasoning Ron, but GNS has hardly shirked from usurping vocabulary for its own nefarious ends before ;-)

It seems to me that the best use for the term in GNS is to describe a phenomenon that exists that isn't already accounted for.

For instance if #1 is "Actor Stance" than the response to a person who gets bent out of shape is simply to say "oh, we call that 'actor stance' here" and move on.

I think #3 and #4 can be dealt with similiarly.  I would then use Immersion to describe a stance that is exclusively Actor, exclusively in character, and attempts to avoid or ignore meta game.

If people have a problem with that...well...some people have a problem with the way the model uses the term Simulation...but I've gotten over that...mostly...
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Marco
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« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2002, 11:34:30 AM »

A quick search on Immersion as to how it relates to literature turned up this:

Quote

Poetics of immersion
Three forms of textual immersion are distinguished and discussed in two chapters. 1. Spatial: the reader develops a sense of place, a sense of being on the scene of the narrated events. 2.Temporal : the experience of a reader caught up in narrative suspense, the burning desire to know what happens next. 3. Emotional : the phenomenon of developing a personal attachment to the characters, of participating in their human experience. Narrative techniques are evaluated in terms of their ability to promote these various types of immersion, and immersivity is shown to be more important to the effect of literary realism than the life-likeness of the fictional world.


That works pretty well for me. I read the GNS essay and while I consider some of it to be pretty close to flamebait (albeit unintentionally on Ron's part), I didn't see anything denying the existence of Immersion in it. The section I found just said "it's probably pretty close to actor stance" which I agree with.

I do recall a thread aroudn here saying something like 'Suspension of Disbelief does not exists', which I think pretty much *was* semantic-flamebait (i.e. whatever was being said wasn't arguing that people don't "get lost in a book.")

Finally, so long as Immersion is defined *somewhere* very clearly and it is noted that the definition is NOT intended to be universal but rather ("there are many competing views, this is the one that we've chosen for this board") then it's gotta work. It's better than having no real working definition or worse, a stated one that is at odds with its common use (what does Drift mean, exactly? The printed definition only applies to shifts during play).

-Marco
[I think that a concise definition of terms is not only a good idea, I think it's really just about necessary for discussions on The Forge.]
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Wart
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« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2002, 11:34:35 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
2) As #1 but with a very strong Explorative (imaginative) element of identification, such that the role-player is feeling very much as the character feels.


This seems closest to what many people speak of as immersion - especially that state called "deep immersion", where this identification is so strong that OOC concerns are not only ignored - they're driven right out of the player's mind, and that extra-deep form of immersion where (it is claimed by those who believe in it) the player's thoughts and character's thoughts are one (with the occasional obvious exception - the character isn't thinking about dierolling!). So I'd be inclined to give the "immersion" label to this one, if any.
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Valamir
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« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2002, 11:52:18 AM »

Yeah, that works for me.

Marco, those three items in the defintion you found seem to apply equally to Roleplaying and the determined pursuit of those three things leads to phenominon Wart describes, which is what I've always felt Immersion to mean.

I think the problem with defining Immersion is opposite of the problem with some other definitions.  Some times a word has a perjorative sense to it (like "incoherent") such that when it gets used to describe something people get riled up thinking they've been insulted (when really the actual definition of incoherent is completely innocuous).

Immersive on the other hand is seemingly anti-perjorative (is there a word for that...) in that EVERYONE (hyperbole alert) likes to think that what they do is Immersive and so you have different people trying to "lay claim" to the word.
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Marco
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« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2002, 12:10:42 PM »

Val,

I think I agree--there's never been a real problem with taking a word and finding a "good fit" (which I think our definition does). I was surprised to find Immersion in the problem list. I doubt many of the people who complained would find themselves offened with the general definition we have here (they might *disagree* but I doubt it'd be angry). The problem comes in when:

a) a term is made up and winds up being loosely explained.
b) a term which is in general use or a phrase that seems self-evident (creation of story) gets defined narrowly to mean something different than what a reader would think.

A set of definitions--especially one that makes an attempt to speak to those who are approaching it for the first time--is necessary to get anywhere with this sort of discourse.

-Marco
[ Incoherent wouldn't be my word of choice for anything non-pejorative having to do with a document. It's fine for light. Fine for sound. Not good for attempts at communication. ]
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Merten
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« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2002, 12:48:35 PM »

Quote from: Wart
Quote from: Ron Edwards
2) As #1 but with a very strong Explorative (imaginative) element of identification, such that the role-player is feeling very much as the character feels.


This seems closest to what many people speak of as immersion - especially that state called "deep immersion", where this identification is so strong that OOC concerns are not only ignored - they're driven right out of the player's mind, and that extra-deep form of immersion where (it is claimed by those who believe in it) the player's thoughts and character's thoughts are one (with the occasional obvious exception - the character isn't thinking about dierolling!). So I'd be inclined to give the "immersion" label to this one, if any.


This would be close to my opinion and experiences as well. Immersion is about thinking like the character does, feeling like the character does, and behaving like the character would behave - and, in some sense, trying to forget that you're in a game and just trying to act like the character you've been given. Dierolling, stepping out of character and such things tend to break the immersion and drag you out of it.

So, yeah, identification seems to be a key issue, at least from my point of view.

I think one of the elements which "immersion" needs is one's familiriaty with the character and the historical, social and whattanot context's in where the character exists. Personally, I find it easier to "immerse" into a character who lives in a modern day world and in context with which I'm familiar with.
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Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2002, 01:42:14 PM »

Quote from: Marco
[ Incoherent wouldn't be my word of choice for anything non-pejorative having to do with a document. It's fine for light. Fine for sound. Not good for attempts at communication. ]


Unfortuneately, IMO.  Incoherent has acquired the same sort of negative connotations as the word "Ignorant".  A perfectly fine desciptive word when used accurately, that has so often been used as a form of insult, that people just assume any use of the term is meant as an insult.

My personal preference is to not bow to the butchery of language in this way, and require people to actually invest in a good dictionary.
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JMendes
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« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2002, 04:39:21 PM »

Hail, ho, :)

Quote from: Ron Edwards
1) Just as you describe, which is pretty close to what I call Actor Stance in my essay.

2) As #1 but with a very strong Explorative (imaginative) element of identification, such that the role-player is feeling very much as the character feels.


Hmm... Yes, in reading the above, I can't help but agree with #2 more strongly than #1. So, to rephrase:

Immersion: a player frame of mind in which, by virtue of totally identifying with the played character on an emotional and intellectual level, the total range of options available becomes completely understandable by the character in terms of the story world.

Modifications welcome. The main drawback, of course, continues to be that this is only completely achievable in Drama-based simulationist play.

Quote
3) A strong commitment to the imaginative content of play in any fashion at all, including goals of play or in-or-out of character, or whatever.


Hmmm... Yes, this of course is also perfectly valid. Actually, if I understand correctly, it is just a variation of the above, taking into account a number of additional factors.

In fact, I now want to call the previous definition 'full character immersion' and this one 'game play immersion'.

Quote
4) Being emotionally engaged and excited by play of whatever description that person most enjoys.


Nah. I call this one just 'having fun'. ;)

Cheers,

J.
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contracycle
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« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2002, 03:25:08 AM »

If I were given free reign, my description of Immersion would be: a trance state which essentially places the subject into a suggestible fram of mind.  I don;t thibnk there is such a thing as "vanilla immersion" - I think f it as either on or off.  It doers not happen in all games or sessions, IME; but individual sessions can be closer or further.
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Wart
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« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2002, 06:17:10 AM »

Quote from: contracycle
If I were given free reign, my description of Immersion would be: a trance state which essentially places the subject into a suggestible fram of mind.


That sound a bit too much like hypnotism.

Whilst many people may find it helpful (perhaps even necessary) to enter a pseudo-hypnotic state to play immersively, it's by no means an absolute necessity.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2002, 06:22:28 AM »

J,

I'm not sure I'm making my point in this thread, so far. It is that we can all arrive at a happy ten-man consensus about the definition of "immersion" and it wouldn't matter. A person who defines it as my #4 is not going to budge; to him, we would be wrong, deluded, and very probably bad role-players. He then excludes himself from any discussion with such unsuitable characters (and perceives himself as excluded by us, incidentally).

I am basing this claim on multiple emails regarding my essay - people really care about this term and won't listen easily to alternate perceptions. That phenomenon has led me to consider the term to be best left as "customize to taste," because we can use a combination other, less-problematic terms to describe all the issues that seem to be embedded in "immersion."

Therefore more posts about "Yeah, that's immersion to me," are not going to be useful.

Best,
Ron

P.S. Oh yeah, I just thought of another category: a combination of (a) identical to what Mike Holmes calls Participation, or the willing cooperation of players to accord with the pre-planned story events of a scenario; and (b) a commitment to in-game causality, or basic Simulationism. This is precisely how the term "immersion" is used in the text of Arrowflight, for example.
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Wart
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« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2002, 07:01:20 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I'm not sure I'm making my point in this thread, so far. It is that we can all arrive at a happy ten-man consensus about the definition of "immersion" and it wouldn't matter. A person who defines it as my #4 is not going to budge; to him, we would be wrong, deluded, and very probably bad role-players. He then excludes himself from any discussion with such unsuitable characters (and perceives himself as excluded by us, incidentally).


On the other hand, the same could be said for Simulationism, Gamism and Narrativism. See, for example, the constant flamewars about the definition of Gamism, Simulationism and Dramatism (similar-but-different names from a similar-but-different model) on rec.games.frp.advocacy - despite the presence of a handy FAQ defining said terms.

Half the point of the essay is to give us a language to talk about what we enjoy in our games - leaving terms "fuzzy" leads to miscommunication and so hampers, not helps what we want to achieve.

Besides, just as many people would be inclined to ignore/put down the Forge because they don't like the Forge's definition of immersion as would be inclined to do the same because they disagree with how we define Gamism or Narrativism. Or roleplaying.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2002, 07:18:51 AM »

Hi Arthur,

Well, we disagree. For one thing, we don't have flame-wars here regarding GNS terms, not since my essay was posted. Also, my perception of "people out there" is that few of them arrive at the Forge with preconceived and totally-committed definitions of those things, or of terms like protagonism or illusionism, or whatever. (The ones who do have to make a choice; some have stayed, some haven't.)

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.

Also, regarding in-Forge discourse, I'm not leaving it fuzzy - I'm deconstructing it out of existence for purposes of discussion, by using other, defined terms which cover all the ground that "immersion" as a term covers badly.

Oh, final note: my posts on this thread are not intended to shut it down. If you guys want to bat "immersion" around, go for it - I'm confident that lots of good insights will emerge. My comments are only to indicate that my position will take a lot of budging, and to give a heads-up that (unlike say the discussions of what-is-Gamism and Illusionism) the thread isn't likely to have much impact on the essay.

Best,
Ron
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