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MoonHunter Sayeth 20171115


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Immersion and Game Mechanics

I admit, I have many opinions. In many areas of gaming, I have been there, done that, and seen what other people have done as well. And yes, there are a few things that set me off. So yes, when people who have never really done something and think it is great or the only way, and seem to be unpersuaded by others who had might of done it, sets me off.

So there was a thread about Immersion and how Game Mechanics pull people out of the game. Someone was adamant about all mechanics but the most minimal do nothing but break a player's Immersion.

Okay, I rolled my eyes. I stretched my finger and then... went off.

We have these discussions frequently. We often hear that game mechanics are evil and get in the way of roleplaying. Yet, game mechanics are part of playing a roleplaying game. That aside, a key point is always missed.

Immersion is a skill. It is getting into character and setting and a bit more. It is something you learn to do in a game (or when reading or when watching, or acting, or when... you get the idea). It is a way to focus on things – or more accurately selectively focusing on certain things, while excluding others. It is something we do (or don't do) when playing.

Immersion – being the character - is a state of mind. Like an actor who can go from clowning around back stage to becoming "all character" the moment they go on, it is just a change of focus. (It also includes being in the moment, seeing the world as it is, not as a stage or table.)

The players who complain about "system breaks immersion" need to learn from our actor friends. Actors just "switch it on" when they need it and off while they don’t.

Now, I am a realist. There is something to what they say. I believe that if a system is too complex or requires too much time to use it is not helping the process of immersion. It will pull them out of it. However, immersion is a player skill and a conscious choice. (I do know players who consciously choose not to immerse, and some that "must do it").

Immersion for a gamer is getting into character and a bit more. It is not the magic that some people think it is. Immersion (or a state where it happens) can be achieved or re-achieve with a couple of simple techniques. In no particular order.

Controlled Breaths, usually done in sets of three
. Focus on your breathing and the rhythm. (Breath in 6 count, hold 4 count, breath out in 6 count, and hold empty for 4 count… repeat. The act of concentration on yourself and a simple process, takes you out off the moment and the outside world. You can simply then begin to be the character.

Visualization and remembering. Stop calm your mind. See your character in the setting. Every character has a dominant emotion or drive. You need to remember when you felt that emotion or drive. See it and feel it… and you will be in that moment in the setting.

Some people have their own little magic phrase that puts them into their character. “This is Cary Grant being a (some role), was the trick Cary Grant used. “I am “my character” repeated three time is one a few modern movie stars use. I have used “Blades, Spells, and Monsters… oh my”.

The Method, a fundamental acting training, has a number of ways of immersing yourself into the character and the situation. There are books and books upon this subject. Some of my favorites (ones I have used) includes visualizing myself as the character in the immediate setting, visualizing my eyes and superimposing the character’s eyes, or taking an item (a piece of costuming, a song, a token/prop, or the characters miniature) and focusing on it.

Soft focus/ meditative state is my key, but sometimes I toy with using some of the other actor techniques.

Many gamers don't work on achieving immersion. They just hope they fall into it and often have trouble doing. Once they are in it, they get upset when they have to get out... because of their personal difficulties achieving it. This is a skill. With practice, and practice beyond just practicing in game (Riffing your character in front of a mirror helps) will help you learn to immerse yourself in your character and the setting.

I want you to think of something dear reader. You seldom hear GMs complain about immersion. You know why? GM's have to shift gears and immerse and re-immerse all the time during play. They learn the rules so well that the rules are not as distracting to them. They learn the skill of immersion/ re-immersion, even developing skill techniques much like our actor friends. It is something they learn. And yes, often the GM never gets the luxury of full immersion during a game, but it is still the goal of all roleplaying gamers. So they do it when they can.

Gamers are unlike actors. They don't have to "hold it". They can shift back and forth, enjoying the clever bits as an audience and engaging "in character". Now most players just don't complain about being an audience. They only complain when they have to use a complex system or one that takes all their focus. Again, I do believe that some systems are just "too complex" for some player to easily be used. However, what is too complex for some, might be just fine for others. If they properly learn the game system, buff up their own familiarity, the game will be less likely to pull them out of immersion. (1*) Immersion is a skill, getting in character (and out) and into the situation depends on their familiarity with the system and their ability to immerse.

If Gamers (GMs and Players) would spend the time to learn how to consciously immerse, we could eliminate most of these conversations.

Convergence Point status
Blog or game, that is the question. With wrist braces after work, I could only do one. So here it is.

1* This is another of those techniques used to improve immersion.
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