Sense of immersion

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David Fisher

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Mar 29, 2006, 10:00:07 PM3/29/06
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I'm trying to come up with a list of things that aid a sense of immersion
... any missing ?

- Caring about what happens to the PC (and other characters) and the
unfolding events in the game.
- A believable world (or at least a consistent one).
- An interesting / original setting or back story; attention to
non-essential details of the world.
- An unpredictable and interesting story line.
- A sense that choices made during the game are genuine and meaningful.
- The illusion of interaction with a consistent, responsive world (ie. depth
of implementation).
- Not having reminders that it is "only a game" (such as inappropriate
parser messages, arbitrary puzzles or boring / fiddly activities being
required).
- Evocative writing; not being distracted by bad writing (bad grammar,
inconsistent mood, etc).

David Fisher


Victor Gijsbers

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Mar 30, 2006, 1:43:02 AM3/30/06
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Hi David,

'Immersion' is a notoriously ambiguous concept, ranging from very light
interpretations ("not having too many thoughts unrelated to the game as
a story") to very strong interpretations ("temporarily taking on the
identity of the protagonist"). Also, and perhaps more importantly for
your post, you can immerse in different things - immersing in the
character (the experience of "being that person") is not the same as
immersing in the world (the experience of "being in that place"),
immersing in the story (the experience of "watching these events
unfold") or immersing in the game (the experience of "being focused on
playing this game to the exclusion of most anything else"). The
techniques for immersion in these cases might also be different, and I
think you should be clear about the form or forms that interest you.

There are some things in your list I have doubts about as being aids to
immersion in all or most interpretations:

> - An unpredictable and interesting story line.

I suppose this will aid in 'immersion in story', but I very much doubt
that it will aid 'immersion in character' (which is, I think, the
primary sense of immersion at least in the sense that people use it most
often; or at least they do in debates about immersion in roleplaying
games). An unpredictable and interesting story line will focus my
attention on the story, both by making me wonder what will happen next
_and_ by making me think about the story in abstract, meta-story terms
("well done, shining new light on the initial situation through a
flashback!"). When my attention is focused on the story, I am at one
remove from the character, because nobody experiences his life as a story.

Also, we might be able to identify with boredom very easily. ;)


> - A sense that choices made during the game are genuine and meaningful.

I can't really argue with this, but I would like to point to an
observation I made in the RPG community. I don't know if it generalises
to IF-ers though. The observation is this: people who tout 'immersion'
as their primary goal in roleplaying games are often the people that do
not mind a style of play where the GameMaster has thought up a story
beforehand and the players are merely along for the ride. People who
stress co-authorship and the importance of having the player's choices
matter, are often those that do no believe immersion to be so important,
and are willing to accept a much more abstract approach to roleplaying.

For what it's worth, I'll link to two somewhat recent posts I made about
immersion in my roleplaying/IF blog. Though both are about roleplaying,
they may nevertheless be interesting to you:

http://gamingphilosopher.blogspot.com/2006/01/actorial-and-experiential-distance.html
http://gamingphilosopher.blogspot.com/2005/12/immersion-and-imagination.html


Regards,
Victor

David Fisher

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Mar 30, 2006, 3:20:23 AM3/30/06
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"Victor Gijsbers" <vic...@lilith.gotdns.org> wrote in message
news:e7f6e$442b7de6$9161cc34$10...@news2.tudelft.nl...

> you can immerse in different things - immersing in the
> character (the experience of "being that person") is not
> the same as immersing in the world (the experience of
> "being in that place"), immersing in the story (the
> experience of "watching these events unfold") or
> immersing in the game (the experience of "being focused
> on playing this game to the exclusion of most anything
> else").

I agree that there are different kinds of possible "immersion" in a game
(identifying with the character, "being there", etc). But I am mainly
thinking of the way the word usually seems to be meant in regard to IF -
which I am still trying to get a handle on :-)

My understanding so far is that "immersion" is getting the player to feel
involved, hooked, emotionally engaged, interested and connected with the
story and its characters; the same kind of experience as reading a gripping
book or watching a captivating movie. It is the opposite of feeling
uninvolved, detached, distanced, disconnected, uninterested and unmotivated
to find out what happens in the story, or participate in its unfolding.

Here are some quotes from IF reviews that express the kind of thing I am
thinking of (just Google for the text & author name if you want to see the
reviews these came from):


The author goes to some trouble to address all of the senses -- most notably
the tactile -- [and] the various locations are distinctly immediate and
immersive as a result.
(Mike Russo)

The levels of description can run so deep that the detail of the game
becomes almost dizzying ... The deeper these levels go, the more detailed
and immersive the textual world. Most text adventures don't even fully cover
the first-level nouns, but [this game] does, and often many of the deeper
levels as well. The result is a cave environment that feels hauntingly,
sometimes terrifyingly, real.
(Paul O'Brian)

What I really wanted to know was about what happened to the player
character's brother ... This is clearly a testament to the author's skill at
getting me to care about the world and the protagonist
(Mike Russo)

... any sense of involvement was pretty well shaken when the girl that
Jordon brought to the treehouse was described as being "so sweat." Yuck.
(Jess Knoch)

Because the rest of the work was so involving, the characters'
unresponsiveness became a real point of frustration for me.
(Paul O'Brian)

[This game is] all the way over at the extreme end of the puzzle to story
spectrum, and that's too far for my taste ... it's too spare and empty, and
because of this it fails to create the interest needed to sustain its
intense puzzle-orientation.
(Paul O'Brian)

If [the game] had consisted only of information-gathering, it probably would
have felt distancing, uninvolving; the player needs some sort of objective.
(Duncan Stevens)

"> x mysterious note" ... "It looks like an ordinary mysterious note to me"
... If the game can't be bothered to provide some detail about the objects
in its world, how am I supposed to become immersed in that world?
(Paul O'Brian)

The text in a game is supposed to provide your impressions, and the feeling
of immersion. It's not very immersive if you have to think _too_ hard in
order to eke out the meanings of things. Likewise if you have to spend a lot
of time reading text between command prompts.
(Emily Short)

The author intrudes on my gaming experience by leaving a post-it note, a
"Memo from the Author," in the medicine cabinet ... it destroys the
(otherwise quite interesting) mood you've created up to this point.
(Jess Knoch)

The chain of circumstance which unspools from [the] promising beginning is
so implausible that that sense of immersion, of connection, is snapped.
(Mike Russo)

[This game] runs in real time ... If a particular gesture towards realism
increases immersion, all well and good, but honestly, I found the ticking
clock did more to jolt me out of the game than anything else.
(Mike Russo)

It does not appear ... that the game can become unwinnable. I very much
appreciate this approach to game design, not only for the frustration it
avoids but because it puts the game mechanics in the background and allows
us to become more immersed in the story.
(Mike Roberts)

I stopped wanting to play the character, because my sympathy and
identification were eroded by a stream of self-pitying text.
(Paul O'Brian)

Through its excellent writing and careful plotting, the game ... cemented
such a solid emotional connection between the PC and myself that I never
flipped into the more "gamelike" state of mind that would attempt to obtain
the most favorable outcome no matter how its methods might jar against the
character or the story.
(Paul O'Brian)

It was just hard for me to connect with the story in an emotional way.
(Mike Snyder)

You never have a reason to feel involved ... stuff happens, but it happens
in front of you, not to you.
(Andrew Plotkin)

... the shifting POV means that the player never really invests in the
characters. Because so little time is spent with each individual, they don't
have enough room to breathe and establish themselves, and their eventual
deaths fail to register as a result ... Without player investment in the
protagonists, monsters aren't frightening and death is greeted with a shrug.
(Mike Russo)

It left me a bit cold, perhaps because my character was given insufficient
motivation.
(Jake Wildstrom)

A character doesn't have to be nice to be interesting. I don't have to
sympathise with someone to empathise with them.
(James Mitchelhill)

Far be it from me to suggest that good stories require likeable characters,
but I do think there needs to be some means to allow audience investment,
and I was less than excited about patching up this train-wreck of a
relationship.
(Mike Russo)

---

Anyone have any succint definitions of "immersion" in the sense usually
meant in reference to IF ?

David Fisher


Sir Pyke

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Mar 30, 2006, 4:06:36 AM3/30/06
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David Fisher wrote:
>Anyone have any succint definitions of "immersion" in the sense usually
>meant in reference to IF ?

The only part of immersion I can pin down is the technical part, the
other part is as ambiguous as immersionin novels, etc.

I think "immersion" occurs when the game's text and design keeps your
interactions within the scope and limitations of the world model and
parser.

I don't know how you do that completely... the open prompt is a hard
thing to restrict, but people do play along with the game.

Michael

Tommy Herbert

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Mar 30, 2006, 7:33:11 AM3/30/06
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Victor Gijsbers wrote:
> nobody experiences his life as a story.

There's a claim!

Tommy Herbert

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Mar 30, 2006, 7:45:06 AM3/30/06
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David Fisher wrote:
> Anyone have any succint definitions of "immersion" in the sense usually
> meant in reference to IF ?

I've taken your definition, shortened it a bit, added a reference to
the game-world, and added Sir Pyke's contribution. I think the result
looks good:

"The experience of a player who is involved, hooked or emotionally
engaged with the story, world or characters of an IF game; analogous to
the experience of a gripping book or movie. Immersive games tend to
have the property that the player doesn't encounter the limitations of
the game world or the parser."

Thanks for the list of quotations - fascinating to see them next to
each other. I loved "It looks like an ordinary mysterious note to me"!
The Reliques of Tolti-Aph exploits that issue to good effect in a
couple of places.

Victor Gijsbers

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Mar 30, 2006, 7:54:45 AM3/30/06
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Tommy Herbert wrote:

> There's a claim!

It is a claim, but if you think it is a controversial claim you are
probably reading it in a stronger way than I intended it. When I read a
story, I may think things like "brilliant use of point of view here",
"no, he should not have used an all-knowing narrator" or "ah, yes, this
theme had already been foreshadowed in the first scene". That is not the
kind of thoughts you can have about your life. :)

Regards,
Victor

Victor Gijsbers

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Mar 30, 2006, 9:15:50 AM3/30/06
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Tommy Herbert wrote:

> "The experience of a player who is involved, hooked or emotionally
> engaged with the story, world or characters of an IF game; analogous to
> the experience of a gripping book or movie. Immersive games tend to
> have the property that the player doesn't encounter the limitations of
> the game world or the parser."

I think there is one really big problem with this definition, which is
the fact that it is grounded on the experience of a gripping book or
movie. A piece of interactive fiction is LIKE a book or movie in the
sense that the reader experiences a fictional world; but it is UNLIKE a
book or movie in the sense that the reader is also an actor, in the
technical sense of 'someone who has to make choices and act on them'.

(In this respect, interactive fiction is much closer to roleplaying
games than to books and movies. The player of an RPG is not just sitting
there, listening to what happens, but also has to make real choices.)

This means that there are at least two dimensions of immersion in
interactive fiction, which I will give ugly but hopefully descriptive names.

1. Experiential immersion

A piece of IF is experientially immersive if the player experiences the
world 'as if he were really there'. This is, of course, a metaphor; we
do not really see, smell, touch or otherwise sense fictional objects.
But I suppose the metaphor is clear enough.

2. Actorial immersion

A piece of IF is actorially immersive if the player makes the same
deliberations and takes 'the same' actions as the character he or she is
asked to make decisions for. Here, 'the same' is between quotation marks
because typing "kill woman" is not the same as actually killing someone
(luckily), but the analogy is clear.

These two kinds of immersion are independent. If that is unclear, we
should talk about it.

The quotes David has assembled show that there is at least one important
other concept of 'immersion' in use, which I might perhaps call:

3. Meta-immersion

A piece of IF if meta-immersive if the act of reading it grabs all of
the readers attention, making him more or less oblivious for what is
happening around him. This is the sense if immersion in a sentence like:
"I was so immersed in the book, I didn't even notice that I was hungry
until 10pm!" Here the person isn't immersed in the fictional world, but
in the activity of reading - which is why I called it 'meta-immersion',
though another name might be better.


This doesn't exhaust the number of concepts in use, but it would be
useless to try to pinpoint them all. I think these three concepts are
interestingly different, and should be addressed separately if one
wishes to analyse what makes a work immersive or non-immersive. An
'interesting storyline', for instance, immerses us in the activity of
reading (because we want to know what happens next!), but has nothing to
do with immersion in the fictional world. Spelling mistakes may break
experiential immersion, and perhaps meta-immersion, but not actorial
immersion. Inability to interact with the world in the way you wish to
breaks actorial immersion, but not necessarily the other two. And so on.


I hope this is useful to David. If not, just tell me to shut up. ;)


Regards,
Victor

Rexx Magnus

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Mar 30, 2006, 10:45:58 AM3/30/06
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On Thu, 30 Mar 2006 12:54:45 GMT, Victor Gijsbers scrawled:

I'd say, more accurately, nobody's life has a plot, yet every life has a
story.

--
http://www.rexx.co.uk
To email me, visit the site.

http://www.rexx.co.uk/runes/ - personal online rune readings

Rexx Magnus

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Mar 30, 2006, 10:47:07 AM3/30/06
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On Thu, 30 Mar 2006 03:00:07 GMT, David Fisher scrawled:

>
> I'm trying to come up with a list of things that aid a sense of immersion
> ... any missing ?

Sensory input. I try to make sure that not only sound and vision are catered
for. I try to use touch for more than just activating things, along with
smell and taste.

Tommy Herbert

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Mar 30, 2006, 11:14:44 AM3/30/06
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Victor Gijsbers wrote:
> Tommy Herbert wrote:
>
> > "The experience of a player who is involved, hooked or emotionally
> > engaged with the story, world or characters of an IF game; analogous to
> > the experience of a gripping book or movie. Immersive games tend to
> > have the property that the player doesn't encounter the limitations of
> > the game world or the parser."
>
> I think there is one really big problem with this definition, which is
> the fact that it is grounded on the experience of a gripping book or
> movie.

I wouldn't say it was _grounded_ on it. You could delete that bit and
the definition would work just as well - it would just be missing an
illustrative comparison. Indeed, the second sentence of the
definition, inherited from Sir Pyke, has nothing at all to do with
books and movies.

A piece of interactive fiction is LIKE a book or movie in the
> sense that the reader experiences a fictional world; but it is UNLIKE a
> book or movie in the sense that the reader is also an actor, in the
> technical sense of 'someone who has to make choices and act on them'.
>
> (In this respect, interactive fiction is much closer to roleplaying
> games than to books and movies. The player of an RPG is not just sitting
> there, listening to what happens, but also has to make real choices.)

You're quite right there.

> This means that there are at least two dimensions of immersion in
> interactive fiction, which I will give ugly but hopefully descriptive names.
>
> 1. Experiential immersion
>
> A piece of IF is experientially immersive if the player experiences the
> world 'as if he were really there'. This is, of course, a metaphor; we
> do not really see, smell, touch or otherwise sense fictional objects.
> But I suppose the metaphor is clear enough.

Happy with that. It corresponds with the "world" part of my formula
"story, world or characters".

> 2. Actorial immersion
>
> A piece of IF is actorially immersive if the player makes the same
> deliberations and takes 'the same' actions as the character he or she is
> asked to make decisions for. Here, 'the same' is between quotation marks
> because typing "kill woman" is not the same as actually killing someone
> (luckily), but the analogy is clear.

The analogy's fine, yeah, and this is where the "characters" bit comes
in in my version. But I don't think the definition is strong enough.
Someone could be making the right actions without feeling immersed -
for example, picture a really unsubtle game that made it quite clear
what was needed, and picture a player who shrugs and does as he's told.
So you have to mention that the reason they're doing it is because
they're so absorbed. I think that my discomfort with your formulation
is what leads to my problem with your next bit:

> These two kinds of immersion are independent. If that is unclear, we
> should talk about it.

It's unclear to me, and I mean that - I'm not trying to say politely
that it's clear you're wrong. What is clear is that they're not
totally interdependent: you can have one without the other, and that's
why I used "or" rather than "and" in "story, world or characters". On
the other hand, I can't see myself ruling out the possibility of
treating them at the same time.

> The quotes David has assembled show that there is at least one important
> other concept of 'immersion' in use, which I might perhaps call:
>
> 3. Meta-immersion
>
> A piece of IF if meta-immersive if the act of reading it grabs all of
> the readers attention, making him more or less oblivious for what is
> happening around him. This is the sense if immersion in a sentence like:
> "I was so immersed in the book, I didn't even notice that I was hungry
> until 10pm!"

If I had only read up to here, I would have decided that your third
variety subsumes the other two, and would have happily pointed to my
(originally David's) use of the word "involved" to show I'd taken it on
board. But then the next bit shows me something new:

>Here the person isn't immersed in the fictional world, but
> in the activity of reading - which is why I called it 'meta-immersion',
> though another name might be better.

It took me a while to puzzle out how somebody could be immersed in
reading but not the fictional world, but your other recent post gave me
a clue. I think you mean an absorbing interest not only in the
unfolding plot but also in the techniques the author is using to unfold
it. If you want to call a gripping Brecht play immersive, so be it - I
don't, but I can see things are getting quite subjective here. It
seems to me that there could be another kind of immersion in the story
that doesn't have this postmodern angle to it - what if someone's
carried away by his desire to know what happens next, and the author's
tactics are perfectly unobtrusive? I don't think this "story" aspect
of immersion is exactly the same kind of absorption as the "world"
aspect, but again I think it's unclear how interrelated they are. And
I can find evidence for story-immersion in David's quotes, but not for
your meta-story version of it - the reverse in fact (Mike Roberts
values putting "the game mechanics in the background", for example).

> I think these three concepts are
> interestingly different,

Agreed.

> and should be addressed separately if one
> wishes to analyse what makes a work immersive or non-immersive.

There you leave me again. Could be addressed separately or together, I
suspect (ignoring, for a moment, the niggle about the "meta" bit), and
it would be nice to have both options available for use when looking at
different games.

You give three interesting examples, but my response is the same to all
of them, so I've snipped them (hope you don't mind). I'd just keep
objecting to absolute phrases like "nothing to do with", and saying
wishy-washy things like "well, sometimes breaks in one type of
immersion can be so jarring that they affect overall immersion".

> I hope this is useful to David. If not, just tell me to shut up. ;)

Oh, I wouldn't worry about that. He collects conversations like this!

steve....@gmail.com

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Mar 30, 2006, 11:16:40 AM3/30/06
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David Fisher wrote:
> I agree that there are different kinds of possible "immersion" in a game
> (identifying with the character, "being there", etc). But I am mainly
> thinking of the way the word usually seems to be meant in regard to IF -
> which I am still trying to get a handle on :-)

The term is used in all those ways and more, in a typical discussion of
IF, as your numerous quotations indicate. It's a fuzzy term.

Aesthetics is the art of taking a fuzzy term like this, and unpacking
its various pieces (like Victor Gijsbers has begun to do) -- and most
of all, emphasizing that it's not to be reduced to a unified concept
(otherwise it ends up being understood only as vaguely synonomous with
"good").

> My understanding so far is that "immersion" is getting the player to feel
> involved, hooked, emotionally engaged, interested and connected with the
> story and its characters; the same kind of experience as reading a gripping
> book or watching a captivating movie. It is the opposite of feeling
> uninvolved, detached, distanced, disconnected, uninterested and unmotivated
> to find out what happens in the story, or participate in its unfolding.

That's fair enough, though vague. I think Victor Gijsbers gets it right
that we're/you're actually talking about a number of different things
here. It's wonderful of him to point out that we're *not* talking about
books and movies, and we can use immersion in other arts as an analogy
to help the discussion along, but shouldn't confuse it as the same
thing.

> Anyone have any succint definitions of "immersion" in the sense usually
> meant in reference to IF ?

I think your numerous quotes indicate that people are not talking about
a single thing when they use the word "immersion." There is no
standard, typical, technical or usual sense of the term (and it would
be misreading people's intention to rigorously define the term).

P.S.: I'm relieved that nobody has (yet) tried to use the word
"mimesis" to answer this question. Dare I hope that we have outgrown
this bankrupt (and embarassingly misappropriated) jargon?

there...@yahoo.com

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Mar 30, 2006, 3:02:29 PM3/30/06
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David Fisher wrote:
> I'm trying to come up with a list of things that aid a sense of immersion
> ... any missing ?

Maybe, or maybe you covered it in the following:

> - Not having reminders that it is "only a game" (such as inappropriate
> parser messages, arbitrary puzzles or boring / fiddly activities being
> required).
> - Evocative writing; not being distracted by bad writing (bad grammar,
> inconsistent mood, etc).


. . . But I would emphasize, be a consistent narrator. You can go
ahead and have a personality, even a strong one. When I played "I-0"
(and it was only last year; I'm behind the times!) I didn't feel so
much immersed in being Tracy Valencia, but rather in the world Adam
Cadre's narrator described, his take on people (including Tracy
herself.) I would also cite Bureaucracy, or any Douglas Adams -- when
you read him, you become immersed in the writer's personality. This
may not be what you seek to do, but I for one find it (when done well)
very transporting.

If you choose to narrate in a more neutral tone, be consistent in that.
Don't have two great jokes in your Library Messages if the rest are
bland. Better to have sixteen mediocre ones.

Oh, and don't have an "xyzzy" routine.

David Fisher

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Mar 30, 2006, 8:33:28 PM3/30/06
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"Rexx Magnus" <tras...@uk2.net> wrote in message
news:Xns9796AAC44AF...@130.133.1.4...

> On Thu, 30 Mar 2006 03:00:07 GMT, David Fisher scrawled:
>>
>> I'm trying to come up with a list of things that aid a sense of immersion
>> ... any missing ?
>
> Sensory input. I try to make sure that not only sound and vision are
> catered
> for. I try to use touch for more than just activating things, along with
> smell and taste.

Good point ...

How about:

Writing that evokes a sense of "being there" by involving all of the senses,
provoking emotion (without explicitly saying how they should feel), and
engaging the imagination of the player.

David Fisher


David Fisher

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Mar 30, 2006, 9:03:00 PM3/30/06
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<there...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:1143748949....@v46g2000cwv.googlegroups.com...

>
> David Fisher wrote:
>> I'm trying to come up with a list of things that aid a sense of immersion
>> ... any missing ?

> . . . I would emphasize, be a consistent narrator.

Yep, that's a great point. I even have another quote about it:

The biggest complaint I had about the game is that [it] suffers from a tone
mismatch. The overall vibe and language are very jokey, but there are
occasional moments where the author seems to be wanting to tell a more
serious story ... [there is a problem with] consistency of mood
(Mike Russo)

Consistency applies to lots of other aspects, too: gameplay, puzzle
difficulty / expectations on the player, level of implementation of objects,
etc.

> Oh, and don't have an "xyzzy" routine.

... unless you really want to :-)

I think Easter eggs are pretty innocent, myself ... the player doesn't have
to try them if they don't want to.

Thanks for the input,

David Fisher


David Fisher

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Mar 30, 2006, 9:17:17 PM3/30/06
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"Tommy Herbert" <tommyh...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1143722706.1...@g10g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...

> Thanks for the list of quotations - fascinating to see them next to
> each other. I loved "It looks like an ordinary mysterious note to me"!

Here are a few of my other favourites:

At its worst moments, the clash between the intense action of the story and
the standard Inform library responses evoked by my actions was outright
comical, completely defeating the drama:
John's lost in his mind again. "You ARE nothing!" he shouts again. He steps
forward quickly and shoves you back, causing you to stumble to keep your
balance. "You're useless! You're so **** useless!"
"> push john" ... "That would be less than courteous."
(Paul O'Brian)

[In this game] you get responses like: "The cooked lasagna does not appear
to be edible" ... "The cooked lasagna hits Peter without any obvious effect,
and falls to the carpet."
(Jake Wildstrom)

When I'm taking my daughter to her birthday party, HUG DAUGHTER should not
give the default "Keep your mind on the game."
(Michael Martin)

David Fisher


David Fisher

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Mar 30, 2006, 9:54:36 PM3/30/06
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<steve....@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1143735400....@e56g2000cwe.googlegroups.com...

> David Fisher wrote:
>>
>> My understanding so far is that "immersion" is getting the player to feel
>> involved, hooked, emotionally engaged, interested and connected with the
>> story and its characters; the same kind of experience as reading a
>> gripping
>> book or watching a captivating movie. It is the opposite of feeling
>> uninvolved, detached, distanced, disconnected, uninterested and
>> unmotivated
>> to find out what happens in the story, or participate in its unfolding.
>
> That's fair enough, though vague. I think Victor Gijsbers gets it right
> that we're/you're actually talking about a number of different things
> here.

That is certainly true, but people still understand when you say something
like "an implausible plot twist totally broke my immersion in that game" or
"The writing was terrible, which made it hard to feel immersed in the game
world."

I think it's OK to use the word "immersion" without a qualifier like
"experiential" / "actorial" / "meta" (Victor's - helpful - terms), unless
you are trying to make a point about one type of immersion in particular.
People still know what you mean, I think. And if they don't, then you can
break out the qualifiers and get more specific about it all.

>> Anyone have any succint definitions of "immersion" in the sense usually
>> meant in reference to IF ?
>
> I think your numerous quotes indicate that people are not talking about
> a single thing when they use the word "immersion."

Just a minor point: not all of the quotes actually used the word
"immersion"; I was just trying to convey a sense of what I understood it to
mean, using them as illustrations.

The main usage (in that set of quotes, anyway) seems to be to do with
descriptions of the world and its objects, and maintaining a sense of
plausibility / believability - which fits with Michael and Tommy's comments
about not encountering the limitations of the game world.

> There is no standard, typical, technical or usual sense of the term
> (and it would be misreading people's intention to rigorously define
> the term).

So maybe it is OK that my definition above is "vague" ... :-)

David Fisher


David Fisher

unread,
Mar 31, 2006, 1:06:17 AM3/31/06
to
"Victor Gijsbers" <vic...@lilith.gotdns.org> wrote in message
news:e0gp6m$ouv$1...@mercury.leidenuniv.nl...

>
> I hope this is useful to David. If not, just tell me to shut up. ;)

It's all interesting stuff (and I read your two blog references), but I am
thinking along slightly different lines ... "immersion" in a very general
sense (or if you like, multiple kinds of immersion at the same time).

Thanks for your ideas,

David Fisher


ems...@mindspring.com

unread,
Mar 31, 2006, 1:22:24 AM3/31/06
to

If you want to gather all these things under one heading, then I think
what this phantom "immersion" really means is something like "faith
that the author has some consistent vision in mind, and is executing it
competently". All sorts of things can mar this: puzzles that are too
hard, or badly clued; points where the simulation breaks down and
transparently doesn't work according to the rules that the author
otherwise sets up; inconsistent tone; drastic narrative twists that
don't make much sense (something that put me off "Blue Chairs", though
perhaps unjustly); or, on the other hand, flabby descriptive writing,
vague setting, heavy reliance on default answers or cliché, all of
which suggest that the author wasn't trying for any one effect in
particular.

The trick is that once the player loses faith in the author, he stops
collaborating in the game: he may give up, or go to a walkthrough, or
he may just cease to play in earnest, and spend all his time looking
for fun ways to break the simulation, or typing swear words at the
parser. IF really needs the player's participation to work right; it's
not possible to write a game that will be fun *despite* the player.

David Fisher

unread,
Mar 31, 2006, 1:30:13 AM3/31/06
to
<ems...@mindspring.com> wrote in message
news:1143786144....@j33g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...

> The trick is that once the player loses faith in the author,
> he stops collaborating in the game

There's another familiar term ... how would you define "collaboration" in
regard to IF ?

David Fisher


ems...@mindspring.com

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Mar 31, 2006, 2:33:04 AM3/31/06
to

It's often used to mean "participating in the player character's
choices" or "sharing responsibility for the player character's
actions", but here I meant something a bit broader and more in line
with the traditional, non-specialized sense of the word: that the
player is trying to cooperate with the author, interact with the game
in the way he was intended to, follow the cues in the writing, and so
on. (It helps if the author has done something to signal in what ways
the player is meant to interact, of course.) For example, if the author
puts in a character who keeps talking to the PC, the cooperating player
might try talking back, asking questions, or otherwise allow himself to
be drawn into the conversation; the uncooperative one might walk away,
or simply be silent for a long time, to see whether the NPC's spiel
will run out and, if so, what will happen next. Conversation, timed
puzzles, and the parser are particularly likely to come off badly at
the hands of an unsympathetic player.

steve....@gmail.com

unread,
Mar 31, 2006, 6:06:25 AM3/31/06
to
David Fisher wrote, quoting me:

> > I think Victor Gijsbers gets it right
> > that we're/you're actually talking about a number of different things
> > here.
>
> That is certainly true, but people still understand when you say something
> like "an implausible plot twist totally broke my immersion in that game" or
> "The writing was terrible, which made it hard to feel immersed in the game
> world."

Yes these two sentences are fine, but note that in both cases the the
word "immersion" means only enjoyment, or our feeling that the game is
a good one. When I teach aesthetics, I select the vague "wiggle word"
term for further analysis -- "as an exercise, try to be as precise as
possible about what you mean by the word immersion" -- one major goal
being the recognition that we avoid a lot of thinking when we use vague
terms.

> I think it's OK to use the word "immersion" without a qualifier like
> "experiential" / "actorial" / "meta" (Victor's - helpful - terms), unless
> you are trying to make a point about one type of immersion in particular.
> People still know what you mean, I think. And if they don't, then you can
> break out the qualifiers and get more specific about it all.

[...]


> So maybe it is OK that my definition above is "vague" ... :-)

If I've somehow come off as saying that vagueness is not-OK, let me
correct this. It's okay to use it in a vague, casual, or even imprecise
way. But from an aesthetic theory point of view, if you want to truly
understand the term, you got to avoid over-valorizing it; and you've
got to let go of your desire for a single, unified meaning of the term.
Otherwise it hardens into bad theory, as a spiritual epiphany can
harden into a cold and distant icon -- and it will become subject to
fallacy. (Fallacy of interactivity, fallacy of realism, etc.)

there...@yahoo.com

unread,
Mar 31, 2006, 10:15:02 AM3/31/06
to
>> Oh, and don't have an "xyzzy" routine.

> I think Easter eggs are pretty innocent, myself ... the player doesn't have


to try them if they don't want to.

Does that even count as an Easter Egg any more? Isn't it more akin to
selecting "special features" and keying ENTER on your menu screen??

Ah, hell -- It's just that I beta-tested a game once, and the author
was keen to see if I'd tried xyzzy. I hadn't; I never think to do it,
but I went and tried it . . . and it was just wretched. Awful.
Screens and screens of non-interactive, alternate-ending text, and you
had to have seen a certain movie to really get it (if it was "gettable"
at all), so it was an inside joke with an inner inside joke. Except it
wasn't actually funny, just overtly, self-consciously weird. (Oh,
excuse me -- I mean "surreal".)

Brian Uri's "Augmented Fourth", which I adore, has separate xyzzy and
plugh routines. One is a one-liner, and the other is quite involved.
Both are amusing, but the one-liner works better.

Jacek Pudlo

unread,
Mar 31, 2006, 11:22:14 AM3/31/06
to
Emily dislikes

> drastic narrative twists that don't make
> much sense (something that put me off "Blue Chairs"

You mean like _Curses_ and _So Far_? Odd, because if I remember correctly
these are your all time favourite games. Your review of _So Far_ is almost
extatic. I wonder, has your attitude to incoherent narratives really changed
so drastically, or is it the name of the author that is the determining
factor?

Mike Roberts

unread,
Mar 31, 2006, 1:13:19 PM3/31/06
to
"David Fisher" <da...@hsa.com.au> wrote:
> My understanding so far is that "immersion" is getting the player to feel
> involved, hooked, emotionally engaged, interested and connected with the
> story and its characters; the same kind of experience as reading a
> gripping book or watching a captivating movie.

I'm not sure from what I've read of this thread if you're after a definition
of what immersion is, or an understanding of what techniques or qualities in
a work bring it about. The thread seemed to start out looking for the
latter, but has morphed somewhat into the former.

I think it's inherently hard to pin down a precise definition for immersion,
since it's one of those subjective-state things. To some extent the
definition almost has to be circular: immersion is the subjective state of
feeling immersed in something. Even so, to me, it's not adequate to say
that it's feeling involved, hooked, emotionally engaged, etc. To me,
immersion is a distinct subjective state that can't be decomposed like that;
in other words, it's a qualitative change, not just a degree of intensity.
The closest I can come to describing that state specifically is to say that
it's the feeling that you're *actually* there; it's the activation of some
kind of waking-dream circuitry in the brain that disconnects your locus of
consciousness from your physical surroundings and connects it instead to an
imagined setting.

--Mike
mjr underscore at hotmail dot com


Adam Thornton

unread,
Mar 31, 2006, 2:34:37 PM3/31/06
to
In article <WGcXf.50395$d5.2...@newsb.telia.net>,

Maybe it's more to do with the genre:

I adore _Curses_ in large part because of all the loopy Eliot throwaways
in it. _Curses_ is High Modernism, whereas _Blue Chairs_ is High
Postmodernism.

Adam

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Mar 31, 2006, 11:55:00 PM3/31/06
to
Jacek Pudlo says...

>
>Emily dislikes
>
>> drastic narrative twists that don't make
>> much sense (something that put me off "Blue Chairs"
>
>You mean like _Curses_ and _So Far_?

Look, if you are going to go to all the trouble of resenting
someone else's success, why not pick a billionaire? Or a famous
actor? Or a best-selling novelist? Or a popular TV talk show host?
Or maybe a brilliant scientist?

To be jealous of another person's success in the field of interactive
fiction is just completely pathetic. I'm not trying to insult interactive
fiction here, I'm just saying that it's a *very* small pond...

--
Daryl McCullough
Ithaca, NY


--
NewsGuy.Com 30Gb $9.95 Carry Forward and On Demand Bandwidth

Jacek Pudlo

unread,
Apr 1, 2006, 6:00:24 AM4/1/06
to

"Daryl McCullough" <stevend...@yahoo.com> skrev i meddelandet
news:e0l13...@drn.newsguy.com...

> Jacek Pudlo says...
>>
>>Emily dislikes
>>
>>> drastic narrative twists that don't make
>>> much sense (something that put me off "Blue Chairs"
>>
>>You mean like _Curses_ and _So Far_?
>
> Look, if you are going to go to all the trouble of resenting
> someone else's success, why not pick a billionaire?

Hmmm... [Jacek looks puzzled] Did you by any chance read what I wrote? Okay,
let me put this another way. Can you point to *anyhting* in Andrew Plotkin's
contribution to interactive *fiction* that could be called a success? Do you
think, for instance, that _So Far_ has a coherent and interesting plot? Does
the PC in _So Far_ strike as an engaging character? I know this going to be
hard, but try to forget who I am for a moment and focus instead on what I'm
saying.


Jacek Pudlo

unread,
Apr 1, 2006, 6:03:46 AM4/1/06
to
"Jacek Pudlo" <ja...@jacek.jacek> skrev i meddelandet
news:c3tXf.50537$d5.2...@newsb.telia.net...

(Sorry about that. I'm tired.)

Correction:

Does the PC in _So Far_ strike you as an engaging character? I know this is

Jacek Pudlo

unread,
Apr 1, 2006, 6:53:07 AM4/1/06
to
"Adam Thornton" <ad...@fsf.net> skrev i meddelandet
news:e0k08d$9el$1...@fileserver.fsf.net...

Could be a generational thing. People who were around and played IF in the
mid 90ies saw _Curses_ as a homage to Infocom's goofy and whimsical style
and didn't care if the story made no sense. I played _Curses_ around 2000
and was not only unimpressed by its goofiness, but also disappointed by the
incoherent and largely nonsensical story. It felt like watching Madame
Lumičre feed her toddler; a technical feat by the standards of 1895, yes,
but not much of a plot. In a way _Curses_ is an even worse offender than
those early Lumičre films since the initial scenes appear to carry a promise
of some kind of meaningful story, and technically it doesn't really do
anything that hasn't been done before.

Today we are still carrying the stigma of the mid 90ies. Those games made
purility and narrative dullness acceptable and are directly responsible for
titles like _Jesus of Nazareth_ and _The Dreamhold_. I'm glad that Emily
Short has finally grown a brain and can see _Blue Chairs_ for what it is. It
saddens me that she's not honest enough to extend her verdict to _So Far_.


Paul Drallos

unread,
Apr 1, 2006, 9:42:53 AM4/1/06
to
Rexx Magnus wrote:

> On Thu, 30 Mar 2006 03:00:07 GMT, David Fisher scrawled:
>
>
>>I'm trying to come up with a list of things that aid a sense of immersion
>>... any missing ?
>
>
> Sensory input. I try to make sure that not only sound and vision are catered
> for. I try to use touch for more than just activating things, along with
> smell and taste.
>

Sort of along the same lines as sensory input, this is related to something I just posted in another thread. That is, playing the game *with* someone. The thing about playing with someone is that you share the experience with a living person, you talk about it together like, 'Oh no. Remember when we tried that and this or that happened.' or "We gotta figure out a way to get that boat inflated or we're gonn be stuck here forever."... And between gaming sessions, it as as if the two of you shared a common real experience.

When I play a good old-school game with a friend, the memory of it is very much like a real experience. And the quality of the writing and limitation of the game world had little significance. We sdeveloped an inside jokes that we still use today, 25 years later, like the blunt reply, "There's a wall there."

Playing Zork with my wife back in the early days was, by far, my most enjoyable and imersive game experience. Second, was playing URU with my brother-in-law every night for almost two weeks 'till 3 in the morning. Sharing the experience makes it real.


Adam Thornton

unread,
Apr 1, 2006, 1:34:01 PM4/1/06
to
In article <DQtXf.50548$d5.2...@newsb.telia.net>,

Jacek Pudlo <ja...@jacek.jacek> wrote:
>"Adam Thornton" <ad...@fsf.net> skrev i meddelandet
>> _Curses_ is High Modernism, whereas _Blue Chairs_ is High
>> Postmodernism.

>Could be a generational thing.

You totally ignored my incredibly clever pun, you rotten
castle-squatting bastard.

I'm sulking. See? This is me, sulking.

Adam

P.S. You're also wrong: _Curses_ very definitely did something new. It
was a non-Infocom written game in Z-Machine format, and Inform was
written to allow its development. I seem to recall that you have on
occasion found Inform helpful.

Jacek Pudlo

unread,
Apr 1, 2006, 12:44:30 PM4/1/06
to
"Adam Thornton" <ad...@fsf.net> skrev i meddelandet
news:e0mh2p$uts$1...@fileserver.fsf.net...

> In article <DQtXf.50548$d5.2...@newsb.telia.net>,
> Jacek Pudlo <ja...@jacek.jacek> wrote:
>>"Adam Thornton" <ad...@fsf.net> skrev i meddelandet
>>> _Curses_ is High Modernism, whereas _Blue Chairs_ is High
>>> Postmodernism.
>
>>Could be a generational thing.
>
> You totally ignored my incredibly clever pun, you rotten
> castle-squatting bastard.

Yeah, you lost me there completely. What pun? Please elaborate.

> I'm sulking. See? This is me, sulking.

Do what all great men do -- drown your sorrows in booze and drugs.

> Adam
>
> P.S. You're also wrong: _Curses_ very definitely did something new. It
> was a non-Infocom written game in Z-Machine format, and Inform was
> written to allow its development. I seem to recall that you have on
> occasion found Inform helpful.

So whenever I ride a bicycle I should be grateful to the guy who invented
the wheel? Pff.


Adam Thornton

unread,
Apr 1, 2006, 4:08:06 PM4/1/06
to
In article <2_yXf.50608$d5.2...@newsb.telia.net>,

Jacek Pudlo <ja...@jacek.jacek> wrote:
>"Adam Thornton" <ad...@fsf.net> skrev i meddelandet
>news:e0mh2p$uts$1...@fileserver.fsf.net...
>> In article <DQtXf.50548$d5.2...@newsb.telia.net>,
>> Jacek Pudlo <ja...@jacek.jacek> wrote:
>>>"Adam Thornton" <ad...@fsf.net> skrev i meddelandet
>>>> _Curses_ is High Modernism, whereas _Blue Chairs_ is High
>>>> Postmodernism.
>>>Could be a generational thing.
>> You totally ignored my incredibly clever pun, you rotten
>> castle-squatting bastard.
>Yeah, you lost me there completely. What pun? Please elaborate.

"High Modernism" because T.S. Eliot--on whose _The Waste Land_ _Curses_
is largely constructed--is generally regarded as the most significant of
the "High Modernists." "High Postmodernism" because _Blue Chairs_ is
postmodern in its mixing of memory and desire^W^W^W high and pop culture
references, and high on drugs.

Each and every day, I scatter my pearls before swine. Sort of like a
single perfect sapphire in the mud, only different.

Adam

Daryl McCullough

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Apr 1, 2006, 3:25:25 PM4/1/06
to
Jacek Pudlo says...

>Hmmm... [Jacek looks puzzled] Did you by any chance read what I wrote?

Yes, that's why I wrote what I wrote.

>Okay, let me put this another way. Can you point to *anyhting* in
>Andrew Plotkin's contribution to interactive *fiction* that could
>be called a success?

Your obsession with him?

Jacek Pudlo

unread,
Apr 1, 2006, 4:30:07 PM4/1/06
to
"Adam Thornton" <ad...@fsf.net> skrev i meddelandet
news:e0mq3m$1kq$1...@fileserver.fsf.net...

> In article <2_yXf.50608$d5.2...@newsb.telia.net>,
> Jacek Pudlo <ja...@jacek.jacek> wrote:
>>"Adam Thornton" <ad...@fsf.net> skrev i meddelandet
>>news:e0mh2p$uts$1...@fileserver.fsf.net...
>>> In article <DQtXf.50548$d5.2...@newsb.telia.net>,
>>> Jacek Pudlo <ja...@jacek.jacek> wrote:
>>>>"Adam Thornton" <ad...@fsf.net> skrev i meddelandet
>>>>> _Curses_ is High Modernism, whereas _Blue Chairs_ is High
>>>>> Postmodernism.
>>>>Could be a generational thing.
>>> You totally ignored my incredibly clever pun, you rotten
>>> castle-squatting bastard.
>>Yeah, you lost me there completely. What pun? Please elaborate.
>
> "High Modernism" because T.S. Eliot--on whose _The Waste Land_ _Curses_
> is largely constructed--is generally regarded as the most significant of
> the "High Modernists." "High Postmodernism" because _Blue Chairs_ is
> postmodern in its mixing of memory and desire^W^W^W high and pop culture
> references, and high on drugs.

Fiendishly clever. [Jacek suppresses a yawn]

_The Waste Land_ never occured to me in connection with _Curses_. I barely
remember _Curses_ now. There's Alexandria, of course. Is there anything else
there that would support your claim? Do these references point to anything
meaningful, or are they just a study in gratuitous quotes, like the
Designer's Manual?

> Each and every day, I scatter my pearls before swine. Sort of like a
> single perfect sapphire in the mud, only different.

_Burnt Norton_. Clever again.


Stevie B

unread,
Apr 1, 2006, 5:34:25 PM4/1/06
to

Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyant, would normally enter the room at
this point and explain all of Adam's puns with a reading of her tarot
cards. However, she is currently unavailable due to a bad cold, so
you'll have to unravel their profound mysteries without her help.

Hurry up please. It's time.

Adam Thornton

unread,
Apr 2, 2006, 3:14:35 AM4/2/06
to
In article <zhCXf.50631$d5.2...@newsb.telia.net>,

Jacek Pudlo <ja...@jacek.jacek> wrote:
>Fiendishly clever. [Jacek suppresses a yawn]

Hey, it's what passes for discourse in these debased times. Hate the
game, not the player.

>_The Waste Land_ never occured to me in connection with _Curses_. I barely
>remember _Curses_ now. There's Alexandria, of course. Is there anything else
>there that would support your claim? Do these references point to anything
>meaningful, or are they just a study in gratuitous quotes, like the
>Designer's Manual?

There's Madame Sosostris and the recurrent use of the Tarot. I don't
know, though, whether Graham is familiar with the exact composition of
the Tarot pack. There's the Unreal City. Do these add up to a coherent
whole? I'd venture to say that you don't think they do, since you feel
(I think) that the whole game is an incoherent hodgepodge. I'd say
they're more directed than a "study in gratuitous [quotations],"
though.

>> Each and every day, I scatter my pearls before swine. Sort of like a
>> single perfect sapphire in the mud, only different.
>
>_Burnt Norton_. Clever again.

If I didn't have intertextuality I wouldn't have any textuality at all.
Oh well. I was hoping you were going to ask about the pearls-and-swine,
because I had an obscene rejoinder all ready to go. Ah well. I'll just
have to put it into my next fiendishly clever game.

Adam

Rexx Magnus

unread,
Apr 3, 2006, 8:27:10 AM4/3/06
to
On Sat, 01 Apr 2006 14:42:53 GMT, Paul Drallos scrawled:

> When I play a good old-school game with a friend, the memory of it is
> very much like a real experience. And the quality of the writing and
> limitation of the game world had little significance. We sdeveloped an
> inside jokes that we still use today, 25 years later, like the blunt
> reply, "There's a wall there."
>
> Playing Zork with my wife back in the early days was, by far, my most
> enjoyable and imersive game experience. Second, was playing URU with my
> brother-in-law every night for almost two weeks 'till 3 in the morning.
> Sharing the experience makes it real.
>
>

My favourite game ever was 'World' - never got anyone else to play it
though. It's a shame it's not available in .z format, really. Most of the
time it seems to be a compiled dos program.

I think it struck something in my memory, as there were places in the
woods that were a lot like the prehistoric region in the game. Obviously,
there was nothing like the area with chlorine atmosphere, or the mars
region. :)

--
http://www.rexx.co.uk
To email me, visit the site.

http://www.rexx.co.uk/runes/ - personal online rune readings

dns...@gmail.com

unread,
Apr 3, 2006, 12:44:02 PM4/3/06
to
Jacek Pudlo wote:

> "Jacek Pudlo" <ja...@jacek.jacek> skrev i meddelandet
> news:c3tXf.50537$d5.2...@newsb.telia.net...

> Does the PC in _So Far_ strike you as an engaging character? I know this is


> going to be hard, but try to forget who I am for a moment and focus instead
> on what I'm saying.

Sorry. You lost your chance at a discussion of Emily's and Zarf's work
several dozen spittle-flecked rants ago: it's already clear that you're
not interested in a rational exchange on the subject, so no one's going
to bother responding substantively to someone whose sole purpose, it
can reasonably be assumed, is to troll. In other words, that you have
to beg everyone to forget who you are should tell you something, Jacek.
Perhaps you shouldn't have spent the past several years making an ass
of yourself.

--Duncan

Benjamin Caplan

unread,
Apr 3, 2006, 12:57:27 PM4/3/06
to
I'm going to ignore the preceding flamewar of questionable relevance.

I want believable NPCs, people that act and talk and think like real
people. That's what really pulls me in.
Also, I need to care about the PC. Otherwise I get bored, rather than
engaged, by obstacles (puzzles).
Vocabulary depth is important, too.

In short, I want my thoughts to translate naturally into the game
world, and vice versa.
But I guess that's what you were asking in the first place.

David Fisher

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Apr 3, 2006, 7:48:08 PM4/3/06
to
<steve....@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1143803185.7...@i40g2000cwc.googlegroups.com...

>
> When I teach aesthetics, I select the vague "wiggle word"
> term for further analysis -- "as an exercise, try to be as precise as
> possible about what you mean by the word immersion" -- one major goal
> being the recognition that we avoid a lot of thinking when we use vague
> terms.

I think I see where you are coming from ...

> If I've somehow come off as saying that vagueness is not-OK, let me
> correct this. It's okay to use it in a vague, casual, or even imprecise
> way. But from an aesthetic theory point of view, if you want to truly
> understand the term, you got to avoid over-valorizing it; and you've
> got to let go of your desire for a single, unified meaning of the term.
> Otherwise it hardens into bad theory, as a spiritual epiphany can
> harden into a cold and distant icon -- and it will become subject to
> fallacy. (Fallacy of interactivity, fallacy of realism, etc.)

Understood. I usually like being precise about terminology, but in this
thread I was just trying to be very general (and assuming there was a
generally accepted idea of "immersion" in regard to IF, which maybe there
isn't after all).

David Fisher


David Fisher

unread,
Apr 3, 2006, 8:04:19 PM4/3/06
to
"Mike Roberts" <mj...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:3jeXf.64956$dW3....@newssvr21.news.prodigy.com...

> I'm not sure from what I've read of this thread if you're after a
> definition of what immersion is, or an understanding of what techniques or
> qualities in a work bring it about. The thread seemed to start out
> looking for the latter, but has morphed somewhat into the former.

Uh, mostly the latter - what aids a sense of immersion - but since people
have different ideas about the definition, that bit too.

> I think it's inherently hard to pin down a precise
> definition for immersion, since it's one of those
> subjective-state things. To some extent the definition
> almost has to be circular: immersion is the subjective
> state of feeling immersed in something.

:-)

> The closest I can come to describing that state specifically
> is to say that it's the feeling that you're *actually* there;
> it's the activation of some kind of waking-dream circuitry
> in the brain that disconnects your locus of consciousness
> from your physical surroundings and connects it instead to
> an imagined setting.

From this description, and a few other comments people have made, it may
have more to do with the player than the game, then (eg. a child with an
active imagination playing Zork for the first time may have a much more
immersive experience than a jaded adult playing the same game).

But there still seem to be things that either contribute to or break someone
out of an immersive experience; a particular game can be made either more or
less immersive for the average player.

David Fisher


David Fisher

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Apr 3, 2006, 8:10:26 PM4/3/06
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"Benjamin Caplan" <celestial...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:1144083446.9...@g10g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...

>
> I want believable NPCs, people that act and talk and think like real
> people. That's what really pulls me in.

Are there any games where you see this already, or are you thinking of
future IF with more advanced NPCs than the ones around right now ?

> In short, I want my thoughts to translate naturally into the game
> world, and vice versa.

Could you expand on this one a bit more ?

David Fisher


Jacek Pudlo

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Apr 4, 2006, 3:16:14 AM4/4/06
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<dns...@gmail.com> skrev i meddelandet
news:1144082642....@v46g2000cwv.googlegroups.com...

Why are you wasting your time arguing with someone who hasn't even earned
the right to discuss Empress Em's and Zarf's work? If I'm a mad troll, then
arguing *against* me is hardly constructive. Do something positive for a
change. Argue *for* them instead. Explain to us -- no, better still,
*lecture* us on the excellence of Empress Em's and Zarf's IF. Those of us
who can't see this excellence must be blind, or stupid, or both. Open our
eyes.

Start with _Galatea_ and _The Dreamhold_. These are their flagship, the
games that received the most hysterical acclaim. To this day there exists
not a single negative review of _Galatea_. And yet whenever I try playing it
I find myself yawning. There must be something wrong with me. Heal me.
Explain to me why spending two hours with Galatea is a fun and rewarding
pastime.


Magnus Olsson

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Apr 4, 2006, 7:16:45 AM4/4/06
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In article <1143803185.7...@i40g2000cwc.googlegroups.com>,

<steve....@gmail.com> wrote:
>David Fisher wrote, quoting me:
>> > I think Victor Gijsbers gets it right
>> > that we're/you're actually talking about a number of different things
>> > here.
>>
>> That is certainly true, but people still understand when you say something
>> like "an implausible plot twist totally broke my immersion in that game" or
>> "The writing was terrible, which made it hard to feel immersed in the game
>> world."
>
>Yes these two sentences are fine, but note that in both cases the the
>word "immersion" means only enjoyment, or our feeling that the game is
>a good one.

Not quite, I think. My interpretation of the sentences above is that
the word "immersion" may certainly be used in a vague way, but that
it's *not* used a synonym for "enjoyment" or "feeling that the game


is a good one".

To me, it would make perfect sense to say something like "the game
was quite enjoyable, despite the fact that the lack of descriptions
made it hard to feel immersed in the game world" (about a game
where, for example, the game world felt very abstract and generic,
but the plot and puzzles were fun).

The point is that immersion is but one component of enjoyment, and
even if we aren't very clear about exactly what constitutes
"immersion", we know what it isn't.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)
PGP Public Key available at http://www.df.lth.se/~mol

steve....@gmail.com

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Apr 4, 2006, 8:42:23 AM4/4/06
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Magnus Olsson wrote:

> To me, it would make perfect sense to say something like "the game
> was quite enjoyable, despite the fact that the lack of descriptions
> made it hard to feel immersed in the game world" (about a game
> where, for example, the game world felt very abstract and generic,
> but the plot and puzzles were fun).

Sure, it's alright to say something like that. It's another thing to
mistake that there's some clear aesthetic expression in the word
"immersion," when in fact it's saying something less than it pretends.

If you or I were writing something carefully, and wanted its meaning
clear and efficiently expressed, and as easily approachable as the
meaning permits -- if we're writing something good -- then we wouldn't
write a sentence like the one you suggest. Instead of...

> The game was quite enjoyable, despite the fact that the lack of descriptions made it
> hard to feel immersed in the game world.

...we'd probably write something that more closely matches the meaning
(which you have to explain in your parenthesis anyway, to make it
clear)...

> Although the generic descriptions made the word feel abstract and uninvolving, the
> game's plot and puzzles were fun.

In short, if we're writing your best, we're probably going to avoid
such words as "immersion," or if we use them, we'll use them in the
same sense that a good writer uses words like "good" -- that is, by
following it with a definition or qualification which helps eliminate
some of the vagaries and reorients the word in the current context. We
certainly wouldn't let a word like this do the heavy lifting for us (as
you do in your example sentence).

> [E]ven if we aren't very clear about exactly what constitutes


> "immersion", we know what it isn't.

I think negative critique is the correct approach here, and so I try to
indicate what we are not going to accomplish with this word: I point
out that negative definition will not net some positive meaning.

If you can't define a word positively (without badly cheating), then
using it is probably not going to help make your meaning clearer. Use
it still, but be careful not to over-valorize it, or lay it down as a
cornerstone of some thereby misguided aesthetic theory.

Let me think some more, and then I'll try to respond to the more
general problem in David's "Good IF" post.

Magnus Olsson

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Apr 6, 2006, 4:25:25 AM4/6/06
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In article <1144154543.6...@g10g2000cwb.googlegroups.com>,

<steve....@gmail.com> wrote:
>Magnus Olsson wrote:
>
>> To me, it would make perfect sense to say something like "the game
>> was quite enjoyable, despite the fact that the lack of descriptions
>> made it hard to feel immersed in the game world" (about a game
>> where, for example, the game world felt very abstract and generic,
>> but the plot and puzzles were fun).
>
>Sure, it's alright to say something like that. It's another thing to
>mistake that there's some clear aesthetic expression in the word
>"immersion," when in fact it's saying something less than it pretends.

Well, yes. I think we're talking slightly att cross-purposes - I
wasn't disputing your claim that the word "immersion" is vague and
ill-defined, but merely the follwing assertion:

> David Fisher wrote, quoting me:

>> That is certainly true, but people still understand when you say something
>> like "an implausible plot twist totally broke my immersion in that game" or

>> "The writing was terrible, which made it hard to feel immersed in the game
>> world."

>Yes these two sentences are fine, but note that in both cases the the


>word "immersion" means only enjoyment, or our feeling that the game is
>a good one.

If that were generally true, then my example above would be
a contradiction. More specifically, I don't read David's examples as
if "immersion" were merely synonymous to "enjoyment".

But this is a digression - if your real point is that the word
"immersion" is too vague to use in a theoretical discussion of what
constitutes good IF, or (even worse) for normative purposes ("a good
work of IF should allow the player to immerse herself in it"), then I
agree with you.

Mind you, I still might use the word to define what I mean by
"good IF", but after reading this thread I'd take care to define it
("By 'immersing herself', I mean...").

Sorry if I'm expressing myself a bit badly above - I've got a
headcold combined with jetlag and the words don't seem to come out
quite right. But I hope you get my meaning.

steve....@gmail.com

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Apr 6, 2006, 5:25:51 PM4/6/06
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Magnus Olsson wrote:
> Sorry if I'm expressing myself a bit badly above[.]

Not at all -- and I didn't mean to sound like I disagreed; I was only
taking the opportunity to clarify my point. I certainly get your
meaning, and it sounds like we're in perfect agreement.

Benjamin Caplan

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Apr 22, 2006, 1:18:31 PM4/22/06
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David Fisher wrote:

> Benjamin Caplan wrote:
> > I want believable NPCs, people that act and talk and think like real
> > people. That's what really pulls me in.
>
> Are there any games where you see this already, or are you thinking of
> future IF with more advanced NPCs than the ones around right now ?

Jacek Pudlo wrote:
> Start with _Galatea_ and _The Dreamhold_. These are their flagship, the
> games that received the most hysterical acclaim. To this day there exists
> not a single negative review of _Galatea_. And yet whenever I try playing it
> I find myself yawning. There must be something wrong with me. Heal me.
> Explain to me why spending two hours with Galatea is a fun and rewarding
> pastime.

Mr. Pudlo, you are now an ex-troll. Welcome to the real world.


We are now very far distant from text adventure games. The reason I
talk to Galatea has nothing to do with gaming or adventuring, which may
be why it doesn't appeal to certain tastes. (Yes, it's okay not to like
something that other people love. Lots of people think Jackson
Pollock's masterpieces look like moose drool.)
I wouldn't necessarily call Galatea "fun", but she is enjoyable and
rewarding to talk to. The best analogy I can think of is tragedic
theatre (though I usually don't get tragic endings in _Galatea_), in
that you don't go for a fun time, gee whiz, but it's rewarding and
worthwhile nonetheless.
I repeat, it's okay not to like _Galatea_. But you may have better
success thinking of Galatea as a person or a work of art, rather than
thinking of _Galatea_ as a game.
Galatea is enjoyable to spend time with because she feels like a human
being -- she has feelings, and memories, and she's complex inside.
There's enough of her that there's something to fall in love with.
She's substantial.
There are those who dismiss this on the grounds that you might as well
talk to a *real* person. I make analogy here to (with apologies) a
statue in an art gallery. A statue, like an NPC, is an artificial
representation of a person, composed and arranged and presented
artistically. Even if it is in a realistic style, in an artless pose,
then it is because the sculptor is artistically presenting artlessness.
Galatea is more interesting than a real person because she is created
with artistic intent. Real people have long boring stretches, or may
not always reveal their inner complexity. Galatea is designed to
display her complexity.
There have been far better discussions than mine by far more
intelligent people than myself on the purposes of artificial
intelligence and of fiction in general, so I will not attempt further
to explore the topic here. Suffice it to say that Galatea deserves her
reputation as the gold standard for all NPCs.


Benjamin Caplan

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