Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Sim and Immersion

So I was just skimming this Story-Games post.

It seems to me that Sim and Immersion have the same problem. They're both too damn big.

Let us take some hypothetical examples.

A: I like Sim play!
B: Cool, me too! Lets's play X.
A: But....X isn't Sim. There's not even mechanics for drowning and falling!
B: But...yeh it is. In the books, no-one ever drowns or falls. Why the hell should there be mechanics for it? But there are mechanics for doing double-somersaults! Those are totally in all of the books!
A: Uh...ok. But no-one could -actually- do double-somersaults in that world. There's too much gravity. That's actually my big problem with the books - not internally consistent. This game, on the other hand....

A: I like Immersionist play!
B: Cool, me too! Let's play X.
A: But...X isn't immersionist. It has too many die rolls. How can I immerse when I have to pick up the dice all the time?
B: But...yeh it is. Every time I play I get so totally immersed in the story, man. It's awesome.
A: Uh...ok.

I'm not a huge fan of making new terms and categories...but really. Damn. I don't think there's going to be much productive discussion until subcommunities of these over-broad categories manage to clearly delineate what they do and why they like it, thus making it possible to compare and contrast amongst those delineations.

It's like, fuck. If we only had the word "fruit," it would be awfully hard to order a damn watermelon, now wouldn't it.

It's as much a problem with Narrativism, too, though. How many flavors and proposed flavors of narrativist play have we seen recently, especially with that spate of Manifesto posts on story-games? I think it's just the very very healthy realization that the three identified CAs are in fact umbrella categories.

As for immersion... meh. It's a phenomenon. Two players same game, one immersing, the other not, doesn't say anything about whether the game is "immersive" or not. It's about the same as saying a game is "challenging" or "political" or "emotional." It can be, for some players, at some instances. But it's hardly a characteristic of the game system; it's a characteristic of the player's experience of an individual game.
And now you now how much more the suffering is when we talk about playing Ball.

But seriously, I think both words get confusion from different sources.

Sim once was all-encompassing of all things non-Gamist, non-Narrativist, until folks started recognizing that zilchplay and dysfunctional play are not small fractions of play... which cut away a huge chunk of play being attributed to Sim that had nothing to do with Sim at all.

And Immersion? That word almost always has one of 4 possible meanings depending on the person using it:

a) Strong actor stance only play
b) Little Handling time by the mechanics
c) Feeling empathy for your character
d) Being -engaged- with play

It's pretty easy to see how all 4 of those are vastly different things.

It's pretty hard to talk about subtle distinctions when we're still trying to convey the basics without miscommunication.

I can't help it if people use terms about big, aesthetic stuff when they're trying to talk about techniques stuff. Or more likely, uncritically mashing the two together in their heads.

It's specialized vocabulary. Each level of terms is utilized to talk about a specific level of the issue. This isn't a problem of the terms, but of people who want to say vague things and have their listeners "just know" what they mean.
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