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Wednesday 10 June 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: Immersion

Now, just what is Immersion?

Apparently, its the "rpg theory" term for the situation where you're roleplaying and get really deeply into your character. Where you become the character, so to say.

Now, I really wasn't too up on the Swine-talk over at the Forge about the topic, but apparently they despise Immersion down there. The claim is that immersion is either something that is impossible to achieve, or meaningless, or a mark of mental illness (in fact, it seems to tie into Ron Edward's aggresive statements that all mainstream gamers are suffering from "literal brain damage").

This surprised me a little; I mean, shit, you would think that the Swine would be all over the namby-pamby talking about "becoming the role" and all that bullshit. But the truth is that there's a crucial difference: the Swine want to talk about roleplaying, not actually roleplay. And immersion is far too simple a method and a goal; it would ruin all the fun of creating convoluted theories and devising idiotic systems to "facilitate storytelling".

Its like "method" acting. "The Method" seems like it would be all about "immersion" in the acting context, but in reality it considers that directly trying to just "be" the character is impossible, and that you do a better job of acting the character by following a series of related exercises that create a kind of "character pastiche".

There's the famous incident where Sir Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman were making a movie together. Hoffman was a famous devotee of "the Method", and was trying to explain its virtues to the elder Olivier. Olivier just looked at the stupid fuck as if to wonder what kind of goofballs Dustin had popped and said "My dear boy, why don't you just ACT it?"

It's the same with the Roleplaying world. Immersion is, basically, doing a very good job of acting it. And of course it's possible, most of us that are any good at all at Roleplaying have done it many, many times. So the Swine resorting to denying a phenomenon that is brutally obvious and real to the vast majority of gamers is a move of desperation, to justify the creation of idiotic mechanics to try to stimulate what more talented or less fucked up gamers can just do naturally.

Perhaps the reason why Edwards claimed that all gamers are mentally damaged is because he is projecting his own experience (and those of his followers) on the gaming community at large.
But here's a news flash for Mr.Edwards: most of us are able to make "story" and "play in character" just fine, fuckwit. We've been doing it for years, Olivier-style, by just acting it. Too bad that kind of wrecks your little website's raison d'etre, since your gaming theories all operate on the presumption that people are fundamentally incapable of creating either story or acting the character without the help of your "crutches".


(originally posted Feb 14th 2006)


  1. Robbie Wheeling is th greatest immersive role player of all time. What he did with his cleric Pardieu is what we all should aspire to.

  2. >but apparently they despise Immersion down there. The claim is that immersion is either something that is impossible to achieve, or meaningless, or a mark of mental illness
    No it isn't, and never has been. You ascribe to Edwards and other Forge people things they've never said. As always.

    1. Dude, there were times when the forgies were claiming that anyone who really had the experience of 'full immersion' had to have psychological problems...