[MUD-Dev] Levels of immersion

Richard A. Bartle richard at mud.co.uk
Thu Dec 21 10:11:03 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

On 18th December 2000, Tess Snider wrote:

> on the games that I played, people who were immersed at the persona
> level created serious problems, for reasons that I have discussed
> previously.

I think we're talking about different things here. You seem to be
concerned with immersion in a character; I'm concerned with immersion
in the game world. They don't have to be the same thing at all.

> In short, persona-immersed players find it extremely difficult to
> engage in the level of give-and-take compromise required for a
> cooperative roleplaying game to survive in any kind of healthy
> fashion.

I'd certainly agree that players who are fully immersed in a game
world can find themselves angry, confused and betrayed by people who
role-play; after all, if in real life someone you trusted did
something awful to you and told you they were "just role-playing", you
might get a little upset about it. Similarly, people who are
role-playing and find that there are a bunch of people who take a game
"too seriously" can be very put out when they're accused of all manner
of misdeeds when they don't feel they've done anything wrong. There's
a definite clash of perceptions.

> When a player perceives his character's misfortunes as his own, he
> simply can't make objective decisions about his character's fate in
> the context of the greater framing story

>From the other side, the persona-immersed player would say that when a
player perceives their character as a mask they can hide behind in
order to wreak untold damage on other, real people, they simply can
not be trusted and therefore can never be a functioning part of the

> At this point, he's taking from the game, and not contributing
> anything in return.

This same charge could be levelled at role players by the non-role

> My experiences with observing persona-level immersion and its
> effects tend to come largely from that context.  So, my attitudes
> are profoundly coloured by that. Someone from another background
> might, understandably, feel very differently!

Oh, they certainly do!

I'm not suggesting that either way is "better" than the other, by the
way; indeed, I feel there ought to be a balance. In particular, I have
grave reservations about the current vogue for the wholesale
persecution of role-players of the PK variety in order to placate the
"I won't play if some jerk can kill me" persona-level immersion a lot
of players espouse (if not actually experience).

> Heck, a good character roleplayer might even be unwittingly
> complicit in the heightened immersion of another player. :)

This is precisely the reason I feel that a balance is the most
appropriate model.

I think we probably basically agree, here.

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