Simulation and Immersion

There’s a new series of articles going up on RPG.net about my favorite gaming topics – simulation and immersion. I don’t read the Big Purple much any more but that got my attention!

What the heck are “simulation” and “immersion?” Ignoring whatever demented things Ron Edwards of the FORGE tried to redefine them as, here’s what they mean.

simulation – the job of the GM and game world is to simulate an authentic fictional reality. Events unfold according to in-world physics and realistic behavior of the actors in that universe (and not a preconception of story). The game’s rules are meant to simulate that world and not metagame concerns. See A Simulationist Manifesto. Simulation is generally a good first step to enabling immersion.

immersion – the practice of taking on your character’s personality in the game and trying to experience the fictional world through their eyes and make decisions entirely from their viewpoint. Similar in nature to method acting. See Fundamental Elements of Simulationist-Immersive Roleplaying.

I find this to be the most enjoyable form of gaming. It’s rare – most groups role-play very lightly, even when they are generally simulationist. And a lot of recent game design seriously pushes games in other directions – focus on the game rules as a good in and of themselves and/or on story production/enforcement mechanics have even hit D&D in Fourth Edition. People talk about “story immersion” but it’s really a fundamentally different thing that just means “engrossing.”

However, I’ve played in and run some truly deep in character games and they are really awesome experiences. I hope the series really delves into the topic!

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6 responses to “Simulation and Immersion

  1. Thanks for the heads-up. I really enjoyed those. I guess I have been struggling to say the same things over the short life of my blog without taking the time to seek out and ponder the terms and stances developed for the debate by those who took these post game musings out of coffee shops and onto the net…. although I hate the limitation of labels.

    Being aware of stylistic approaches and options, but standing back to let others’ dice roll as they may is a level of politeness and common sense that seems to elude the strident participants of the core argument referenced in the manifesto. It was refreshing to see the author take pains to state grievances clearly as well as preferences while proposing an inclusive approach for a wider tolerance of play styles – even at the same table.refrefreferenced in the manifesto

  2. I figured you’d like it! You’re the only regular blog I know that is concerned with immersion.

  3. After playing games with this play style, I haven’t been able to play any other way for years. He’s got some great articles so far and I could certainly tell from your previous blog articles, mxyzplk, that you had the same play style. Can’t wait for more of these! It’s too bad he only posts once per month; I could read them all day.

  4. Thanks for the links and the post. I try to run an immersive game myself. But I’ve also noticed the trend towards players who are more interested in playing the game (e.g., manipulating game mechanics, optimizing characters, etc.) They’re having fun with that, so I’ve tried to enable that aspect of gaming at my table as well. Challenging!

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