I promise this is the last bit of forum related ranting for a while, at least until I have another relapse. I feel like I need to purge these thoughts from my system, like I am creating a kind of trauma narrative for the treatment of PTFSD (Post Traumatic Forum Stress Disorder). One debate/argument/feces flinging topic on the “What’s a DM to Do” forum that’s as prevalent as the whole alignment nonsense is this concept of immersion and the sin that is the meta-game.
I know what you’re thinking. How on earth can you argue about something that is so subjective and tied to an individual’s unique inner experience that trying to get a common definition of what it means is like trying to grab smoke let alone what would break it? It makes me think of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where the main protagonist had a mental breakdown trying to quantify quality. Despite this, I find that people are pretty quick to condemn others actions or play styles as immersion breaking with the underlying implication that your game is a steaming pile of shit….and you suck. I’ll give you brief example of the subjective nature of immersion. If you look at mood music during the session some people will say that it enhances their experience and makes them feel like they are living the moment through their character. Conversely, others might say it distracts them and pulls them out of the situation because there is no music when you do things in real life or the music makes it too “cinematic”. Finally there will be others who won’t give a fuck or even notice. Yet these terms get argued and applied as absolute truths.
On the forums I usually see the argument go something like this: DM starts a thread complaining that his players aren’t following the adventure hook or plot that they have created either intentionally or through confusion resulting in a frustrating play experience. The responses often include ideas like don’t write plots/railroad, provide more “meta” game information about what the options are, incorporate more collaborative story telling, or sharing story/plot idea in order to facilitate buy in. This is usually about the time that the flaming begins with accusations of immersion breaking, dick players, and lazy DMs getting hurled about. I have to admit when I read people bash others play styles like this it evokes in me a sense of dissatisfaction or lack of power in their real lives. There also seems like a little anal rigidity happening in their not being able to tolerate things going differently than what they’ve imagined or planned out, but I digress..
Coming back to the subjective nature of “immersion”, I think people need to keep in mind that what immersion means and feels like is different from person to person as well as what would “break” it or even how important it is at the gaming table. So statements like “that’s breaks immersion”, should really be replaced with “that breaks immersion for me”. My blogger buddy Mr. Morrison’s recent post pushed me to thinking of immersion as being a component of what someone might conceptualize as their overall play style. The more people play with others that share similar conceptions of play style or at least who’s play style range overlap the less in group conflict there might be. In the end maybe people are better off finding and playing with people that have a similar vision of what immersion is and the degree of its importance at the game table.
I am going to stop it here as this rant seems like it;s becoming a little incoherent or at least I am beginning to confuse even myself, but rest assured this “exposure therapy” helped a great deal towards recovery from my relapse into forum reading.