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Active Topical Banter - Episode 5: Immersion and Other Buzzwords

Fowl SorcerousFowl Sorcerous Dread News EditorRPGamer Staff
edited June 2014 in Latest Updates
Immersion, engagement and a few other ten dollar words get taken to task by our panel. Both the design and marketing side of the terminology equation are weighed and measured. Also there's some stuff about the future and the inception of the Sam Marchello Fan club.

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Talking Points for the Episode:
-Scott explains what the heck he means when he says genre spectrum.
-Immersion as meaningless buzzword vs actual gameplay experience.
-The Back of the box is bunk.
-Engagement and investment as related concepts that reflect a more holistic view of gameplay, perhaps more apt in the face of the menu-based gaming we seem to like so much.
-aesthetic and kinesthetic value
-exemplifying these ideas across the genre spectrum

And congratulations to our Comment "contest" winner: Texside and our comment contest "winner": Rya.Riesender

general feedback thread


  • Rya_ReisenderRya_Reisender Solipsist Snowflake Full Members
    edited June 2014
    I didn't realize you can win something, I'm just discussing for the sake of enjoying discussions!
    But yay me.
    -Immersion as meaningless buzzword vs actual gameplay experience.
    Just two days ago, I read an interview of the art director of Tree of Savior and man, I do love almost everything she says. But in one part she said that 2D graphics without rotatable camera increase the immersion because you see the character from all sides. I found it strange that the word "immersion" was used here, because despite my love for 2D graphics and my hatred towards 3D graphics, I'd claim that first person perspective always has the highest immersion graphics-wise.

    I'd rather point out that 2D non-rotable camera graphics allow for amazing hand-drawn backgrounds and also are less likely to get someone lost. And you save yourself from the stupid "need to rotate camera to see what's behind the house" aspect.

    Reference: http://blog.treeofsavior.com/en/?p=134
    Instead of just showing characters’ backs, we wanted 3rd person point of view so that players can be more immersed into the game
    perhaps more apt in the face of the menu-based gaming we seem to like so much.
    Do we? I often feel like I'm spending too much time browsing menus in games.
    Now THAT kills immersion while we're at it.
  • smacdsmacd Full Members
    edited June 2014
    The back of the box buzzwords are something I've trained myself to just ignore. I have to agree with the sentiment that hours are not a selling point to me like they used to be, high numbers have gone from being a Plus to a big Minus as I get older. While I want to get my money's worth- a 60+ hour game that isn't from Bethesda is not what I want anymore.

    As for buzzwords in general, as I spend more and more time working in the software industry, I have learned that the entire buzzword market both internally and externally for most companies is just a huge business. There are people like us who employ real critical thinking and look beyond buzzwords to identify the actual content, but quite frankly the vast majority of people are just non-thinking sheep. I mean, statistically most people are gamers, and half the population has below-average IQ, and I think that those people are the targets of buzzwords in general. Its hard to take it seriously for some of us, but it apparently works, at least works well enough to get the people who come up with that kind of propaganda employed.
  • lolwhoopslolwhoops happy accident HalifaxRPGamer Staff
    edited June 2014
    I'm inclined to agree with smacd. critical thinking skills do not come naturally and, to be frank, most people never get them. Look at politics, look at game reviews, look at quotes from movie reviewers that end up in trailers. Flip flop, 7/10, blahblahblah calls it "riveting" and "unforgettable." They grab your attention with little information but mean a lot to some people.

    Thanks to the internet, I have a pretty easy time of finding the games I want to play. Perhaps too easy, if my collection were to speak.
    lolwhoops: a Gamer's Blog
    ^^is my blog! Updates whenever I feel like it! :D which happens a lot more often now!
    this is my twitter! come twit with me
  • Strawberry EggsStrawberry Eggs Hands off the parfait! Administrators
    edited June 2014
    Count me as someone who likes goofy extra dialogue ala Tales's skits, Fire Emblem's supports conversations, and Bravely Default's party chats. I appreciate the additional characterization and comedy. That's not to say that it's always done well: Arc Rise Fantasia's party chats were wasted on the characters banally commenting on recent events rather than shedding any additional light on the cast or for amusing banter (or amusing banter that sheds light on the cast).

    Can't say I ever paid much, if any attention to these buzzwords. What gets me excited is learning about the gameplay, story and characters not whether it's an "immersive world" or what-have-you. Number of hours is also meaningless largely because I have the amazing tendency to spend much more time on a game than is necessary. :P
    Bravely second...
    The courage to try again...

    Twitter: BerryEggs

  • smacdsmacd Full Members
    edited June 2014
    Yeah, I also really love the Tales skits. I hadn't really seen any other games use them though I guess there are others as Strawberry Eggs mentions. While I was playing Bravely Default, I figured it was Square-Enix's attempt to rip off from the Tales series, which is starting to feel like a major competitor in the west.
  • Rya_ReisenderRya_Reisender Solipsist Snowflake Full Members
    edited June 2014
    The talks in the skits are good as slice of life always helps getting better connected to the characters, but I think their implementation in "Tales of..." is fairly bad. The whole "press select fast enough to see this skit" feels so disconnected to the actual game. I'd rather have such scenes directly happening in the game.

    As for game length, it really isn't a criteria for quality. It's a bit like the discussion about originality.
    If you really love the game, you want it to go on forever. But most games tend to get boring after a while. And that's as early as 5-30 hours in.
    So in generally I'd claim that it's best to NOT make any game longer than 30 hours (if it's really popular you can still make a sequel, or just give it an optional endless mode like ancient cave in Lufia 2).

    Really, out of the last 30 RPGs (not counting me replaying old ones) I've played I only finished like 2 because I always got tired of the others almost exactly 20-30 hours in, despite liking them at the start.

    Buzzwords? Bleh. What I always look for is feature descriptions. I know my taste isn't very much alike many people, but from the description of what features a game has, I can often pretty accurately determine what I like and what not (hardly am wrong here, if I quit, I quit out of a reason I expected, like game being too complex).
  • TexsideTexside Member Full Members
    edited June 2014
    Aw, thanks! I appreciate the compliments and the prize! I've never gotten to play Deus Ex. I'm looking forward to correcting that. Also, I am a guy, to satisfy curious minds!

    I have likewise wondered about what the heck "immersion" actually means. In tabletop games, back in the day with my little crew, it meant how you approached the game, and whether it was a primarily in character or out of character way. So, you'd be breaking immersion to say, "Eh, okay, lemme roll my d20 and see if I hit." Whereas you're not to say, "Bogwart the Humble mistakes the goblin's head for a log and chops his axe down at it." I don't know that the idea of immersion sprang from this, but I don't think it's what they mean in video games.

    I agree with the idea of verisimilitude, though. I know I've felt convinced by a game's world-mechanics interaction and have not. My best example of when this was broken is a non-RPG, Crusader Kings II. I've got an MA in history and focused on European history, and I love grand strategy games, so suffice to say I've milked this game for 393 hours and counting. I like it a lot. But, sometimes, it breaks from history -- especially in its mechanics -- and I think something of what we mean by "immersion" comes out. I'll use the example of the First Crusade's implementation. I got it in my head to play as Duke Godfrey of Lower Lorraine (better known as Godfrey of Bouillion, where his father's lands were), and see if I could replicate his successes in the First Crusade.

    So I dig up the day the First Crusade is declared by Urban II, and play as Godfrey. Lo and behold... there is no war ongoing. Godfrey is stuck in Lower Lorraine. I get curious, and realize there is no First Crusade in the game. Indeed, if you check Godfrey out in July 14, 1099, he's Duke of Lower Lorraine; on July 15, 1099, by magic, he is King of Jerusalem. It was a moment that pulled me back, made me go "waaaaait a minute!" and left me feeling disappointed at the juxtaposition between reality and gameplay. I wish I had an RPG example, but I definitely felt it. It affected my engagement of the game... but not too much; 393 hours speaks for itself.

    I think that it is a very personal (and subjective) thing, though: in this case, I was not sucked in as much because I'm a historian, and I'm sitting there fistshaking at my monitor, going, "BUT GODFREY WASN'T DUKE OF LOWER LORRAINE AT ALL THEN! ARGLE BARGLE!" I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that others who've played this game did not do this. I think this is the thing with the skits/party chats, too; for me, they pull me in more, let me see more of the characters talk, and it feels like I'm seeing an abstraction of how these characters talk while they're saving the world. It felt more real to me, whereas it did the opposite to Scott... and I can see why he would feel that way, because they were conveniently timed.

    I think it's sad how buzzwords like immersion, engagement, and the like have been muddied by PR departments. I think the corporate PR departments have carefully broadened them, made them opaque, and easy to lob out about any game ever. As a result, they're difficult to use in conversations. The moment we try to use these terms to talk about games, we have to define what we mean. That's an extra hurdle, I think, that exists for little gain.

    As to pandas versus sharks: I would humbly argue that because RPGs live in the mountains of China and consume bamboo for sustenance, they are pandas.
  • Rya_ReisenderRya_Reisender Solipsist Snowflake Full Members
    edited June 2014
    I have likewise wondered about what the heck "immersion" actually means.
    For me immersion means how much the game makes you feel like you are actually the main character.

    Originally, it usually meant things like the hero not talking at all. I would hear friends saying "In that game, the hero talked. That ruined immersion for me."

    Generally there are many things that one can do to create good immersion.
    I usually notice it by things like "being scared to die ingame" or actually feeling very connected to the characters (like if one dies I can't sleep in real life because I'm so "traumatized" or I really hate someone in the game).

    In short, if you can't differentiate between reality and the game anymore, the immersion is 100%.
  • VictarVictar Member Full Members
    edited June 2014
    Whoa, there's an Angry Birds RPG? First I heard about this!

    I don't have a smartphone, though... maybe one day it'll come to the 3DS or the Playstation Store. I can only hope.
  • GaijinMonogatariGaijinMonogatari RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff
    edited June 2014

    -Scott explains what the heck he means when he says genre spectrum.

    I prefer RPGestalt, myself. Given how broad the RPG label is, it's close to worthless on its own as an indicator. What's more important is the mix of attributes and components that make up the game, hence a gestalt of many different factors.
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