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The Role of Video Game Immersion 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-do-you-mean-elves-can't-use-rocket-launchers dept.
GameSetWatch has a story questioning whether modern game developers are putting more effort into immersion than they should, sacrificing other aspects of the game that are more important for an entertaining experience. Quoting: "Look at popular Wii games, and at casual games. These are generally rules-emergent games, with no pretense of 'immersion.' Arguably, Nintendo chose not to compete in the technology-driven 'realism' field with the Wii, and most casual games are 2D, not 3D. The high numbers of buyers and players of these games suggests that a significant proportion of the audience — if not the majority — wants to play games, not immersive 'simulations.' Put another way, is the immersive simulation (Star Trek Holodeck, Matrix) only the desire of some of the hardcore fans? ... It seems there's a significant number of adults who want to play a video game for a while to relax, to have their attention diverted from ordinary life. They don't want to be immersed in some simulation, some dream-fulfillment — if nothing else, they don't have the time for it!"
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The Role of Video Game Immersion

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  • by Drek (23194) <timjump@ g m a i l . c om> on Thursday December 25, 2008 @03:00AM (#26228759)

    I think there's room for both. Speaking for myself, there are times that I can enjoy a good "casual" game that makes no pretense towards immersion and other times that I like losing myself in another world. Both have their draws; the casual game is a great release when you just want to have some fun and the immersive game is the perfect escapism from your boring, humdrum life. For example, on the Xbox 360 lately I'll start out with a couple of quick games of Uno before diving head-on into Fallout 3.

    While it's great to examine roles of various games I think this is a non-issue. There will always be both types of games, there will always be developers for both and there will always be people who want either type of experience at different times.

    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Thursday December 25, 2008 @03:52AM (#26228909) Homepage Journal
      The Metal Gear Solid series is the canonical example of the desired eqilibrium: immersive enough to make you jump when the enemy spots you, but humble enough to make a mockery of itself through breaking the fourth wall among other self-referential humor.
    • by I.M.O.G. (811163) <spamisyummy@gmail.com> on Thursday December 25, 2008 @03:52AM (#26228911) Homepage

      The numbers agree with you - both the wii and the 360 are commercial successes (let's leave the ps3 out of this). The former strives on low-immersion gameplay, while the latter shines with immersive simulation gameplay. I'd agree that there's room for both, but I don't think that's at debate here.

      The real headline is what the wii has achieved by bringing to market a relatively affordable, low power platform with mass market appeal. Not just mass market appeal even, but its managed to reach beyond barriers that the xbox and ps3 have not - the wii appeals to people who wouldn't call themselves "gamers" in the traditional "console gamer scene" sense of the word. Doing this while selling profitable hardware is a rather good position to be in.

      Despite that contrast, at the sametime the wii reaffirms the power of a blockbuster title. Wii sports has been the main fuel behind the fire, catching interest and selling consoles. This is analagous to the power of the original halo on the xbox console. The wii just has hit a sweet spot in how nintendo managed to position and promote their product.

      • by feepness (543479)
        I wouldn't particularly call the 360 a commercial success either since MSFT hasn't made money in the division since it launched ten years ago.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by am 2k (217885)

          Depends on whether the target was to make money or kill the competition (that includes OpenGL in general for gaming) by doing some obscene investments. Nowadays "cross-platform rendering engine" is defined as "runs on both the 360 and Windows PCs".

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by philspear (1142299)

          At least some of that has to do with the absurdly high replacement rate of the 360, which has nothing to do with the games themselves.

          • by feepness (543479)
            Well at least they've got a high failure rate going for them.
          • by Gizzmonic (412910)

            That absurdly high failure rate is the number one reason why I don't currently own a 360, and I can't be the only one.

            I used to be a big time gamer, but this generation leaves me cold. The 360 routinely fails and takes weeks worth of hassle to replace, the PS3 doesn't have many good games (yet) and the Wii is fun, but outside of Wii Sports doesn't have much to offer. Maybe it's just me, but the PS2 seems so much better than any of the current consoles.

    • Pretty much my thoughts exactly when I read the article. There are markets for both, and they are not exclusive.
    • by grumbel (592662)

      I don't really think the immersion has much to do with casual vs non-casual. The game that made the Wii popular is after all Wii Sports, the closed thing to holodeck-bowling we had in video game history, so immersive that people have destroyed their TVs while playing it. Now given that is a different kind of immersion then say Halo, since you are not immersed into a different kind of reality, but more into an extension of the real reality. But since there wouldn't be much point in doing space-bowling with l

  • Gameplay All (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Manip (656104) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @03:02AM (#26228769)

    I guess what it really comes down to is if the gameplay is good?

    We've had highly immersive games (e.g. Half Life 2) that have been great. But we've also had many with as good or better technology that have been terrible.

    2D games aren't good just because they're 2D; they're good because the development team has to get really good gameplay in order to draw people in.

    A lot of the recent bad games are the result of EA and other big companies stamp pressing out generic titles improving the technology ever so slightly each time.

    They spend no time improving the gameplay. In fact new and original gameplay is against their business model (too "high risk").

    The real problem with the gaming industry is too few risk takers. As small companies are by their nature risk takers that translates directly into the conclusion that there is too few small developers and too many large ones.

    • I agree, there's a lot of peripheral debate when it comes to games about everything except quality. The suggestion that "game developers are putting more effort into immersion than they should" is ridiculous. It's a side issue. Game developers should be putting more effort into games, there's no secret formula to it. Most of the games on the wii can barely be called games, their model seems to be "So many people own a wii that if only %1 of them buy it without knowing how crappy it is, and we spend les

  • Wii vs Immersion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Killer Orca (1373645) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @03:22AM (#26228835)
    Wouldn't the usage of the Wii's motion controls be an example of physical immersion? Also people who buy Wiis play more often with people in the same room, not across a connection.
    • by mabinogi (74033)

      Also people who buy Wiis play more often with people in the same room, not across a connection.

      Only because there are no Local Co-Op games for PS3 and XBox 360.
      Or at least, so few that there may as well be none. It's ridiculous how many games assume you're never going to want to play a game with a partner or family member.

      Where the hell are all the non casual, non party local multiplayer games? There's got to be more than Dynasty Warriors!

      • by Nuyen (1438889)
        No More Heroes?
      • by jcuervo (715139)
        Gears of War 1 and 2. Ahh, many a sleepless night.
      • by Dutch Gun (899105)

        Only because there are no Local Co-Op games for PS3 and XBox 360.
        Or at least, so few that there may as well be none. It's ridiculous how many games assume you're never going to want to play a game with a partner or family member.

        Where the hell are all the non casual, non party local multiplayer games? There's got to be more than Dynasty Warriors!

        Cue "I live alone, you insensitive clod!" jokes.

        It's not a 100% overlapping market with those who own the consoles. There are also a lot of households where only one member of the family is interested in playing a console at all, or that particular game. So, you automatically shrink your potential market by some significant percentage. It's not that a single player can't enjoy such a game necessarily, but facts are facts: those development resources don't come for free... they came from work that otherw

  • Funny how the Wii became the "casual gamer" system. When they revealed it, I thought it would be the most immersive machine - using that controller as a gun or sword, for example. I wonder, maybe The Conduit [wikipedia.org] will at last deliver the "hardcore" to the Wii.
  • by tnok85 (1434319) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @04:10AM (#26228951)

    The article is inherently flawed. The writer is very confused as to the differences between immersion and realism... and I think confused about what immersion really is.

    Realism - done correctly - will implement immersion well. Quick example, Armed Assault. Fairly realistic military sim, and the environment allows the player to be immersed in this 'reality'. Now, the reality is only interesting because it's a reality the player will [most likely] never experience.

    Realism can be pretty terrible too. Imagine a game based on a regular 9-5 job? You stay in an cubicle the entire time, except for bathroom breaks? Sure, might have great immersion, but who wants that.

    Sorry, getting off topic.

    On to immersion. Immersion does NOT require realism or graphics of ANY kind. Best example - roleplayers. Going back to the D&D roleplayers, on to MUDs and IRC, and finally to graphical MMOs like Everquest and Star Wars: Galaxies. None of those things are realism. There's fantasy, cyberpunk, etc. etc. This is one level of immersion that's dependent upon the player's level of imagination and interest.

    Then there's immersion generated by visual, ambiance, acting, and story. Roleplayers generate these on their own, but for non-roleplayers, these aspects are very impressive. Feeling like you're fighting demons in the depths of hell... it's immersion. It's NOT reality.

    From the original post:
    "In historical board gaming, a related discussion has gone on for decades, posed as âoerealistic simulationâ of warfare vs. âoegood playable gameâ. In general, the most realistic âoesimulationsâ (realistic in historical terms, not, of course, in personal immersion) have been poor games."

    To create a true realism, immersion is required. However, the inverse is not necessary... To create a true immersion, realism is not required.

    This is where you're getting confused, I think. Immersion is a positive aspect for many gamers, especially if you are interested in getting involved in an interactive story.

    If you don't want to do that, if you want to do it 'light', then yes, those 2D Wii games are wonderful. Yes, they're popular. But there will always be (well, in the foreseeable future) a sizable market for games that include immersion. (And a niche market for 'realism')

    Alright, my rant is done. Sorry. =)

    • I'm a professional game developer, and this is one of the more insightful discussions on this I've seen. Players often confuse the terms "immersion" and "realism", and even some professionals make the same mistake. Usually when people say, "this game should be more realistic" they usually mean, "this game should be more consistent to my way of thinking." Part of what a good game does is set the expectations for the player so that the game is consistent.

      The author of the article seems to be imprecise in h

  • Aiya... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ZekoMal (1404259)
    It's like saying "Well this car goes 280 mph top speed, while this one only reaches 50 mph top speed; are people more interested in only going 50 mph?".

    I love me some Wii Boxing, but that doesn't mean I won't wrestle in with Final Fantasy or Doom.

    And what the hell? Wii doesn't immerse you? Metroid Prime, anyone? Legend of Zelda? They're just as immersive as the normal games, plus you have to interact to make them do things, most notably in the Zelda game, where you have to move the remote to slash. Argu

  • by Millennium (2451) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @11:54AM (#26230121) Homepage

    If the game is good, players will immerse themselves. They've been doing it since at least the days of the NES, and probably sooner. Developers can't really help this through any specific efforts, because it doesn't arise from any specific area of the game; all that truly matters is that the game is entertaining enough. Gamers can and will do the rest all by themselves.

    Marketers would like you to think that gimmicks like photorealism and hyper-realistic physics aid in immersion, because that misconception gives developers some relatively easy-to-add hooks that they can use as marketing ploys. But these things don't actually help immersion at all, except in those truly sad souls who have let their imaginations atrophy, and those people need healing, not crutches.

  • The authors of the interactive drama Facade [interactivestory.net] collaborated with some augmented-reality people to build an AR version of the game [gatech.edu], and found [ucsc.edu] that although it did make people feel more "present" in an immersive virtual world, they actually engaged less with the game as a result, which went against the assumption in the AR field that more-immersive = more-good.

  • How can you make such a comparison when true immersion doesn't exist? If there were Holodecks or a Matrix, who's to say how many people would want them? There's o such thing as a drug addict that has never tried drugs.
    • by Dutch Gun (899105)

      If there were Holodecks ..., who's to say how many people would want them?

      I'll just go out on a limb here and say 'everyone'. Except the Amish.

  • I think immersion is the quality of a game that makes you forget you're playing a game. This is implemented in graphics and sound design, sure, but also in the degree to which you are aware of using controls to interact with the game world. Take Tetris, for example. After a short time, you don't really think about the fact that you're pressing keys on a keyboard to move the piece left or right. You want to move the piece left, so you just do it. A poor control scheme that makes you constantly think abo

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