Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Listened Lately: The Idle Thumbs Podcast #4

  • Immersion has been a hot topic in the game blogging community of late, especially since Wolfshead's post about his lack of immersion in World of Warcraft. Tipa from West Karana made an excellent point that echoes my feelings as well. It has all been talked to death. However the topic rose from the grave again in an interesting way recently on The Idle Thumbs Podcast.

  • In episode four, they was a long discussion about sandbox games inspired by the recently released Just Cause 2. Chris Remo said that he liked sandboxes more when the game narrative supports all of the chaos they all players to make. Since the story of Just Cause 2 revolves around destabilizing a government, you can go completely nuts and the story doesn't dissolve.

  • On the other side, Steve Gaynor brought up Grand Theft Auto IV (which is why I'm talking about this at all). He said that he prefers actively avoided gratuitous random violence specifically because he did not want to break the narrative arc of the game. He knew that, so long as he played the game within those constraints that he would have a better overall experience. That summed up my experience with the game in a nutshell.

  • For people like Chris, GTA IV failed as a sandbox because the narrative didn't support what they specifically wanted to do in the game. But for Steve and myself, our willingness to play within the guidelines set my the story allowed us to avoid such dissonance with the narrative. We were immersed in the game because we were playing along with the designers' intentions, not subverting them.

  • Immersion is contingent on a willing suspension of disbelief. The game can only do so much of the job for you. It's perfectly valid if you decide not to participate. But you should not blame the game because you are not willing or no longer able to meet the game halfway.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. That is one of the most concise descriptions of how immersion works, I've ever read. Well done, sir, to you and the magic of bullet points.

  2. Well said! I think many players fail to appreciate a lot of solid MMOs because them simply refuse to meet the designers halfway. They then mistake a game that doesn't conform to their inflexible desires for a game that "sucks" in some sort of objective sense.

  3. @ Blue Kae - Bullet points make everything better. Spread the word far and wide!

    @ Yeebo - I totally agree! Gamers so often mistake their personal tastes for some sort of objective fact. You just have to listen to all the core gamers complaining about Farmville to see that. Of course, that's a blog post for another time.