Fundamentals of Immersion

Jul 09

Pohjola, Mike (2004): “Autonomous Identities: Immersion as a Tool for Exploring, Empowering and Emancipating Identities” in Montola & Stenros (ed.)  Beyond Role and Play: tools, toys and theory for harnessing imagination

  • New key words: immediated/immediacy/immediate art; diegetic frame; inter-immersion; Temporary Autonomous Zone & Temporary Autonomous Identity”
  • Inter-immersion will be a key concept for developing the community space inherent in immersive interactions
  • New definition of immersion: “being in character or becoming the character”
  • “Immersion is the player assuming the identity of the character by pretending to believe her identity only consists of the diegetic roles” 
  • An examination of the nordic-style school of LARPing. I’m less interested in the roleplay aspect and more interested in the notion that immersion can serve some purpose in and of itself. This paper covers the exploration of personal identity through immersive techniques, the factors that make roleplaying/immersion a unique art form, and the potential for developing spaces of temporary reality that allow for us to take on temporary identities
  • Name checks the Turku school of immersion that is trying to achieve “character immersion”
    • considered impossible by the author – “based on faulty premise of character that originates with traditional fiction and cannot be applied to immersive, immediated artforms like roleplaying”
  • “This essay is written partly as an attempt to update and post-modernise the ideas of the Manifesto of the Turku School (Pohjola 1999), specifically those concerning character and immersion.”
  • “the internal processes and interpretations of the player are for the game as a whole until they are expressed and become part of the diegetic frame. Before that they are merely “individual narrative readings”
  • Stuart Hall (1996) beleives that seeing self as narrative is the essential part of identity creation
    • Turku manifesto saw this the opposite way: character identiy can be created by seeing the narrative as the self
  • J Thomas Harvianinen: Three kinds of immersion: Character Immersion, Reality Immersion, Narrative Immersion
  •  Impossible to roleplay alone. Roleplaying should include interactivity
    • It follows that immersion requires interactivity
  • Roleplaying games are experienced as they are created – a unique feature of them
    • could also apply to immersivity
  • media is generally divided into three loose categories: passive, active and interactive
    • passive are recorded and cannot be affected (like film, literature, recorded music)
    • active has possibility of interaction, such as karaoke
    • interactive requires participation, such as computer game, hypertext
      • fourth “transcendent” category is immediate art, “experienced as it is created and has no use for the division between performers and audience”. Examples include roleplaying games burt also parties, communal storytelling or improvised musical jams
    • “An outside audience cannot understand a role-playing game, although it can seem like an interesting performance. Role-playing games take place in the present moment and are transmitted directly from person to person. This makes them immediate”
  • “immersion without action is daydreaming”
  • roleplaying is not necessarily an interactive act
  • the character must exist within a diegetic frame
  • Inter-immersion: the collective experience of immersion shared and strengthened through interaction
    • strengthens the identity of the character rather than the player
    • staying in character helps to stay in character
    • “as the player reaches the inter-immersive state she starts to forget she is just pretending to believe it is all real. She acts as if she really believes the diegesis, and when everybody else does the same and reacts to each other’s beliefs (instead of the pretensions), they forget they are just pretending and start to really believe.”
  • “There is a pattern, and a very clear one when you know where to look. Each new generation of games is less abstract. Where Go is about capturing and re-capturing land, Chess is about a war between two nations, Chainmail is about commanding armies in battle and Dungeons & Dragons is about directing a singular adventurer in a dungeon, modern role-playing games are about acting as any individuals in any setting”
  • Perceiving a game as having a reality is difficult when the game is abstracted (like Chess)
    • as games get more complex and less abstract gaming reality is stronger & more fulfilling.
    • “The next logical step is to lose the barrier separating games and reality once and for all.”
  • Pretend belief moves toward real belief and subjective diegesis becomes subjective reality, temporarily. In RPGs the diegesis is temporarily the player’s identity.
  • Temporary Autonomous Zones can be created to invite players to take on a Temporary Autonomous Identity (TAI).
    • If we can constantly carry a TAI with us, we can always be in a roleplay.

Case Studies:

Masquerade by Kit Williams

Masquerade | The Hankerer

  • Masquerade was a 1979 picture book that contained clues to a real-world treasure hunt, the prize to which was a golden jewelled hare figurine. The puzzle was first solved and the hare claimed by a person who, arguably, cheated.

Mystery on Fifth Avenue by Eric Clough

  • Clough was a young architect who, unbeknownst to the owners, hid a series of puzzles inside the architecture of an apartment he renovated. His intention was to supply the children growing up in the space with an ongoing sense of wonder.

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