The Elements of Immersion: Things that Do and Don't Ruin the Experience
Immersion is something you see thrown around on the board from time to time. Most of the time I see it, people are talking about how this ruins immersion, or that ruins immersion. That got me thinking what actually does make immersion? What is it, and why is it important to us.
To me immersion is simply a way to determine how much I am getting into a game. When I can play for a few hours and not really notice how much time has flown by, I consider the game immersing. Here are a few things that I think doesn't ruin Immersion that many people do, And things that I do think ruin Immersion, that hopefully, many people do as well.
Things That Don't Ruin Immersion
These few things I often get blamed for ruining the gamers experience in forgetting the horrible reality we all have to face when we turn the console off. Whether it be a job, parents, siblings, kids, laundry, something is out there that is going to cause you stress that your going to want to relieve by playing some video games. I just don't see how these things ruin that experience though.
Loading screens: game worlds that aren't seamless don't bother me, at no point in my game playing career have I ever been so into a game that I snapped out of it and said "Oh my God, I forgot this was a video game!" The presence of a loading screen is just a technological medium to change zones, and it doesn't bother me. Now for purposes of immersion, I just want to be able to notice where I am on the globe, games like Ever Quest 2 allow you to know that easily, especially after the Halas reborn update. A game like Age of Conan, at least back when I played it, didn't really do a good job of letting you know where you were on the globe, you just found people with carts who were going to different zones.
Graphics: Once again, never seen graphics so good it made me forget I was playing a video game, and within reason, they are not important. I do however have some requirements since I am paying for a monthly service with MMO's, for instance, Asherons Call, which is probably a spectacular game in terms of game play, I just don't enjoy looking at it enough to fork over 13 bucks a month. 5...maybe, something else that gets me on that subject is I thought AC was owned by turbine, and if so why have they not made that game F2P yet? I would play it for free, but anyways, that's another subject.
Character creation: My ability to be unique is not that important to me for one reason, you can't make completely unique hair, maybe a shade no one else has but there are always preset hair styles, and since all I ever really see is the back of my avatars head, I'm not too concerned about the face, as long as it just isn't butt ugly, (except for orcs in WAR, then it is mandatory) People get to hung up in my opinion on not having shoulders just the right size, or their eyes not being the proper shade of blue. It's really not that important, your just going to cover it up with an awesome helmet and pauldrons.
Things That Ruin Immersion
Not to say that it isn't the job of a good game to suck us in. The better it does this the longer we play. The longer we play the more likely we are to buy another game from that publisher. It's simple. it is why we ever have this discussion in the first place. Here are some of the top things that totally break me out of my self induced trance into an alternate reality, where I can rain firey doom from the skies, control some kind of gamma powered mechanical monster! With freeway onramps for arms, and a heart as black as coal....
Music: The ambient sounds create immersion in a game. Being near a waterfall, and hearing the running water, it getting quieter as you get away, fluttery soft music while in the forest, or hard technoish music while around a cyberpunk city. These things help your mind feel like it is in the atmosphere that is being presented. There are games where the music doesn't fit, or the ambient sounds are far to repetative and in the foreground. It is why so many reviews have a section for the music, although I rarely see reviewers state if the music fits, and more if it was good quality and they liked it. I really like Metallica, but their songs would not fit in this game:
Cut scenes: When games become movies, they cease to be games. This is mostly a crime of the current age of RPG's. I remember playing Star Ocean: A New Hope, and when one cut scene was done, all my character could do was walk down a hall, and at the end of the hall, was another cut scene. This similar thing happened in FF10, FF13, I wanna say Blue Dragon, don't hold me to that, but on the subject of Blue Dragon, not every single person in japaneese RPG voice overs has to yell everything OK? Just because you don't understand the inflection that the language uses is no excuse to try to mimic it in English and get the tone all wrong.
Repetative gameplay: It's not that it doesn't help it mimic real life, but in the games where you are sent to repeatedly go and get the next crystal, where to do so you go to the next town available to explore, talk to them, find out that the crystal was taken to a nearby cave by a monster, just like the last three where, you start to get pulled out of the world, and meta think that the writers really didn't expect people to play this far. Or in terms of gameplay, how many times do you have to hit something with a giant sword before it dies, I am looking at you Devil May Cry. It starts to seemingly become an exercise inthe Achilles and the turtle paradox.
I Am Sure There is More...
But that is how I make sure you were paying attention! Leave a comment below if there is something you see people complain about breaking immersion that doesn't bother you, or if you see something I left out that really ruins the gaming experience. Or if you disagree, it's all in good fun.