Immersion vs identification

Found this study that clarifies 2 aspects of narrative engagement : spatial immersion (in fiction imagery) / identification with the character (alignement with their goals).
The problem is that, equipped with that knowledge, I can only find justification of my preferences (see below). So the question is : can you bring different viewpoints to help me out of this subjective ditch ? I think miniature users have something to bring to the discussion.

Identification is empathy, and brings actual changes to the world (eg Indra's daughter scenario for Misspent Youth). What part of Dirty Hippyness it adresses is self evident.

On the other hand I find spatial immersion a problematic goal for a TTRPG.
First, it's hard to get. It requires mostly verbal material, as in LARP or ritual + dialog : the manipulation at the table contradicts and dissipate fiction imagery. And I am never satisfied with it : I picture one location here or there, but the characters and the story only coalesce into images the day after, like with dreams, mostly by reinvention.
Second, it's easy to understand how it leads to spatial murk : by essence, the imagery is highly personal. So what you do ? If you use a map, you're back to square one.


  • I actually have a pretty good recipe for figuring that out: play a bit of old school D&D. Some dozen sessions of sharp dungeoneering will do wonders for your spatial immersion. A good GM focused on wargamey D&D is sure to pay attention to developing this aspect, as the tactical play the game relies on isn't really possible without good spatial fundamentals.
  • edited December 2018
    When it comes to computer games, spatial immersion is called »presence«.

    When I read fictional books, I could come in a state where the world around me disappeared (entering »flow state«) and I felt me being present in the book along with the character(s), and I had the same thing happen to me in tabletop roleplaying games too ... both with and without physical paraphernalia.

    I highly recommend reading in The Character Interpretation: The Process Before the Immersion and the Game by Ari-Pekka Lappi in Beyond Role and Play. It tells the structure of how to enter a flow state, where you feel immersion (feeling like your character), and presence (spatial immersion) follows the same structure, just with different elements.
    I picture one location here or there, but the characters and the story only coalesce into images the day after, like with dreams, mostly by reinvention.
    Yeah, the mind creates images and stories in an effort to remember more easily. A player came back to me a month after we played Imagine, and even though the story seemed blatant (because the story quality not what Imagine is about), he told me that he still could remember the scenes and impact it made on him ... and I felt the same thing as him.
  • edited December 2018
    Did read, thank you. The article says very little about spatial immersion, but it is a very good read. The problem is that the article and your experience only confirms my views. Or did I miss something ?

    I am in a situation where I can't play Old School dungeoneering but I want to learn. Could you please name the major aspects of it that make it a good practice for spatial immersion ?
    My last experience with that playstyle is older than Liechtenstein women's voting rights. To me, a "pirate treasure" map and character illustrations are the main supports for imagery. Cave darkness and medievality gloss may help in preserving the imagery in a blur of abstract vagueness. I know this "hide the hole" perspective feels disrespectfully shallow, but I am aware of my ignorance.
  • The constant mapping, the specific spatial language and the use of spatial information in planning and executing tactical combat is what makes old school dungeoneering so spatial. It is literally a prerequisite for getting anywhere that you stop listening to the GM on the level of "am I inside the room or not" and start listening to the specific measures that verbally paint images of space and positioning.

    Fortunately enough the basic dungeon format is spatially simplified, consisting largely of 10x10x10 cubic spaces in various combinations - simple in the way that Minecraft is simple. This means that new players have plenty of opportunity to learn to conceptualize the tactical space in conditions that make communicating about the space very simple. Players can even draw maps in real time straight out of GM descriptions of what their characters see.

    More advanced dungeons and adventuring outside dungeons bring more complex and realistic environments, so over time players tend to get better and better about focused attention, while the GM develops and improves a precise language for communicating about the fictional space. The particulars of how a group goes about this tend to be pretty idiosyncratic outside the simple basic dungeon situation, but they're effective for the given group. An experienced GM of course bootstraps a new group efficiently, as they already have their preferred jargon for communicating spatial information.
  • edited December 2018
    I see : in OSR you follow a process of "spatial language and procedures" learning.
    1) Introducing terms and procedures
    2) Giving concrete goals to the players
    3) Respecting a zone of proximal development.
    Building together in time gives something robust, because it makes the table fluent, with control and retroaction procedures. Good.

    If I say that I am of the "eager student" kind, would you give me the sacred scroll of spatial terms and procedures, or are you the kind of master that thinks the techniques should always go hand in hand with an ethic ?

    I suspect doing space by zones is not enough... Who's behind the door. Behind what door. That's a tactical situation I can dig.
  • I think we had a thread about the best practices of dungeoneering spatial jargon at some point here. Within the last five years, maybe. I guess digging that up might be useful.

    Aside from that, some of the game texts for old school D&D have pretty detailed advice on this. Mentzer (the "red box" Basic D&D), for example.

    Either way, the main points are relatively simple:
    * Build your dungeon out of standard-sized blocks, standard doors and generally have things in standard dimensions. Makes it easier to describe and keep things straight in imagination. 10 feet (and five feet) multiples are the normal standard, which is why the ceiling height in D&D dungeons is so unnaturally high.
    * When prepping the scenario, do consistent and uniform mapping. "Consistent" means describing the same thing the same way every time, "uniform" means having the same level of detail all over.
    * Be consistent about using measures. For example, give vague adjectives at first glance and precise measurements when the players ask for them.
    * Encourage the players to draw maps to help them conceptualize the battlespace. The GM already has theirs, presumably.
    * Always describe things from character perspective - instead of "north" say "to your right", instead "south" say "to your left", and so forth. The phrase "the way you came" is your friend, use it.
    * Describe things in a room in a consistent order based on tactical importance: the most dangerous, sexy or valuable things first, then less interesting things in order of distance to the observer, with least superficially interesting details last.
    * Develop and use a consistent terminology that helps you describe things precisely. For example, call the back wall of a room (the wall opposite to the entrance currently used by the observing character) the "back wall" in every room, rather than sometimes calling it the "far wall", or whatever.
    * Develop positioning routines that helps determine where things, particularly those pesky player characters, are located at given times. Understand implicit movement, relational movement, explicit movement and superimposition (also known as "I have no fucking clue where you are, why don't you tell me"). For example, use marching orders and assumed positioning ("of course we aren't all grouped right in front of that door when it explodes").
    * Everybody makes mistakes sometimes, so deal with it. I recommend ruling in favour of the adventurers and moving on if the GM makes a mistake, or randomizing fairly if a player makes it. Demand excellence in spatial play only as the players develop their skills, not right off the bat.
  • edited December 2018
    Thank you ! I will work with that and see where it leads me. The solstice is getting close, I wish I can convince them to try this.
    I can't find anything like this old thread on the forum. Keywords : "back wall" "across the room" "dungeoneering" and some more. I'll do with the summary you've been kind enough to give me.
  • Rickard said:

    I highly recommend reading in The Character Interpretation: The Process Before the Immersion and the Game by Ari-Pekka Lappi in Beyond Role and Play. It tells the structure of how to enter a flow state, where you feel immersion (feeling like your character), and presence (spatial immersion) follows the same structure, just with different elements

    I've rereaded the article but I still dont know what you mean by these sentences. What kind of structure does it give the readers to enter a flow state? I didnt find anything specific.
  • edited December 2018

    What Ari-Pekka Lappi explains is the fundamentals of interaction design, and if you repeat his explained loop enough times, flow will appear ("immersion" is a type of flow IMHO). The image above explains the same thing, described with different words.

    Look at how the workflow is in Imagine, and that game makes you immersed in the story you create together with others.


    It's just the same process (I wrongly used the word "structure" in the previous post), but with different elements required compared to achieving presence (spatial immersion). Computer games achieve this by having the player interact with the environment so, in TTRPG, whenever the players do something, another participant (like the game master) fills in the gap of how the world changes by their actions (walking, talking, manipulating...). From that, the players will (hopefully) become more immersed and engaged.


    More reading about presence.

    [edit] added "repeat" in first paragraph
  • edited December 2018
    True there are no explicit procedures but the article says what tentatives block the process, and what main direction it takes, so it's mostly about connecting the dots. Namely : you can use your stats to act, but only these acts inform the character. You then can come up with all the rationale and feelings about your character that make it consistent. Then you can try to shape the stats so they let you express that better. If you don't leave room for character worldview, it's just a paw.

    My thoughts are there at the moment : spatial lexicon and procedures imply choices regarding tactical priorities, scale, genre.

    For me, there are things like mapping, exploration and tactics that I will do narratively, using the conflict resolution engine. Spatial immersion will be at the scale of scenography and choreography : indoor cat & mice search, chase. In these cases I need a visual. So I came to this conclusion : I could grab some free pictures of places / situations (a flight of stairs, a truck crossing the road, etc.) and turn them into cards. I'd then have a deck of 5-10 card per environment to spice up the story. The "real" map doesn't exist : it is produced. Or easier, pick stock photos on the fly. If nobody cares for continuity, it's no trouble either. This will lead to a comic strip timespace, where the way to school looks like : door, Mr Wendel, bakery, barking dog, school.

    I will also need a proxemic ruler, that can indicate in which proximity objects are from one another (contact, close, défiant, throwing.) I think "zones" can account for numerous spatial relations but I don't know at how many objects they begin to glitch. That should cover most situations where no map is available. The problem with the map is that if it's drawn in game, it can hide the territory.

    OK. It looks like the OSR is not what I need but most of the points Eero_tuovinen brought inform spatial immersion.

    More about blending maps and narrative tactics.
  • edited January 2
    So, I took the ideas here and did a thing, that I call Proxemic Distance. It is a mix of spatial, social distance and mental rapture.
    It's a ruler I state at the beginning of the game, that associates character action to a distance from the object.
    Like, if you say "I talk to her", it means you're within talking distance, not shouting distance. If you say "we observe the room", it means you walk around the room and look with intent, with a bit of coordination. While if you say "we inspect the room", it means everybody gets on all 4 or climb up tables and what not, but we don't flip through every book. Because "inspecting distance" is 1 step away from "manipulating distance". You get the idea.
    From there, you can state your character has an instinct (Burning Wheels like) of always being close to the people they talk to (useful for picking non verbal cues and confidences), or that they are nervous, meaning always 2 zones back from anything.
    Balancing the pros and cons of detection / safety makes for the only thing I needed with distance in the first place : meaningful choices and face hugger attacks.
  • That would be really interesting to try out.
  • I like that as a rule of thumb, as well. Has potential!
  • @DeReel I would love to see how that played out.

    Re: spatial immersion, I think of it as broader than visual imagery. Visual imagery is one type of information, but for me, if I want to imagine I'm in a fictional place, all types of information are relevant.

    If the only information I have to guide my play is the information available to my character's senses, then I can usually achieve that "sense of being there".

    The relevant design concerns, then, are how best to provide a rewarding play experience with as little out-of-character information as possible. My favorite solutions tend to veer toward principled freeform, with a focus on constructing the right player-GM relationship.
  • I never used it in this form.
    The first page has all you need : the 6 zones (measurable in meters if you want) linked to the lexicon, so that you don't need to ask the players what they do precisely.
    The second page is me rambling about how much the circumstances change the equation, but really this was made thinking of 1 to 6 walking persons in a building.
  • Made a .ods for this, still in french, and a work in progress.
  • edited January 13
    Man you should try to translate these to English. I have tried to do that myself during my vacation but failed miserably!
  • edited March 26
    It's still too heavy for my game, but I will rip the key-words and make a "Pertinent facts" list in French and English. Btw you don't have to translate it : transpose it to google sheet and autotranslate. Or, why not, follow the link where I've done it for you :P

    Editing necromancy because this quote from 2097 is a good way of immersing and communicating space
    - “How do these rooms connect?” I leave my chair and go up and point.
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