I believe, and I may be wrong, that today's immersion is too strong, and provides very little boundary to believability, which is its strength and its weakness.
Let me elaborate.
Back in the days where this was all 1s and 0s, there was a game called Pong. There was no immersion, no graphics really and minimal sound. But it was super-addictive.
Space Invaders pushed it far out, and nearly sunk the Japanese economy doing it. (They actually had to print more money to cope with all the yen going into the machines)
Flash forward to today and there's Modern Warfare, bought by tens of thousands - but is it too easy to get into?
Take your generic FPS (whether Halo, Halflife or whatever); we all know how to allow for movement, circle-strafe, grenade spam, quickscope and the rest - but do you remember how bloody hard it was to understand those at first?
That's where the problem - and for some - the disillusionment, comes. Games are easy because they rarely innovate any more. And because they're easy, you don't get the thrill of learning a new set of moves. And, even worse, because they're ubiquitous, you actually get annoyed at having to learn a new way of doing things.
If you took two players on Gauntlet, one who hadn't really played it much, and one who was a past master - both could play the game, both could have fun AND both could have fun simultaneously.
Nowadays, either the better player is crippled, or the worse player is ganked; and there's little middleground. What exactly do you have to LEARN in Bayonetta?
Sure, it's beautiful, gloriously over-the-top, but you always feel she's interpreting your commands - rather than moving because of them. It's full power stimulation, but it feels like you're going through the motions at times - working through the nice linear curve (?) that the designer has put in there.
Now try something like Berserk. It's intensely unfair, there's little to no objective, but it draws you in.
Obviously as a entry point, Bayonetta would be better, but for the more experienced gamer, maybe a trip backwards would help?
Hm, well I'm 24. Been gaming my whole life. But definitely I have too much going on to game everyday, and when I can, it's usually only for a couple hours before bed. Often, even with the chance to game, I might choose to browse the internet instead. That said, I still find games can get immersive. It was earlier this year I firts played Cryostasis and I just had to play it until I beat it. On the other hand, I bought God of War 3 and Fallout New Vegas (Loved FO:3) and neither of those games could really hold me. Go figure. I guess it just comes down to having to choose the games/type of games that are most compatible with current interests.
I just want to say this one of my favorite articles on the escapist.
Mark J Kline:
Ask Dr. Mark 13: Over Gaming
What does it mean when other things take the place of gaming?
Read Full Article
I boil immersion down into two categories--the kind that pulls you into another world, or the kind that just pulls you out of this one. Another way to think if it is one that engages the mind versus one that quiets the mind. Or, the easiest way, one type is imaginative immersion, while the other is meditative immersion. Neither is better, and both have their place. Both are present in video games in differing degrees, so it's important to differentiate between the types of immersion that captivate you at certain ages.
A game of the imaginative immersion type of immersion would be a game that gives you complex puzzles to solve, or casts you deeply in the role of the protagonist. Everything around you fades out, and the line between you and the game gets blurry, as your mind is pulled into the puzzle or the character. It doesn't have to have a rich story to do this, either. It just requires puzzles with multiple solutions, branching paths, and techniques that force you to look further down the path than you are currently--thus impressing upon you a sense that this world "goes further" than what's immediately on the screen. An example might be something like one of the better Zelda games... or, outside the video game world, chess.
An game of the meditative immersion type of immersion would be a game that gives you simple and repetitive problems to solve, such that your actions become reflexive or automatic. Everything around you fades out, and the line between you and the game gets blurry, as your conscious mind takes a back seat (or goes elsewhere). Hours pass like minutes, and you lose track of exactly what it was you were doing. This usually just requires puzzles with very simple rules or a short list of strategies from which to draw. An example would be something like Bejeweled or Tetris... or, outside the video game world, the old electronic game Simon.
Games like Bayonetta, and even a lot of racing games, with their repetitive sequences of actions (the same combos, laps around the same tracks, and so on) tend to fall into the second category. This makes them easy to acceptably master, and helps them provide an effective distraction... but it doesn't particularly engage you on an intellectual level. This makes it appealing to younger crowds, say in that age 10-14 group, in the same way that Twinkies are more appealing than steak.
As you get older and more intellectually mature, it might be that your mind is hungrier than it once was, and Twinkies just aren't cutting it. It might just be that your school or work life already provides the repetition, as you've "mastered" the routine, so you're not as thrilled to have it in your entertainment. Often, once we've reach that point, there's no real "going back."
That's the bad news--Twinkies might never give you the same satisfaction they once did. The good news, though, is that you can still feel that satisfaction from a different source. I daresay I now enjoy a good steak as much as I once enjoyed a pack of Twinkies. If your goal is to recapture that feeling, that doesn't mean you have to go back to the same sources.
You're a smart man Dr. Mark. We shall meet again. But as for if immersion is bad? my little bvrother got ssucked into MW2, and ignored the rest. So yes it can be harmful. I have explored the Capital wasteland as much as he has explored Rust, but I don't show bad signs. Why? because it depends on the player. He ultimately decides wether to eat or not.
I have been gaming since I was really young and pretty into it, but in the past year or so I noticed I spend allot less time on gaming as I used to. In fact, I just got the sequel to golden sun, and I noticed that, well, I can't play this. I'm not into it at all. In fact, I don't think I have really gotten into any modern 3D game, and any game that I actually do get into has 32-bit sprites and such. Why am I more engrossed with games that are supposed to be less immersive?
It's my theory, that at least with me (and the people above me) it seems like the immersion can actually harm gamer's, well, immersion. Sure, new flashy realistic games hold me for a little bit, but I cannot help but have the feeling that the game is, well, pushing me away.
I have to disagree: I find book much more immersive than games. But besides that, a spot-on article.
The article provides a great description of immersion but, to my mind, it doesn't provide a satisfying explanation for why people grow bored of gaming. Tastes change as we get older, but there must be more to it than that.
Maybe I shouldn't criticize because I've given the issue a lot of thought and haven't come up with a satisfying answer myself. I used to be an avid gamer and am a little baffled as to why I don't feel a strong urge to play any more. Some of the reasons I've come up with are:
1. I used to be excited about the possibilities for what video games accomplish but now I've played pretty much every kind of game and I'm not seeing much that is genuinely new. I was hoping that games could do more.
2. I used to have about an hour (sometimes more) where I could play every day (I got into gaming as an adult after house and kids). I don't have that much time any more. Some weeks are just too busy. When I pick up a game after a week or two away, it's hard to remember what I was doing and it's hard to get into it again. Most of the games that interest me don't allow for short, intermittent bursts of play.
3. I got into games at an intensely stressful time of my life and gaming provided an escape. Part of my interest may have been less about games and more about escaping the anxieties of life. My life isn't nearly as stressful now, so I don't achieve the same feelings of escape. This lessens the feeling of immersion and makes the games less engaging.
These are the main reasons I can think of for why I'm not as much into gaming any more. I suspect others have other reasons. If so, I would be curious to hear them.
I'm in a similar position having just turned 17 and gone on to a higher level of education. Finding the time to play games stress free has been difficult but i've not grown out of video games. The reason for that may be that (apologies in advance for being pretensious!) i've always had somewhat grown up tastes. I enjoyed replaying persona 3, my favourite game, recently even more than i did years ago because i could really appreciate the depth. I've found a genre that offers something satisfying e.g Even though i dont have much time to play FF Tactics for PS, which i'm thrilled has finally been released in England, i'm longing for that game world despite only being a a few battles into to it.
Also last weekend i did something i'd never done. I bought an expensive game on saturday (Naruto ultimate ninja storm 2, yeah pure RPG gamer with a soft spot for anime.) and completed it by sunday. I guess i just need to work hard to make the free time that i don't really have anymore.
I also have a deep spiritual connection to music in all sorts of games; music really transcends immersion and becomes emotionally linked to you in, almost as if the music is maturing as you mature because how you feel about the music changes. I'm sure i'm not the only person who feels haunted by beautiful music heard within or outside of video games.
I guess what i'm saying is that, you can mature into a game.
I found a trend with my friends and I about this, we all started to care less about videogames when we had sex for the first time. Circa 17,18,19. I can't play FPS multiplayers anymore, just too dull.
If your favourite genres start to lose their appeal you may want to try..."branching out".
As you grow older you change, especially during late teenage years when high school and college practically force you to grow up. You start to like different things. Instead of drooling over blonde bimbos you start to appreciate a girl you can have an intelligent conversation with. Instead of silly action flicks you begin to enjoy movies with a message and a deeper storyline.
You can try Bioware games, maybe you will appreciate the colourful characters and interaction in Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age.
You can try MMOs, perhaps your gaming experience is improved with other people involved. World of Warcraft is very easy to get into and maybe later you can switch to EVE Online for a bit more complexity and a challenge.
You can try RTSes like Starcraft II, city-building simulations like Simcity 4, tycoon games like Locomotion, you get the idea. I have been where you are and I found new interests, best of luck finding yours.
I'm 35 and have been playing video games since the Atari 2600 days. In my opinion, there's an ebb and flow to a person's dedication to gaming - I've gone through heavy gaming phases (Atari 2600, Bard's Tale on the PC, original Nintendo, SSI gold box DnD on the PC, Black Isle/Bioware before Neverwinter). In between those bursts of gaming enthusiasm, though, I've gone long stretches just not caring - the games seemed dull and repetitive and the time invested seemed wasted on regurgitated experiences. Taking time off gave the industry time to discover something new so that I could fall back in love with gaming.
By the way, I'm currently not feeling any love for video games - but have no illusions about this being a permanent change in my interests.
I disagree with his statement that games are more immersive than movies and especially books. Books can keep people engrossed for days. When I read one book series, I read for over 12 hours a day for over a week, and maybe spent like 4 hours paying attention to the "real world". With video games, they might keep me engrossed for 6-8 hours at a time, but no matter how good the game I play, i can't maintain that level of immersion for over a week at a time, even if it's a several-game series like that book series is. after at most, 3 days of immersive gaming, i'm pretty much done with video games for a week or so. with books, when i finish I want even more, no matter how long I've been reading. And I'm just as immersed for the first one or two rereads.
I would also say movies are more immersive. In video games, for me, there are certain actions that break immersion. Not a huge break, more like a short rest, like when my character dies, or during certain cutscenes. with a movie, i feel immersed within the first 10 minutes and i stay that way.
I have the same problem. Life gets in the way of gaming to the extent that whenever I'm playing, an alarm bell triggers in my head repeating; "you are wasting your life, you have things to do".
Having finished university I hope to regain a more healthy relationship with gaming - I keep tabs on Daggerfall's 'DaggerXL' project to help reclaim that nostalgic bliss :). Long shot, perhaps. Life is certainly quieter now.
I'm 35 and have been playing video games since the Atari 2600 days. In my opinion, there's an ebb and flow to a person's dedication to gaming.... In between those bursts of gaming enthusiasm, though, I've gone long stretches just not caring - the games seemed dull and repetitive and the time invested seemed wasted on regurgitated experiences. Taking time off gave the industry time to discover something new so that I could fall back in love with gaming.
By the way, I'm currently not feeling any love for video games - but have no illusions about this being a permanent change in my interests.
Agreed. There's no point fighting it. Sometimes the desire is there and sometimes it's not. There are too many other things to enjoy in life.
Often, when I think I'm done with gaming, I find something new in it and I'm suddenly back in it again. It goes the other way too, I'll be deep into a game and suddenly lose interest. I can't predict what will hold my attention.
I find it really difficult to stay into certain games the older I get. I have about a dozen games on my shelf that are unfinished and will probably never be. I tend to play episodic games because I can get a taste of game with a bit of puzzle solving throw in, but in short doses.
Sam & Max was great for this and I'm looking forward to the Back to the Future series put out by TellTale as well. Short, digestable bites of gaming goodness.
Personally (at 18) i agree with you that as you get older you are harder to satisfy immersion-wise, i find owning a large variety of games solve this along with mutliplayer games. I now find that unless a game has some aspect of multiplayer then I can't spend a long time on it without getting bored.
17 years old. Homework is getting "heavy".
Mentally challenged detected.
I think when we are young and first come to gaming we have a boundless enthusiasm for engaging with games, its new and its exciting, everything is fresh and we want to absorb it until it comes out of our ears. Plus we have the capacity, given that there really isn't much else in the way of responsibility to distract us.
Also I think its true that kids brains absorb much more and so experiences are more densely packed, i.e. per hour of engagement many more memories are laid down and new neural pathways formed, which makes for a qualitatively different experience. Simply put kids are more stimulated by games and naturally this subsides as we get older, more experienced, and our brains and intellects mature.
However this don't mean that we out grow of gaming but rather that we need to grow our gaming horizons, as a kid you may have been satisfied playing a relatively simple game to death... as an adult you need much more, and there is much more if you just look for it; there is a tremendous wealth of culture, art, story, challenge, and simply great gameplay out there to be experienced and each genre has its charms.
I can relate to the question at hand. I've been playing games since I graduated from the crib to a real bed, for the most part, but...well, Life happens. I had more to say than that, but frankly, I'd rather keep it brief. Bills need to be paid, work needs to be found, girls need to be asked out on dates, food and gas need to be bought, and sleep needs to be obtained before tomorrow when the same crap will happen again, just like I've increasingly found it to do so in so many video games I previously had an interest in.
Let's just say that growing up sucks sometimes and leave it at that, though. I've already spent an hour cutting down the essence of what I wanted to say to this much.
Immersion is what makes and breaks games for me. If I cannot be drawn in, I can't really enjoy the game.
This is why pretty much all I play these days are RPG's and Grand Strategy.
Having just finished a marathon viewing of 5 seasons of Dexter, perhaps I would reconsider the power of movies and TV shows to create immersion. While I really loved the show and thought about it often, I never experienced myself to be an actor in that world the way I did when I played WoW--when I guess I (or my representative) actually was an actor in a virtual world. WoW was on my mind much more than Dexter, but I felt the same kind of seductive enthrallment while watching the show that I did when I played WoW. Everything on the screen seemed so fascinating, as if all the action takes place in a kind of hyper-reality--a place better than where I live--more interesting--more vivid--richer and endlessly intriguing.
I'm an inveterate reader and I really enjoy reading and thinking about books, but I never get that intense a connection from it.
over gaming has hit me at least 3-4 times now. I just stop for a week to a month and catch up on shows/movies. Then some new game comes out and i get sucked into gaming once more wooo.
Now Timmy, is this accompanied with thoughts about girls? You and I need to have a talk. And yes, there's supposed to be hair down there.