Immersion vs RP: What’s the Difference?
I’d love to say this is an age old question, but it’s not. The reason for this is that people have been RPing for ages but only recently have people began to talk about immersion as a separate play style. Some people love this and some hate it, but I think it’s necessary because, though related, they really are two separate things. That is to say, when I RP I’m definitely doing something different than when I immersion play.
Anyone who’s ever really gotten into a single player RPG will know about immersion play. You’re not really RPing, you’re becoming your character. And I think the real difference is in how much you decide.
RPers as a rule, tend to write out character histories. They tend to think about who their characters are. They go into a game with an intention. Immersion players almost never do. We wait for the game to teach us who we are. It’s very organic. It’s a growth thing.
To RP effectively, you have to know a lot about the lore of the world. I mean sure you can make up anything you want, but the other RPers will string you up for it. And we’ve all met “those” RPers. The ones who play the exact same character in every game they play regardless of the lore. The guy descended from a dragon, or the guy who who plays a half-charr, half human hybrid (which is impossible, according to Anet). So RPers have to have a basic understanding of the world. Immersion players don’t because they’re not making anything up.
I thought about this recently. How many people walking around today know nothing about geography, politics and history? A whole lot—but they’re still alive. They still go about their lives and make decisions. They live their lives based on what affects them immediately in their environment. If it’s cold, they put on a sweater. If they’re hungry, they eat. If they’re attacked by raid centaurs they defend themselves. They don’t need to know much to do that. The same is true with immersion players.
Let’s say I know nothing about the Guild Wars Universe. I start as a human and find myself in a tremendous battle with centaurs who end up putting me in a hospital. The next time I meet centaurs I know something about them. They’re the enemy and they’re dangerous. How I react depends on my character. Some might attack them on sight, some might want to avoid them. Some will be angry, some fearful. But none of this is planned by immersion players– we just play.
There are, in fact, a tremendous number of people who play MMOs solo. Every forum I’ve been on, you’ll see people asking about what the best profession is to solo the game, and inevitably there’ll be a bevy of responses asking why are you playing an MMO if you plan to solo. For many people the answer is immersion. They want to be in a living, breathing, changing world. They don’t want to have to team up with other people, often because it takes them out of the game. Scott Hartsman, one of the Rift devs said (and I’m paraphrasing here) you can’t design an MMO today without catering to those who solo. It would be a bad business decision. Even the Guild Wars 2 FAQ includes a question about soloing content.
There are so many people soloing, playing MMOs the way they’d play a single player game, that it’s amazing no one has brought this up before. See, RPers are the red-headed step-children of the MMO genre. PVPers, Raiders and Dungeon Crawlers all get a lot more attention than we do, because we’re a very small group. But immersion players make a much larger group and devs tend to ignore them too. Why?
Because they solo. They’re not organized. They don’t even know others out there playing the same way. While RPers have a community, immersion players don’t. It’s not really talked about and if everyone is soloing, there’s no reason to form that social hub.
But if there are that many immersion players out there (Skyrim and Dragon Age seem to suggest that there might be), shouldn’t we be recognized? In fact, many if not most of the things an immersion player would ask for are the same things RPers would need as well. What if we banded together, creating a group so large that developers could no longer ignore us?
I’ve been using these same arguments for a long time, since the Rift forums opened in fact, or shortly after. Now, with the advent of Guild Wars 2, it seems that immersion players finally have an MMO they can play and enjoy. I know I can.
But I think it’s time for those who do play this way to make themselves heard, because there are a whole lot of people who don’t even believe we exist.