Immersion vs. Addiction

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So many important points were brought up regarding immersion and addiction in the comments to my previous post, “Immersion: Good to Great,” that I felt it was worth writing another post that addresses this issue specifically.

First, I need to thank Pasduil for bringing up this point, which I completely neglected in my previous post. There is definitely such a thing as addicting stories. The aspect I was trying to describe is different, but the line between them can be very thin in places. We certainly don’t want to make addicting stories or games, especially if there is little value in them. Immersion doesn’t create the value for our games, either, but it can help take them a step further in engaging our audience. A game needs to be worth our time before we try to make it something people can be immersed in.

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As Tension Builds

Tension is the number one element of plot. If you don’t believe me, just go read any good book or play any good game. It’s not to say that you should focus on tension more than anything else when designing a story, but when designing plot it needs to come first.

To start with a definition, tension is when the character has a goal, but things happen to make the goal seem impossible. It’s always better if the audience wants the character to succeed in the face of impossibility. This can range from the romantic interests getting in an argument to the antagonist getting ready to behead the protagonist.

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Immersion: Good to Great

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Think of a game you played or a book you read in which you got completely caught up in the world the designer/author had created. You found yourself playing or reading practically straight through from start to finish with few breaks. For my part, as each of the Harry Potter books came out I would stay up progressively later to finish it. When I read the seventh book, I read all through the night, kept reading until about two in the afternoon, took a nap for a few hours, and then continued reading until I finished it late in the evening. Don’t worry, that’s not a normal occurrence with me. I do sleep on occasion.

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Changing the Gamer Mindset

Quite a few intriguing ideas came out of the ODIN Project brainstorm today, and I thought I should share one of them.

As gamers, we often have goals or objectives given to us. But the instant that we know exactly how long it will take, and exactly where we must go to accomplish our objective, the goal becomes a chore. Often times, our goals are broken up into explicit “checklists” of things we must do to finish a quest or mission. When given the objective to travel to another city, we know point A, point B, and that it will take about 10 minutes to get from A to B. We immediately run from A to B, trying to get there as fast as possible. However, even when our goal is clear, if the way to accomplish it is a mystery, then the chore can become an adventure.

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That Idol

That idol

Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark, opens with our intrepid archeologist stealing a gold idol from an ancient temple riddled with booby traps. We get the famous running away from the boulder scene, betrayal, and some all-around awesomesauce, but it doesn’t add a thing to the plot. In fact, the movie tells exactly the same story without that sequence, but it wouldn’t be the same without it.

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