Immersion, a tool, a style that rose to became the only truth many of us believed. And then, years after, we have turned our backs against it, and relegated it to its rightful place, as another possible way to play, not compatible with each kind of larp. A tool to put limits on, because if taken to the extreme it can be dangerous to the larp, to the other participants and to the immersionist themselves.
Immersion is a common discussion now, and I can provide my grain of salt due to my past as an immersionist.
I discovered immersion quite early in my larp experience and it was love at first sight. It got me closer to the feeling I felt in my first larps, it improved my performance, it made me one with the larp, and so I called myself an Immersionist. Then the problems appeared.
Now, years after, when I am quite aware of the dangers, both as a participant and organizer, I have learned to fear those that call themselves immersionists. I see in them the chance of committing some of the errors I have experienced or seen. I do not say they do not have good intentions or that they are not trying their best, but again they are playing with fire, be them aware of it or not.
I do not say immersion should be banished, but its degree should be calibrated, with the participant steering behind it. If not, you, my dearest immersionist, you are a danger to others and yourself.
Here I list all possible issues. Some I experienced myself, some seen in others, some I hope will never happen.
An immersionist can go against the larp
An immersionist can get isolated from the larp
An immersionist can go against the experience of others.
An immersionist can go against the well-being of others and himself.
Full immersion means that your character’s true being and motivations come first. You are your character, and as such you will act as it will in every situation. Therefore, without this meta-vision of what is happening around you, you will be unable to act or react when the larp has opposite needs. Be it for a sudden turn of events, for the adequacy of your character to that larp, or for a design error that your character could get trapped into.
But, whatever the reason, this means that you will continue following your line no matter who or what and react to late, if you do at all.
And as a result you affect globally the larp in a bad way.
You are your character, you feel empowered, you feel another live in you, but what if your actions get you in a direction where there is no possible outcome or you are a nuisance to others and they decide to isolate you (which is one of the worst things you can do to another participant)
Then you may encounter yourself unable to fully break character, with the feelings of nothingness and rejection permeating to you, gasping to think how to retake the larp. Each time more and more confused and exhausted, now out of character, but with it still lingering on your back. If that happens to you, I hope you have some friends close or that you find some merciful people willing to bring you back. If not, ask the organizers for help immediately, the consequences of staying in that limbo too long are not nice.
The experience of others
The others cannot or do not want to expel you from their experience. But you carry on as your character would, but this is not reality, this is a collective creation and with you in it the game is not “fun” anymore. Things continue, you maybe even reduce your immersion aware of your failure, but the damage is done, the larp has lost rhythm, and you are the cause.
The larp now is over and you can feel it in their expressions. Depending on the degree, some may be angry, some just uncomfortable, or they may simply have nothing good to say to you. You were a nuisance to others and you just found out. Go home knowing that you will not be able to solve it in person with them, and that some will never play again with you to find out that it was but an accident.
The most dangerous, the one I have only seen to a small amount. Larps now contain step-out keywords that any participant will recognize and act accordingly. They indicate that the situation is not comfortable and should be let as it is, the need to break character and further discussion or that an emergency is taking place.
But any interaction contains a process, a subtle bargain where clues are exchanged. In it non comfortable interactions should require reaffirmation from one of the two sides, and the process needs to be gradual.
If not done so, the other person may get blocked and not use the keywords, therefore being the receiver of a non desired interaction.
But an immersionist is not looking for clues, they follow the character’s interests. Therefore, there is a bigger chance they will miss the clues, carry on and only react if they encounter a keyword, if any.
What I here say are extreme examples, which are rare, but possible. Still, minor versions of them can be seen often on the hands of immersionists.
I do not pretend to banish the use of a degree of immersion as technique, but to advise against pure immersionism. As with water, danger depends on how deep you go. So remember, immersion, not submersion.
Please, be good to others, be good to yourself, use the immersion, do not let it use you.