#kp2018 liveblog: The lie of immersion

Day 2, and I’ve already missed one of the sessions I came here for.

But this is two guys who are agile and lean startup coaches talking about the “lie of immersion”. I mean, what’s not to like. (Well, apart from the fact I use “immersion” to mean something entirely different to everyone else here…)

You could skip the majority of the liveblogging and simply check out their deck.

Their personal bias: Spanish Chamber larp.

Copying techniques from Nordic larp. Breaking the unit of time and space, which was new in Spanish larp even if 500 years out of date in theatrical tradition…

Interesting aside – in an accident of disorganisation, costumes arrived late for a game, and players were taken out one by one to get changed in stages during the game.

Cultural disclaimer. The Turku Manifesto nailed to the doors of the church in worms leads inevitably to the counter reformation and a Spanish Inquisition…

And yes – “immersion is a state of mind where a player deeply and naturally feels as if they actually were their character and the larp setting was real.” (Which is entirely unlike how “immersive theatre” uses the term. qv other posts.)

They point out it’s not a binary state, and they’ll be talking about the liminal space between the two components, and therefore it has:

  • Multiple components
  • Which means it can be acted in with multiple tools
  • without eliminating the psychological state.

And it is connected to “Identification” – engagement is possible without immersion, cf. psychic distance.

An author can choose to vary psychic distance, and as larpers we can do the same. Psychic distance can be a defense mechanism to lulls – vary the psychic distance to the ongoing event to give you space to think and consider without the guilt of “losing immersion”.

(Demo of the Android mechanic in the larp Conscience.)

(Example of psychic distance as a defense mechanism to enable the safe exploration of the experience of Alzeimers in Fairweather Manor.)

And now, Brecht. “You require estrangement from the play to be able to critically analyse it.” (I think this is puppeteer vs. inhabitant of a character again, but with actual knowledge of the theatrical tradition involved.) Used as a technique in a larp of “Requiem for a dream”. No 360 experience, a “dissonant” space with a game designer in a conductor role in an event which – to my UK eyes – is hardly a larp at all, with some participants getting close to an audience role for some of the time, and active intervention by someone manipulating the play in an out of game means. (cf: Tadesz Kantor – the “performance conductor.”)

Emotional hygiene is a key concept – “I don’t want to create wounds” is a neat line, working up to the Nordic technique Ars Amandi.

Coda: “I thought it wasn’t necessary to do a de-brief because I’d been careful to design a “safe experience”.

I very much enjoyed this presentation. The style they discussed was oddly reminiscent of a UK tradition of performance as opposed to immersion. Ok, I say “A UK tradition…” it might mainly be me.

Interestingly – I think the concept of psychic distance is “acceptable” as a counterpoint to the Nordic notion of immersion. The presenters are being very careful to place the idea in an intellectual framework – and explicitly as a defensive technique to a darker end of immersion, which ends in actual emotional damage. It’s a much more respectful critique than I’ve seen in the UK…

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