I happened across an interesting article from a few years ago that made me wonder again a bit about this thing that gamers call “immersion“. Please read it, as it suggests thoughts more profound than this particular tangent I’m exploring:
Might not the commuters be considered to be “immersed” in their daily routine, but simultaneously oblivious to their surroundings? What price do we pay for immersion?
What I found particularly saddening was the death of a homeless man… that none of the commuters noticed. Missing out on a singularly spectacular musical experience is one thing, but missing out on possibly saving a life, that’s another. Maybe nothing could have been done, as Bill Murray’s character so painfully and poignantly learned in Groundhog Day as he tried to save a homeless man, but it’s not always the ends that matter. Sometimes, it’s what we learn and why we act that are important, as they build our character. Perhaps we fight against entropy not because we will win, but because it makes us stronger, and because it makes life worth living.
As much as I wish these MMO game worlds were more interesting places (one of my earliest articles was on this, and it’s been a recurring theme), do I really want to be immersed? No, not if it means I’m missing something more important. The quest for progress can obfuscate things that really shouldn’t be ignored or left behind.
Even some of those nutty RPG game designers don’t want to tread the MMO path. Yuji Horii, Dragon Quest creator, had this to say about potentially taking the DQ series into MMO territory:
What we always inspire to do with each new Dragon Quest is to not make it an all-virtual world, we try to make sure we keep the gamer connected to the real world, and not to have them disconnect completely. There is a phenomenon in Japan called ‘Haijin,’ these are people who just play the game and disconnect completely from reality, and that is something we do not want to do with the Dragon Quest series.
I know, I know, games are escapism, and escapism can be healthy. I certainly consider it valuable in my own life. Sometimes, though, it’s wise to poke your head out of the immersion and see what you’re missing.