Immersion is what draws me into LARP above and beyond all other types of game. As the controller of a video game avatar, I'm constantly running up against artefacts of the system and being constrained in my actions. Want to climb over that knee-high wall and explore the rest of the city? Nope. Want to try breaking outside the bounds of the dialogue options you've been given? Sorry.
Tabletop roleplaying almost gets there, but still misses certain things. In a way you have a lot more freedom than you get in a LARP game, since you're not always constrained by the real world limitations on physically representing a scene, but you're not acting the character, you're not having those visceral reactions to actually seeing and hearing other people do things in the flesh. You don't get the adrenaline of a real fight, you miss out on the real emotion that can run high in an argument.
So LARP's draw for me is the feeling that you're really there, and to actually experience it. It's a chance to quite literally walk in someone else's shoes, and that's why immersion is so important. Illiani touches on how breaks in immersion can throw you out of the experience, and indeed some LARP games have a tendency to do this all too frequently.
Something to consider in other forms of game design, then. What lessons can we learn from striving for better immersion, that mean we can construct better experiences for our players? How can we draw players into our worlds and keep them engaged? And how do we translate those experiences into limited media?
I should probably start by explaining what I mean by that sentence. In gaming we refer to an idea referred to as ‘immersion’, the moment when you forget the real world and become fully invested in the group fantasy. Some games can be described as more immersive than others and often the pursuit of greater immersion is what drives innovations in gaming. When the roleplaying hobby is most commonly described as ‘escapism’ it should come as no surprise that we would place strong value on improving the speed and consistency of immersion. So, when I ask ‘why does Odyssey feel so real’, I am actually asking ‘what makes Odyssey so immersive’. With the game ending in 2016 I do, after all, have a vested interest in seeing the Odyssey formula explored and repeated.