4 Things That Destroy Immersion

If video games have one indisputable leg up on other types of media, it’s the depth of immersion they can provide.  Sure you can engage in a movie or fall into a book, but the heavily interactive nature of video games provides a less-than-subtle attachment to the world, and can be a powerful thing.

Until something comes in and completely ruins it.

Few feelings are as exhilarating as getting completely caught up in a game, or as jarring as when you are ripped out of it by one of the following:

The Camera

I was a huge 2D fan.  I understand that we as an industry couldn’t stay children forever, and eventually we would have to move into 3D. At first though, we had to deal with a litany of camera and gameplay problems arising from this new gameplay dimension.  It was tough.  A lot of these early issues have been mostly ground away at this point, but that almost makes it worse when a camera problem does rear its ugly head.  I imagine managing the camera isn’t easy for developers.  It’s so incredibly vital to the whole structure of the product, but at the same time it’s such a “gamey” thing that it can kind of fly under the radar.  Few games get lauded for their camera work (although notables like God of War 3 and Uncharted 2 have been appropriately praised), but heaven forbid it gets in your way.  We as gamers almost feel it’s a right to have a good camera, and in a way I suppose it is, so we get angry when the camera explicitly results in our failure to complete said game.

Difficulty Spikes

I’m all for difficult games.  I always try to beat my favorites on the hardest difficulty (working on a Halo 4 solo Legendary run right now), and I put forth valiant efforts at Super Meat Boy and Dark Souls.  That’s fine, especially if the difficulty is something your proud of.  However, randomly spiking the difficulty up can be a drastic blow to the goodwill a game can generate.  Wiegraf from Final Fantasy Tactics is the one that most clearly resonates in my mind, fighting that guy was a sobering experience.  As a kid, I literally thought it was impossible, and it very nearly ruined the game for me.  Luckily, I had a GameShark.  More recent games like Trials HD, The Witcher 2 and Mortal Kombat all stopped me in my tracks cold at one point.  Obviosuly these are still great games, but nothing kills the immersion like fighting Lethos for the eighth time in a row.

I hate you.


So you’re making your way through Horn Devil Pass in the snowy mountains of Skyrim, when you spy a hidden alcove up and to the right.  “Surely there must be treasure there”, you say, so naturally you start jumping like a maniac to get up there.  Just one hop away and….you somehow get stuck in a boulder that you can’t escape from.  That’s of course the moment you realize you’ve just been wandering the continent for a while, and haven’t saved in two levels.  Yep, we’ve all been there, and it just sucks.  Assassin’s Creed III, to a much larger extent, Aliens: Colonial Marines both learned how bugs could destroy an otherwise good experience.  And just to be clear, I’m not talking about Colonial Marines.  That game is just awful. Regardless, bugs are another thing that can absolutely take you out of the experience, and that is never a positive.

Level Design

This can encompass a lot of things.  Maybe it’s just me, but it takes some of the realism out of Gears of War and Mass Effect when every time I get in a fight I look around and see conveniently placed half-cover scattered around everywhere.  Or when I have to pick up a random coffee thermos in the woods in Alan Wake, or the branches of every tree are placed just so.  Obviously these things are necessary for gameplay reasons, but I imagine a world where all these aspects blend seamlessly…The two best past and modern examples of good level design I can think of are Super Mario Bros. and BioShock respectively.  Those are examples of level design done right.  There is any number of examples of level design gone wrong, so I won’t bore you here with them, and although what exactly makes bad level design is hard to pinpoint, its one of those you know when you see it.

What about you?  Has anything ever just taken you completely out of a game?  If you’ve got some time, why not check out The Best Family Guy Jokes of All Time, or these lovely Video Game Haikus


may I add a few? lets see here... though this might be under bugs, invisible walls. seriously, why can't I go to that really cool area, is there i building in the way? nope, apparently just air of amazing density. stupid AI. seriously, game developers, take a leaf out of bethesda's books. the guard AI in dishonnored. that was a good AI. yes, their attack patterns were flawed, and they were kind of blind, but there were smart, they would sound the alarm at the LACK of a guard that should be there. that is amazing omnicient AI. by the opposite gesture, some AI are just too goddamn good to be realistic. take the bot AI in tf2, yes, they sucked, but somehow, they could see right through spy disgueses, and had the hearing of dogs, they could hear a decloak that does not make any noise (invisiwatch with saharen spy) from 50 feet. just no. nope.avi. abilities that you should have, but cant. for instance, why is it that a highly trained assassin that can kill hundreds of guards in combat can't swim? seriously, are almost all videogame characters cousins of the wicked witch of the west or something? putting in music and a cutscene for every damn thing. yes, we can see that zombie is walking towards us, yes, we can see he is different from the 500 others you have seen copy-pasted again and again. so lets skip the cutscene and dramatic lick that developers seem determined to put in. Metathinking required beyond this point. why must you have a challenge that breaks the fourth wall, or makes the player use knowledge his character would not have? but, again, developers insist on this stuff, yes, i'm looking at you psycho mantis. copy-pasted enemies. why is it that the grunt i just killed is in front of e swinging his sword? oh wait, thats the one i killed on the ground over there, this is just his twin brother, more specifically, he is the 6347th oldest of them (i dont know a phrase past sextuplets).