This is a sample of everyday conversation that me and my wife have, this particular one done over text message:
Leala: I want the 7-11 pet
Beau: Find me a 7 11
Leala: You are going to have to do some calling
Leala: Or blockbuster
Leala: They have dragons
Beau: K ill look
(At this point Leala tries to sweeten the deal for me. After 10 years with me she still does this)
Leala: If we get a $20 card I can gift you a broom
At this point I went to a local Blockbuster to get her a Wizard 101 ten dollar gift card, one that gave her a blue dragon pet as well. Luckily, they had them. Once Leala is set on her cash shop item, I might as well give in. This is just a typical day for us, playing games or chatting about them. Reading books or talking about what books we read. We watched "Where the Wild Things Are" yesterday, both of us cried. (Well, I did anyway. I think she did.)
And as I played the games during my 24 hour gaming session yesterday (for charity, the mass of which raised over $140,000) I noticed the games that I had the most "fun" in were: Mabinogi (Dragon fights on hot-air balloons!) Faunasphere (building my 'sphere and going to my first "instance") Wizard 101 (killing Halloween bosses!) Free Realms (soccer RULES) and Fusion Fall (platforming, customization and shooting giant monsters, Tabula Rasa style!)
That's not to say that I didn't have a blast in the other games, but just a different kind of blast.
I mean, playing Ryzom is a different experience than playing Mabinogi, and while both are deep experiences, they are different. Many players I know don't even spare a glance to certain "kids games" like Wizard 101 or Fusion Fall. Many people consider those games to be "kids games" and think that the experience they provide is too basic, or too easy for them to enjoy themselves.
Strange thing is, the older I get, the more silly I feel while playing "adult" games like Vanguard or Ryzom. Now, I am not saying in any way that it IS silly, just that I feel a little bit....like I am faking it more?...when I play a game made for "adults."
This is hard to explain, but let's see if I can.
When you play a game like Vanguard, it is an immersive experience, you feel surrounded by the world, you feel that same way you do when you are reading a great book. The music stirs you, you get lost in the "play session." And while I think role-play is the ultimate form of play, I do not mean "pretend" role-play. I mean role-play as in "asking yourself what you would do in that situation." That is different than "pretending that you are someone else in a situation," which can more often than not be the definition of role-play.
When I play like I am totally someone else, instead of myself (not this world myself, but if I was that character myself) I feel sillier. I feel that playing completely as someone else, like acting, inside a videogame brings out the fact that the game-world is not real at all. That's something I don't want to do. What I want to do is remember small details about me, for example my real-life allergies, and place those attributes on my character while keeping them in-line with the rules of the pretend world.
At this point I might have lost you. I hope not.
So, playing in a game that is admittedly "pretend", a game with vibrant colors or with absolute wackiness is still very immersive, and possibly more so, because it speaks directly to my real-life self and directly to my FUN which is at the core of the real-life me. In fact, I think most humans have a fun-loving-child at their core, which would explain all of our imaginations and need for gaming and escaping.
Maybe that's why I solo most of the time in "adult" MMO's like Vanguard or Ryzom. I like to role-play, but ironically I find less role-players in those "adult" games, which drives me crazy. One of the most immserion-breaking gaming sessions come from those that are spent with gripey players that "clock-in" to play, or treat it like a job, screaming in chat or acting as though this game is, literally, a second job for them. The best way to make your group-mates feel silly is to take the game too seriously.
Keep that in mind, and ask yourself why you play. Why DO you spend hours running around virtual landscapes? Is it out of some kind of dedication to your online friends? Is it to show off to other players? Or is it to have fun? I imagine for many players it is a combination of all those things some of the time.
I am finding, like I said, that the most fun I have is when I am making sure..to have fun. The immersive qualities come out of the game not because of fancy graphics or amazing loot, they come out of my games because of my interactions with other players and with shrugging, giving everything a try, and by keeping a smile on my face most of the time.
So, go act like a kid. I mean, aren't we all just children pretending to be adults? If you want an immersive experience, or at least a very powerful one, have a really fun experience. To me, that is closer to reality (which is what immersion is supposed to feel like) than almost anything I have come across.