Wait, Is ‘Breath of the Wild’ an Immersive Sim?

“Five star podcast, five star runtime” has become the unofficial mantra of Waypoint podcasts in the last year or so, a way of admitting we have a very hard time getting any of us to shut up once we get going. You, our beloved listeners, have embraced this mantra. Yet, constraints can be good. It can also mean less work for everyone involved. That’s possibly a win-win.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/3a88wj/wait-is-breath-of-the-wild-an-immersive-sim
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“Wait, Is ‘Breath of the Wild’ an Immersive Sim?”
A nice, moderate level of spice. A respectable opinion, reasonably defended. Announced in the podcast title.

“Fallout New Vegas is the best Immersive Sim of the decade okay bye”
HOLD THE FUCKING PHONE! Accepted as fact by Patrick. Then the episode just ends! Does that mean Skyrim is an Immersive Sim? What about Fallout 1 and 2? And if those count, why not Baldur’s Gate and the like? What even is an Immersive Sim now?

Anyway thanks for an unexpectedly spicy pod, Waypoint

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I have a flow chart I use to determine whether a game is an immersive sim or not. It goes like this:

Is it Deus Ex? —> Yes?—> It’s an immersive sim.

Is it Deus Ex? —> No?—> It’s not an immersive sim.

Is Prey a Deus Ex?—>Yes—>it’s an immersive sim.

Is Dishonored a Deus Ex? —> Yes—>it’s an immersive sim.

Basically… while I like the idea of concepts and systems being pulled from immersive sims for new games I just can’t get one hundred percent behind this very loose interpretation of immersive sim.

BotW is an action adventure game with physics. It’s about as much of an immersive sim as Grand Theft Auto III (which let you do stuff like preemptively block routes with trucks to halt chases and stuff—rockstar go back to this model your story-driven missions are whack).

That being said I always like hearing this conversation with this crew. I always tune in.

There was some discussion of whether or not a text-based immersive sim could be a thing. It exists. It’s called H A C K M U D and it is incredible. You would be right to point out that it is not a Deus Ex and I’m breaking my own rules, but you know what? We all make exceptions to rules and definitions we’ve made up for ourselves. :stuck_out_tongue:


Yeah, I’m also in the camp that after a certain point, a game needs to be deliberately styled after previous immersive sims to be an immersive sim.

Is “0451” a passcode for something?—>Yes—>It’s an immersive sim.

Now this talk of Hitman being an immersive sim, I think that’s flagrant disregard of the stealth action genre. Every other stealth action franchise is dead but Hitman. You don’t get to make that an immersive sim.


You, sobbing: You can’t just call everything an immersive sim…
Waypoint: *points at all of the decade’s major releases* immersive sim


I’ve really liked the trend of opening up the definition of immersive sim lately, and the trend of redefining the deus ex-a-likes as a subgenre within it (usually just straight up as 0451 games). “A game very similar to deus ex” is just way way too narrow a definition, and we don’t really have a better term yet for the genre that intuitively contains Hitman, Prey, BotW, Divinity: OS2, hackmud, and etc all at once. After all, most games belong to multiple genres at once, there’s no reason things shouldn’t an RPG (or/and any other genre) and an immersive sim. Deus ex and its -alikes are stealth games and shooters and RPGs and so on too. I think it is useful to be able to talk about what connects these particularsorts of games, and that is the reason genre labels exist in the first place.


Waypoint: Points to Remnant From The Ashes Immersive. Sim.
Me, on the floor: please stop.


One of my first posts on Waypoint was an attempt to come up with a Brooklyn Definition of Immersive Sim. It basically revolved around my belief that neither Hitman nor Bioshock should count as an Immersive Sim.

Needless to say, my definition was much more restrictive than the one they used on this podcast, but I mostly stand by it (with the caveat that I have no idea why I thought Mirror’s Edge should be included).

Truly, the real Immersive Sim was the friends we made along the way


There is something horrifying about the idea of my friends just being an immersive simulation lol


As Life is now an immersive sim, I will immediately start writing my passwords on post-its in oddly hard to reach locations.


But why do you need the sticky note when the passcode to everything is 0451?

If I remember correctly, Bioshock: Infinite does two things that make sure it’s not an immersive sim.

  1. 0451 isn’t the first passcode in the game, the symbols and bells thing for the lighthouse is.

  2. 0451 doesn’t actually open–I wanna say it was a kinda nonsensically shoehorned in elevator. It’s a number on a note Booker tells Elizabeth to try but isn’t the code so they find another piece of paper that has this supposed to be protected passcode.

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I think “immersive sim” is definition you need to truly twist in order to shut out something like Hitman or BotW, or you just have to admit that it’s less a genre and more a variating repetition on one very specific thing.


This is exactly it for me though. An immersive sim is an FPSRPG hybrid with physics objects, dialogue trees, stealth and open conflict options, and multiple level routes. They laughed at the Wikipedia definition on the pod but as it was being read I was like… yeah thats what this is to me. If I can’t carry a refrigerator from a building to an alley, drop it below a fire escape, climb up, and break into an apartment just to read an email then it’s not an immersive sim.

That being said I want to emphasize that this is what an immersive sim is to me personally. I hope people keep making that exact same kind of game in various forms at various scales for as long as there are games, but I’ll also be very happy to see how those elements are extrapolated into adjacent projects or other genres entirely.

I just won’t call those other things immersive sims.


I’m not a very smart person so bear with me if this is a lightyear behind in the discourse( in what an immersive sim is and in what a definition is).

Is immersive sim, starting from the words to the way people try to define it,… just a synonym for video game? You know… a Simulation that is Immersive?


So the literal meaning would be all games, but in the same way that any game where you don’t play as yourself is a ‘Role Playing Game’.

In the way it’s used… well, that’s why we’re all having so much fun flipping out over what an Immersive Sim actually is~

it’s a genre that, rather than being defined at the start by some general set of mechanics, is defined by similarities to an initial game (in this case the first Deus Ex) that had a specific set of mechanics a lot of other games have riffed on. but it’s been a while, so in some places and for some people, it’s come to just mean systems-heavy gameplay that allows for unintended ways to solve or traverse the game. this is, basically, a ship of theseus discussion—how much of the initial thing can you replace before it becomes a different thing?

it’s pretty much the same as how roguelikes were first defined by similarities to Rogue, but there are lots of games that look and feel nothing like that game that people still consider roguelikes (or will argue about being roguelikes) because they have a couple of key mechanics (run-based gameplay, procgen levels, permadeath, etc.). my first thread on here was about PUBG being a roguelike so i find this whole conversation fun whenever it comes up.

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Since it is fun to kick at definitions, I’ll take a crack at it.

It might be that immersive sim is really only something we can call a game at a particular point in time. It’s any game, that upon its release sufficiently presents spaces and systems that allow for emergent play at a level of verisimilitude that exceeds the norm. This is basically Danielle’s definition, mashed up with context, and the idea of verisimilitude: the sense that something is real.

This is why BotW isn’t really an immersive sim. It isn’t evocative of a real space. It has emergent gameplay, but it always feels like a game. It raises the bar in a number of ways, but a sense of reality isn’t one of them. Prey is an immersive sim, because that space station feels real, and while it’s definitely a game, there are times when the thought process of setting up a trap feels like working with a real space.

System Shock 2 or Deus Ex released today, probably wouldn’t have that same sense, but compared to their peers: they definitely did.

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An immersive sim is any game that presents the player with a gun that puts enemies to sleep and a series of vents that are conveniently big enough to walk through.