When someone sends out a request for their needs in FarmVille, the message that they send says something like "help water the crops" and not just "click this hyperlink to help" which, on a subtle level, helps immersion by establishing that the goal is to complete an action in the game. The game puts the player in control of a little world, where his actions have consequences and things happen while he's away. Like it or not, it's actually a great example of how games are able to give the player a sense of purpose in the world they've created.
|Think of the poor, delicate strawberries!|
In other games, the gameplay portion takes center stage, and the player becomes immersed by identifying himself with the actions taken by the character. In a platform game like Super Mario Bros., when the player presses the "jump" button, he doesn't think "I pressed the button that made the character jump," but rather "I jumped." In this way, the player projects himself onto the main character in the game, and with good storytelling, this can evoke emotional responses.
|Ok, so Mega Mario doesn't really need to jump...|
Ultimately, it's ideal when a game gives the player a high level of immersion, whether it's hoping your crops make it through the night while you're asleep, or the world is going to come to an end unless you defeat the nasty villain and save the day. The player's mindset certainly plays a big part in how immersive any game can be, but every designer should work hard to help draw the player in and really let their imagination run wild.