2027

I attended the larp 2027 in Nyköping, Sweden. It was a very intense experience, because of the special relationship play I had, so this is not an objective view at the game, but more of a personal debrief.

Pre-game

I was really excited about this project from an early point, but life got in the way of me going so I didn’t think I was able to go. Until I found myself drunk as a skunk at an auction of larpy stuff, three weeks before the game, and in my stupor bought a ticket anyway.

The next couple of weeks were full of catching up and research. I don’t think I’ve ever read as much for a game as for this one: Three novels, a dozen longer or shorter articles, a couple of documentaries and of course all the game materials. I found that my swedish friend Elli was also going, with whom I had had a brutally awesome time with at Kapo. So of course we immediately got together to plot out how we could play together again in the worst way.

Even with all the reading and materials, it was still hard to figure out what the game was actually going to be like, besides two days of blackbox larping followed by two more of 1:1 360-degree playing in utopia. So we focused on our relationship as the central element of play. We built characters around a couple who can’t live with or without each other, three keywords for the play: Trust, Transition and Hope, a theme song and the goal of a happy ending in Relationship Anarchy.

Teater K: 2012 – 2026

For us the game started at Teater K in Katrineholm. A nice little blackbox theatre space where we began by developing our characters and playing scenes. There was a high number of participants who had not tried larp before, so it was a slow start. I could have wished that there’d been set half a day off to teach them the ropes, the dos and don’ts of our hobby. I think everyone would have benefitted from that. The first part of the play was gathering the groups of survivors in the southern Sweden and Denmark and taking us through the first six years of fictional time in the rise of hunger and fascism.

In the evening we were shipped off by busses to an actual farm where armed guards “kept us safe from terrorists” while we dug for portatoes in the soaking clay. It was a miserable experience, until some of us were lucky enough to go for kitchen duty inside.

Day two consisted of us trying to either start a resistance against the fascism or escaping to a better place. During the day, a group came from Mälardalen and told of their rebuilt society of sharing and participatory democracy. We all ended up with a party and shortly afterwards began the trip up to utopia.

My story with Elli started with some awkward courting, but as the situation got worse we were driven apart by her will to fight and my growing pacifism. At the party we ended up together again, having ars amandi while crying in a corner.

The play at Teater K gave some powerful experiences of the horrors in a failing society and built a special sense of community among us who had taken part of it.

Magasinet: 2027

In the evening we started the drive down to the community centre Magasinet in Nyköping, where the main larp was held. We were ingame in the cars and talked of our hopes and dreams as we came closer to finally being safe.

The arrival to the learning unit was overwhelming and scary. So many new, happy faces. A complete contrast to what we’d just been through. Too much of a contrast for some of us, but we were saved by some earlier arrivals who sneaked us away from the crowds and helped us make a safe nest, where we snuggled up the first night.

The next day we all fast forwarded 3 months, to where ever our stories would reach dramatic high points: For Elli and me that meant that she had taken two trips down south and bad stuff had happened. We’d both been with others and had drifted quite far apart.

We took this to the blackbox, where we first talked about the infidelity being a non-issue in the face of bigger stories. Especially that Elli’s character had possibly killed someone. We had a nasty fight in the box, using lines from our song and then headed back into the game.

We had some false starts, beautiful words turning ugly and trouble making it back together after that. Failing to talk until we sat in a support group, where all the emotions came out and the communication started again, amids many tears. And later that night we had very emotional make-up ars amandi.

The next day we once again fast forwarded, this time a full year and with the instruction to get our characters to their happy utopias. For us that meant accepting the weaknesses of the other, lending strength no matter what. And living on an anarchist farm slash recycling centre with other refugees from the south. The last couple of hours of play was a happy time, ending with walking in silence up the hill where we listening to songs and stories. And lighting paper lanterns that flew away in the starry night sky.

Themes

The main explorations of the game was to create a utopian society based on permaculture and participatory economics. To have a game where conflicts were resolved in positive and peaceful ways. It was very hard to get into that mental space after the first two days being so full of suffering and disagreements, coming to a place of happy ignorance as refugees and veterans of horrible resistance fighting. It was hard to bridge relationships to the characters already established at the place, it became very us-and-them despite trying to take part.

It did give me some interesting new perspectives on how it could be like for real life refugees, how hard it can be to accept other people being happy and why integration seems impossible to achieve.

I felt that the game lacked a concrete presence of the participatory, other than as pure culture. I’d have loved if there were practical elements that showed off the nature of a parecon and a direct need to utilize sustainable designs, but unfortunately it was kept purely theoretical.

Our initial conflict over turning a monogamous relationship into a polyamorous one sort of drifted into obscurity, neither of us really felt the conflict was appropriate to bring in at Teater K and when we got to Magasinet, we just discovered it to be a non-issue compared to bigger differences.

And I should also mention Elli and I having larphacked in a ton of our own relationship drama play, which took up most of our attention with powerful emotions and conflicts. Not trusting the one you truly love is a consuming situation.

Game design

I was excited to try how the game would work out in regards to starting off with two days of fast-forward blackbox play before going into the main fiction. In previous games with pre-game workshops, it always felt too rushed to create concrete background scenes. Here there was almost time enough to make the past a real thing. Playing out the scenes created some very lasting bonds and memories with the other characters. I remember sitting at the support group and thinking that these aren’t people pretending to be traumatized. It felt more like talking of actual traumatic events, even if we made them up together.

Elli and I used the blackbox time to explore the limits of our relationship and create baggage that we brought with us into the main game. We saved the heavy conflicts for when we had time to play on them, and made an effort to build them up before that instead.

Two players, one character

During the game we came to realize how our characters were intertwined, it was obvious that they primarily existed as their relationship. Drama, differences and conflicts were only really there if it was between them, rather than internal to one or external to both. We went back and forth between very close and distanced a couple of times during play, as we drove each other away and found our ways back.

Our theme song, Schism by Tool, has some powerful lyrics about breakups and the emotions you go through. We used them extensively in the blackbox and in the game itself. It brought a special weight to the words that made fights uglier, but also gave us something special together.

We were also quite physical, lots of holding hands and sitting close when together, we made a lot of use of ars amandi and an analogous technique of touching the other’s cheek to symbolize kissing. It was an intense experience to be that close.

It seemed that others also related to us in that way, those that knew us seemed much more at ease if we were happily together. And if we were alone and looking uncomfortable, the first concern from friends was always for the other. It was very much like being a couple.

I didn’t really feel that I got to the core of 2027 as intended, but the game provided a frame for one of the most intense experiences I have had as a larper. It was something I couldn’t have done without full trust of my co-player and the techniques of play. I absolutely love the swedish meta-techniques we used and it gives a very strong edge to any game, designed for it or not. Larp lets me break my heart and have it feel awesome.

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7 thoughts on “2027

  1. Thanks for blogging, I participated by providing the farm for both scenarios. I too thought afterwards that we could have better designed a play around participatory economics instead of just physical tasks. I would love to do it all over again taking what we learned the first time and bringing it just a tad further. Even muddier potato-digging tasks maybe? Hope everyone had a good time! /Steve, co-founder Änggärdet Eco-Village

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