The ability to show emotions in a nuanced and clear way. Society usually wants us to hide them away, but they are essential to good larp. There’s a wide range of emotions to try out and many ways to show them.
Emotions are the life of larping, it is the special edge we have over any other medium or hobby. For many of us, the thing we want out of larp is the experience of powerful emotions. It’s a safe space to experience them and we are exempt from the societal taboo on feeling in public. But like anything we do, we can be better at it, even if it is a completely natural thing for all of us.
If you’re into nordic larp, chances are you’ll want the most intense emotional output as possible. Then it’s a good idea to know what makes emotions tick and how to play with those bits.
Cognitive psychology has a basic model of the human condition that puts thoughts, feelings and actions as the three elements that make up our inner workings in a continual feedback system. What we feel runs on it’s own particular logic, but we can shape it via the two other elements. The way we chose to think and act shapes our feelings, which is why larp can really get under your skin.
And you can help the emotions along in various ways:
Stay with iti If something is making you react emotionally, keep your attention on it. We’re quick to put up barriers or move our attention, especially if it’s a negative feeling. This requires some unlearning, but it’s the healthy kind.
React immediately. The longer you wait, the more the feeling fades. Same goes for your co-players. If you respond quickly you can get some real synergy going in your punches.
Savour it. Some emotions are tasty on the long scale though, and this is the beauty of larp: You have time to stick with them and feel the slow change.
Be weak. Make your character human with weaknesses that others can get to you through, both for good and bad relations. Make the choice and you can control what gets to you and what needs to slip by.
Rebuild emotions. Sometimes you lose an emotion you’d want to keep. Go off on your own and try to find it again, do something that get’s you back in the game. Kick a car to get your anger back.
Repeat. The more you go into a situation the more you feel it, bring back words and gestures from previous encounters. Words can become ritualized and make relationships stronger.
Bleed-in. Using your out of game experiences to trigger emotions is a dirty trick, but it works. Just be careful not to dig too deep.
As always, do it safely. Realize that your emotional systems are engaged on high alert and that they will need time to reset back to normal. And there’ll probably be a comedown of some sort, the brain deals with intense floods of feelings by crashing afterwards.
Don’t let the emotions make real-life decisions for you. Make sure you have someone to debrief with after intense games. It takes time and talking to get back to normal. The more powerful the play, the longer it usually takes.
Showing those emotions is an additional layer you can work on, which has a double effect. It helps you become easier to read and gives more to play on for your co-players and it makes your own experience stronger.
Faking an emotional response is a quick way to actually feeling that way. Engaging the facial muscles in a smile or a frown will make you feel either happier or more concerned.
Practice the feelings you expect in a game beforehand, find out how your character uses your body, what thoughts go through their head. Recalling an emotional response is easier than making it up on the spot.
And the more used you get to expressing emotions, the safer you feel taking them further.