Unintentional larphacking and learning

I’m going to try and sort out one of the big perspectives that the 2027 game gave me, that came as a complete surprise during the game and has been popping up in my mind afterwards.

So, 2027 was designed to be a larp about postcapitalist living in a utopian setting. It manifested in the game consisting of a pleasantly hippie communal society, where everyone pitched in and things were decided at meetings. A quiet, functional society with clear, if unstated, values and social mores.

Then, halfway through you introduce a largeish group who’ve spent two days playing through scenes of horror, oppression and fighting together, with the intent to integrate them into the hippie society. 

This did not go smoothly, both in the fiction and on the meta level. I was with the newcomer group and the cultureshock of arriving at the commune was scary and offputting to say the least. After playing on fear and secrecy for a long time, being pulled into a big circle of people to introduce yourself and then being pulled from those you came with was incredibly threatening. Even though it was done with the best of intentions.

Later, when things settled down, there were numerous smaller and larger cultural clashes, when our rough and angry way of communicating grated on the hippie mentality. Or the socially enforced sharing went counter to our resource preservation mindset.

From the other side, you had your wonderful utopian society intruded upon by loud, angry people, who did not value your culture or your functional ways of doing things.

It wasn’t really surprising how hard it was to interact between the two groups. And on the meta level, the two playing styles and kinds of drama were interruptions to each other. So it very much became parallel play.

When we tried to create awareness of our struggles as refugees and guerilla fighters, they were largely ignored or countered with being inappropriate.

What I’ve taken away from this is an insight into the mechanics of integrating refugess into society. I can imagine how this mirrors why ghettos form. Where the anger at society starts. How much easier it is to fight and break things. How painful it is to be unable to explain yourself. How there’s no room for your way of life, even in the most accepting of societies. How much work it takes to bridge the cultural gaps and understand each other. How little things can trigger negative emotions. 

I’ve come to the realization that why these insights are so strong, is that they were unintended. There was no special focus on it, on the contrary we were told to make our stories utopian. There was no active attempts to make us feel unwelcome, we did not set out to disrupt the utopian. But we still ended up feeling very much us-and-them. And they probably feel that we were an unwanted interruption, ungrateful and abrasive. All things I see every day in the immigration/integration debate. 

Had there been a design focus on these aspects it would likely have been over the top, too clearly cut and in focus. It was the lack of those exact things that made the experience real.

During the game it felt very much like we larphacked these things into being. As an example: During the party at the climax of the game we staged a silent protest. It was very difficult to reconcile our characters desires to make trouble, with our knowledge as players that we would be disrupting the expected utopian play of others. So we did a half-hearted compromise, the wording of our signs were carefully vetted instead of honest expressions. It would have been so much more satisfying to go all overboard and fuck shit up, so much more dramatic and so much worse for the game as intended.

I’m still not sure how all this makes me feel about my principles as a larper towards my own desires, creator intent and the game at large. But it was interesting to find the jagged edges of them and get to explore a bit. And some valuable perspectives too.

3 thoughts on “Unintentional larphacking and learning

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