Write for larpers, not just about them

This is a guide for all you wonderful academics out there, who love to write about larp. You’ve done such interesting studies of us and brought wonderful new knowledge and perspectives to our hobby. Thank you, but I do have one request:

 

Please include us in your audience. 

 

Most of us don’t understand your articles, because you write for your academic peers alone. This is cultural appropriation, you take our culture and use it for your own benefit. Make it cultural exchange instead and give back to us! Tell us what you’ve learned, show us who we are. Let us learn from you.

Here’s a couple of pointers I as a layman have, on how you can write something better, more approachable, frankly more useful. I’ve read your texts in the KP books, I’ve gained much knowledge from them, but it was excruciatingly slow going and at times painful to parse the lingo. I really want to share your ideas, but most of the larpers I know will just stare blankly at the pages you’ve written.

It’s good for you too, learning how to communicate with more than just your usual crowd is a valuable skill in real life. Businesses and media don’t want inscrutable lore, students haven’t learned all the words and sources yet and your mom might finally understand what makes you so excited.

The most loved and well known scientists are those who can explain their knowledge to the widest audience, who can show just how amazing it is to study and learn. Larping is a place to learn as well, use it to learn the art of communication. Practice on us!

 

Pick the right language for you

There are more ways of writing than there are writers, so you should find your own way(s) of doing it. Right now proper academic discourse is the style for you, but it’s not the only way. Try different styles out, find one that is comfortable to you.

I often get the feedback that my writing is emotionless with a tendency for using fancy words, but that’s okay because it’s my favourite style of writing. I also have another style of offensive ranting that makes people angry, for when I want to rock the boat, and a more vulnerable, tender style for emotional storytelling.

So explore a style that is comfortable to you, try out new ones and don’t ever get stuck in just one way of communicating.

 

Tell stories

Realize that you are not trying primarily to construct a logic argument or new theory, but inform people. People who love making and telling stories. So make your text a story, make it alive. Use colourful terms, parables and metaphors. Make it exciting to follow you from outset to understanding. Give examples from your personal experiences, tell how this makes you feel, how it has changed you! Create a narrative that we can follow to your conclusions.

 

Choose the right words

Academia is full of specialized words, a slight difference in meaning can be very important and change the whole thing. You have to choose carefully and pick the exact right term. Many words also let’s you skip a whole lot of intermediating explanation, for those in the know.

But most people don’t know or care about those nuances and lose the thread of your narrative when they get stuck on a new word. For us, we just want the quick and easy understanding. I can pretty much guarantee that the subject itself is new and interesting to us, so we don’t need it super specific. Every time you pick a specialized term instead of a more common one, you lose a reader.

 

Explain the words

Of course, don’t remove all the special terms. But when you choose to include them, give us a chance to understand. Explain what the word means in layman’s speak. One sentence is usually enough. Or use it in a context that shows what it means. I love knowing what diegesis means, and liminal is now one of my favourite terms. But that is because those terms were explained to me when I first encountered them. We’re not going to look up any words, so if it’s in the text you need to provide the translation yourself. Some terms are established larp-lore, but noone has yet complained about redundant explanations. And it might happen that  the same word has different connotations in other countries or cultures of play.

 

Use references constructively

References, quotes and sources are the lifeblood of academia, no text is any good without them. There are rules and requirements on them being there at all times, to watch over that you don’t stray. But outside of universities, no such thing.

It might be good to follow an idea back for some readers, so include them when valid. But don’t ever, ever use them as a stand-alone explanation. The next time I see someone have something like “Czikszentmihalyi, 1974” as the only explanation for a development in an article, I’ll send fucking hatemail. Give context, explain the historical place of a thought or theory. Don’t lose us with careless namedropping.

 

Trust your logic

Constructing a theory takes a lot of very precise steps in academia, you need to make sure everything is locked down and sourced. Nothing gets in unless someone else has already thought it up or you’re using an approved logical technique. But you can skip a lot of that with us stupid people, we trust that if you’re doing this for a living, your logic chains are damned solid. Include the steps you feel comfortable with, but keep it simple. We want to follow you to the end, we’re willing to take a few leaps of faith along the way. Our brains turn to mush if the article is a long rambling trip of precise increments, but we love an exciting trip from idea to idea, even if the footing is a bit sketchy.

 

Summarize

Please, please, please end your articles by summarizing your idea. It’s never redundant, it only ever makes your point clearer. Give us the quick version to retell, steal for our larps and blogposts. We might miss a thing or two in the main text, so help us with a chance to catch up at the goal-post.

Your own understanding grows stronger as well, the quicker you can explain an idea, the better you grasp the core of it. In the creative business a short and clear explanation is at the heart of every worthwhile work. If it takes an entire article to explain why the house is crooked, it’ll just be seen as bad architecture. But if you can see a strong idea behind it, it’s an awesome work of art. And then your idea spreads further as people share it.

 

Create perspectives

Speculations and flights of fancy are a bad thing in science. No unsubstantiated claims may be made at all. But you’re not writing for Those Guys, you’re writing for all the friendly larpers. Use this chance to let your imagination run wild, tell us how you see your theory lead to better practice, create new understandings, grow better people. Tell us exactly where you see the useful aspects emerge, how it can be implemented. Imagine larps founded on your ideals, how the very act of playing a role becomes a new thing. Dream for us! You’re the best one at it, we can only dream pale shadows of your imagination on these things.

 

Bring the passion back

And finally, show us why this is important to you. Why philosophy or sociology or whatever is the best ever way to look at the world and larp. How it’s not just boring old books and strict professors, but a vibrant, creative exploration of life as it is. If the subject is exciting enough for you to write a proper article or thesis on, share that excitement. If you’re enthusiastic of your new way of looking at larp, make us enthusiastic as well. You’re a human being, a live-action human being, so be alive and put some action in your words.

 

Don’t just take from larp culture, give back to it, make it better! Bring the power of your chosen career to bear for larp itself, not just about it. I don’t want you to neglect your peers in the academic world, but think of us as well when you decide to share your knowledge and wisdom.

 

Of course, if you’re only in it for the academic streetcred, we can just keep on ignoring each other. But do this for us, and we’ll want to buy your next beer at Knutepunkt to keep the conversation going. Just saying…

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3 thoughts on “Write for larpers, not just about them

  1. Wise words. The style and tone are nevertheless very heavily dependant on the intended audience and forum (a thing reflected in how the KP books change in style from year to year, too). Sometimes it’s excruciatingly hard to say something that would be both layman-friendly and acceptable, understandable and credible to an academic, interested audience that does not larp. That’s where different publication channels come in handy, as the KP2011 books well show.

    Occasions exist when we have to style-wise choose the academic audience over the practitioner audience. It’s not always about street cred, then, it may instead be for the purpose of explaing the hobby/art/lifestyle to people who want to learn (or should learn) more about it. In such cases, nothing offends the author quite like claims that he or she did it just for the purpose of street cred.

    When I look at the KP books (and their kin) as a series of developments, it to me seems that most academically-oriented KP authors have either become much more layman-friendly over the years – or they have stopped publishing in those books. Being however one of them, I’m not really fit to judge, I think.

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