Missionary work

On Larpwriter Challenges, Larporatories, Larp Exchange Academies and Larpwriter Summerschools

Greetings from post-graduation unemployment! I am back to blogging. I’ll start off with a train of thought I got while teaching at the Larpwriter Summer School:

 

We are in the midst of one of the most exciting periods in the history of larp, a great diaspora of ideas is going on. This is the end of the navelgazing scandinavian larping bubble and the bringing in of the wider world. Knutepunkt, the great yardstick of nordic larp has been having a greater and greater number of participating nationalities.

Even more importantly, we’ve begun to actively look outwards, to bring the good word of larp to faraway lands, teach the natives how to create, play and immerse. Especially the norwegians have laid their great oil- and eu-sponsored resources into this and brought the rest of us along.

I’m using the language of missionary work of a dark age because I want to point out that this development has certain pitfalls and moral aspects we need to be aware of. Nordic larp has a lot of cultural baggage from our enlightened lands, some of the core ideas and ideals are tied very much to the social democratic values, which might not translate entirely to other places.

But with self-reflection and humility it also provides a wonderful mirror to look into and see what we actually have, in ways that were invisible when we were just the nordics talking to each other. The more different cultures we meet, the better.

I’ve mostly been involved through the Larpwriter Summer School, which ranks in my top three of most worthwhile things I’ve done in life so far. I’ve just returned from the second one, I’ll probably deconstruct it further in another post, but this time I’ll just focus on the cultural meeting it entails.

Compared to knutepunkt, the summer school is a much more relaxed and inclusive environment. The most important goal is for the participants to have a safe space to learn and experiment in. For me as a dane it has been a very valuable lesson in how to conduct yourself in a less abrasive way. (Most of us experts from Denmark managed to do some sort of insensitive faux pas during the week, hooray for stereotypes!) It got even better this year, with the experiences of last year well cemented. There was also less pressure on everyone from the program, which took the edge off the tiredness and irritability that often lead to crappy behaviour. Along with the mandatory debriefing “runda” everyday it led to a very open environment for admitting mistakes and getting help from the others to act better next time around.

It takes some time and a willingness to learn from your mistakes, but with a place free from posturing and identity politics (I’m looking at you, Knutepunkt) you can have a nice, open space to meet other people on equal footing.

The curriculum was also focused on process and creativity, rather than any one true way of larpsmithing. It allowed the students to input their own themes and concepts and helped them get those ideas closer to realization. Having students from last year visit and make larps in two days was a beautiful testament to how the processes worked. It’s possible for the aspiring larpwriters to take whatever they want to explore with larp and get started on creating games from that.

I am starting to see larp less as a decadent western past-time and more as an artform for cross-cultural communication. And that thrills me to no end.

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