Here’s a couple of things I took home from this year’s Fastaval, that seemed to be more than just individual diversions. I might expand more on some of them in individual blogposts if I feel the urge later on, but for now enjoy these ideas:
This year had quite a few scenarios with scifi settings, two were homages: One to Valérian and Laureline comics and one to the Mass Effect games. Another was based off swedish retrofuturist art and a couple of them had new ideas.
Maybe it was just me, but I hope to see more scifi in gaming. It is a powerful lens to illuminate various issues and provides excellent freedom of setting. It’s still a bit tricky to bring into proper larp without either a lot of suspending disbelief or a lot of scenographic and costume work, but hopefully it can sneak into the minimalist styles?
Fastaval is usually strong on either very controlling gamemaster styles or the exact opposite, games with little or no gamemaster intervention. This year had some examples of a much more organic style of gamemastering. Rather than the usual “Cut and reframe” gm-interventions with clearly stated instructions to players, I saw a much more intuitive approach to guiding the game flow. Both in the techniques designed and in the craft of the gamemasters. It reminded me more of improvised player-controlled meta-room scenes, than the strictly controlled narrative it was.
An interesting thing was that a couple of games had split off various traditional gamemaster duties to players. This isn’t a new thing, but it seems to have become normalized to a degree where noone notices. Several games had a player who spent a lot of time playing various secondary characters. Some games had players in charge of narrating setting as well. I really enjoy seeing how the divide is breaking apart and design choices being less constrained by traditions and players taking on greater responsibilites for the game.
A lot of people really enjoyed our game, Paninaro, about fashion-designer reality tv, now with actual designing as a game mechanic. I really enjoyed seeing people expressing themselves creatively while playing, there’s a lot of potential in combining larp with artistic expression, there’s some powerful synergy of alibi going on. Also, I just wanted to plug our awesome game. It’s seriously fun. I’ll have a translation ready soon!
The Gender Debate
One of two debates following this year was the return of the great gender debate: Why aren’t more women writing games for Fastaval? This year with a side of “Maybe it’s the overly masculine themes of the games?” It’s good to see the debate is still going strong, we’re going better places for it. I like how it’s turned to a much more positive debate: It’s not about there not being a problem or kränkt menfolk, but everyone agrees we need to find ways to encourage women and remove the structural barriers that are in their way.
Since the awards at Fastaval are incredibly prestigious and sought after, there’s a lot of critique of how they are given out, as well as of how the games are selected. There’s a lot of people who see a too great potential for nepotism and insularity versus a large crowd of people angry at all the suspicion and problematization. Personally I think this is a very good example of why you need clear communication and even clearer rules. Also it shows that the competition that gave us such a strong incentive to write great games, can also lead to a lot of negative consequences that we must face.
The age of the individual auteur seems to be over for Fastaval. A lot of the games have multiple authors and all of them have had feedback from other authors during their creation. I think it’s really great to see the role of the community acknowledged and prized like this. Also that it was veterans and newcomers alike who work like this. The groups behind games seem a bit more fluid also, people working together based on the idea of the game, rather than previous allegiances.
If you were at Fastaval, what did you take with you? What do you think is the new hotness?