Trending at Fastaval

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:

 

Classic scifi!

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?

 

Organic gamemastering

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.

 

Gamemaster players

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.

 

Paperdolls

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.

 

Fairness Debate

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.

 

Collaboration

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?

Nordic Larp Primer

While assisting the inimitable Adam James in introducing nordic larp to UK, through his performance art network, I realized I didn’t have a good starting point for new folks to learn more. What I mean is, that the information is out there, but it’s scattered across a lot of different places. So I’m just going t collect the best places to start learning more about nordic larp:

NordicLarp.org

The hub of the wheel. A community project, this site is all about collecting information on nordic larp. It consists of several excellent parts:

Calendar

The best way to find out what larp is like, is to take part in a game. The calendar covers the biggest upcoming events in the hobby. There are several games and conventions each year and all are welcoming of new participants.

Wiki

The Wiki is a work in progress, trying to gather as much knowledge about the hobby in one place as well as providing a handy reference for definitions and works. If you need to look up a word or thing, go here.

Talks

The Nordic Larp Talks are short, accessible talks on various topics, held each spring. I recommend watching atleast these ones to start with, they’re short and sweet:

Johanna Koljonen – Introduction to nordic larp

A very good introduction to nordic larp, by an experienced journalist.

Johanna MacDonald – From performing arts to larp

This video explains how larp is fundamentally different from the performing arts.

Jana Pouchlá – Welcome to larp. Let’s play.

Some good points on being a new participant in larp.

Games

The games themselves are what brings us together, to really get started understanding the thing, you should try it out. But for reading up on it, these are the books to look for:

Larps from the Factory

So far, the best collection of short larp scripts are the collected works of the Oslo Larp Factory. It has a lot of different styles and subject matters, which provides excellent examples of larps and how they are written down. There’s also a set of videos that show various techniques used in larps that are very useful to conceptualize what might be used during games.

Nordic Larp book

For understanding the bigger, longer games this is the book to look for. It has beautiful pictures and texts from some of the most influential larps in the nordic tradition. It covers some of the greatest moments in the hobby.

Larpwriter Summer School 

The best place to learn about the craft of making larps is  the Larpwriter Summer School, a week of courses on designing games held in the summer in Lithuania. Some of the lectures are available as videos and slideshows on the website. They are aimed at newcomers to the hobby and thus quite accessible.

Knutpunkt / Knutepunkt / Knudepunkt / Solmukohta

The big international gathering of nordic larp, rotating each year between the nordic countries. It is the place to meet the very cleverest people of nordic larp, hear about the latest academic research on the topic as well as upcoming and recently played games and events.

Knutepunkt Books

The convention also includes the production of one or more books each year, that contain various articles on larp. From highly academic theoretical models of experiencing larp, to angry rants, they represent the cutting edge of each year’s thinking on larp.

Especially interesting for newcomers is The Foundation Stone of Nordic Larp, which is a collection of the articles you need to read in order to be part of the discourse on nordic larp. It can get a bit hairy at times, but this is the way into the academic side of it all.

Further reading

Some other things that I think portray important sides of the nordic larp tradition:

Something Wicked This Way Larps

A wonderful online article that picks out several interesting points in the larp landscape, what kinds of play takes place and the thoughts behind the play.

Leaving Mundania

Lizzie Stark is an american journalist who has documented her trip down the rabbit hole of larp, all the way to the nordic countries and further afield in her very well-written book. She also has a blog with a very newbie friendly angle, that cover a lot of topics on nordic larp.

Playground Magazine

A short run magazine on nordic larp, that managed to provide several interesting articles on larp and neighbouring phenomena.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, each of those links lead further into the depths. I’m sure I missed several other clever places to start learning, so please comment with your favourite introductory materials!