I have returned from my fourth stint at teaching at the Larpwriter Summer School and it was amazing as always. I love how we’ve done this so many times now, but still keep getting better at explaining the topics and building new concepts.
For me a big point this year was finally feeling entirely comfortable and at home at Rūta, our “Soviet Hogwarts” where we have the school. I forgot to check flight information in time and suddenly had to pack in an hour, but I still managed to get exactly everything I needed with me. I also tend to have difficulty sleeping in new places, it takes a couple of days for my body to trust the bed and night time sounds, but this year my head hit the pillow and I switched off immediately. This was a big part of feeling much more comfortable and social for the whole week.
It also felt like the speakers and facilitators group had reached an important plateau. The intense emotions and stresses of the first couple of years have been replaced with more relaxed surplus and focus, which in turn reflected onto the participants. I didn’t experience much of my usual anxiety at meeting 48 new and interesting people from strange lands and they took to our lessons and excercises like naturals, despite the expected language difficulties and learning tricky new concepts. We also had the time and energy to make sure the new additions to the speakers and facilitators crew felt at home and confident.
Each year we manage to sharpen the lectures and workshops, we simplify the language and examples without dumbing anything down. And we share and discover new aspects in the theory. The Mixing Desk is a super teaching and design tool, continually developing. It is far from a unified theory of larp design, but very handy for what we are trying to do. This year had some very clever new takes:
1. Jaakko renamed the “Scenography” fader to “Environment”. It’s not just a new name, but an important shift in focus. Scenography is theatric, constructed and aimed at visual communication to an audience. Environment is much more inclusive and centres on the experience from within, it also removes the articial flavour that scenography tends to invoke. I’m gonna have to rename all of my work now and I love it!
2. Tova Gerge completely refurbished the “Representation of theme” fader to go from “Story” to “Action”. Traditionally we think of designing for stories in our larps, but a lot of design is actually more about setting up independent actions that create an experience. As someone who is a complete idiot at building stories, I love that I no longer have to feel handicapped, but that I make a design choice instead.
3. Eirik Fatland’s annual udate to the world map of larp is always fun, this year he could report that larp across the world is diversifying away from monolithic traditions to embrace many more ways of playing and a much more open exchange of ideas.
4. He also included “norp” and “prognorp” in his serious list of synonyms for Nordic Larp, which means that my joke word is now completely ruined. Great. Now I have to say “Inter-nordic Progressive Arthaus Larp Tradition” in order to be amusing. Just great.
5. Working with Signe Hertel on spatial design was super, we really got down to basics and found something solid to build on. I used to be afraid that I’ve been using too fancy architect speech and specialist terms, but now we have a foundation. I want to see if we can build a new field of design in larp on top of it. I’ll share our workshop in my next post.
6. Hearing Jaakko talk about play is great, it was a wonderful addition to the serious talks about larp and education. Play is an important aspect of larp, that deserves a place in the curriculum.
The alumni of the summer school are turning into quite the force, we had thirty of them invade us this year. Next year they might even outnumber the regular participants! They planeed some fabulous projects for the coming year and made a magical Black Metal Children’s Party with literally thousands of balloons, for the participants on saturday. They really embody the best sides of the larp community: Community building, playfulness and inclusivity as well as international project making. I used to fear for the future of larp as we grow older and more boring, but with these guys on the block it’s going to stay magical pony land for quite a while!
There were signs of renovations and additions at Rūta, so our special place seems to be doing well, that makes me quite happy too. Even though the service culture can be esoteric, the food very… authentic and the facilities rough, it’s a really nice place that takes good care of us.
I can also report that Vilnius is gentrifying very well in some important aspects: It’s gone from only serving the most terrifying coffee in my life, to a virtual hipster’s paradise in just a couple of years! So many flat whites and open wifi in quirky coffeeshops! Next year I will bring my lady love for a vacation there, after the summer school.
If you or someone you know would benefit from learning the basics of larp design with an educational focus, keep an eye out for the application opening up in 2016. I promise it will be a great experience, both socially and educationally!