The award-winning, sold-out Nordic Larp is now available as a free digital edition. Up until now, the book, edited by game researchers and life-long role-players Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola, has been a difficult to find treasure for role-play enthusiasts, researchers, and artists.

Live action role-playing has developed into a unique and powerful form of expression in the Nordic countries. Nordic style larps range from entertaining flights of fancy to the exploration of the intimate, the collective, and the political. This unique tradition combines influences from theatre and performance art with gamer cultures, in order to push the boundaries of role-playing.

Recently the Nordic larp tradition has gained attention internationally. This book presents a cross-section of this vibrant culture through 30 outstanding larps, through stories told by designers, players and researchers, with over 250 photographs. In addition the book contains essays explaining the history and rhetorics of Nordic larp, and contextualizing it in relation to theatre, art and games.

The book has been hailed as “mandatory reading” (Aaron Vanek), “a remarkable tome” (Mike Tice), and a “major cultural service to game, culture and art studies” (Frans Mäyrä). According to Lizzie Stark “Anyone interested in the future of larp and its possibilities as a medium should read this book.” In 2012 Nordic Larp received the Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming.

The digital edition of Nordic Larp is available from the University of Tampere: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-91-633-7857-7

Edit: Don’t be intimidated by the Finnish on the site. The site translates into English from the upper right hand corner.

KP2013-Axner

Knutepunkt 2013 too place last week. That means that the latest Knutebooks are now available. This year there were four(!), three of which are available online. The fourth one is a book of images, and is only available as a physical copy.

Two interesting events on the horizon, both targeting professionals working in larp and experience design, both taking place in late fall of 2013. Keep an eye out for Alibis for Interaction and ProLarp.

By the way, our Nordic Larp book is almost sold out. At the time of writing you can still order it from a German online shop. We are looking into a second printing or even a second edition.

Finally, at Nordic Larp Talks, I attempted to answer the question: “What is Nordic Larp“?

Photo by Johannes Axner.

Wow.

Nordic Larp actually won the Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming. This is what the award committee had to say about Nordic Larp:

Nordic Larp is a history of the Nordic larp scene, from its inception in post-D&D fantasy through experimental drama, historical recreation and far freaking weirdness, done as a massive and profusely illustrated coffee-table book, written by two gaming scholars. The book documents more than thirty larps that took place over 15 years, including ones with animatronic dragons and a space opera played out on a submarine. The Nordic Larp book assembles photos, memories, and designer notes, allowing the reader to survey these fantastic and sometimes legendary events. These records are bracketed by an introduction that summarizes the recurrent elements of the larps and a final essay on Nordic larping as art, theater, and game. Nordic larping is a major, dynamic branch of the gaming family tree, fully deserving of this massive, beautiful book that takes larping and game-history as serious business.

We were super-excited about being nominated, but did not at all expect to win; for a non-American thing just to get nominated is a big deal. We also did not have the funds to attend the award ceremony at Gen Con. We did, however, write an acceptance speech on the off chance that we’d win. Because how often do you have a chance to write an Oscar speech in your life? Emily Care Boss held the speech as she accepted the award on our behalf.

Thank you for this awesome recognition.

It is particularly heartwarming, because people outside the Nordic scene — people like you — are the audience we were thinking of when we created the book.

It is humbling to be recognized in this community, because our hobby grew from the seeds planted by the American tabletop role-playing industry, and we feel honored to have been able to bring something back to the table.

Even though there are only two names on the cover of Nordic Larp, this book has been a group effort. Over 50 people contributed to the book in one way or another.

But even more importantly, it was a community effort. The vibrant Nordic larp scene not only supported us through the process, but it of course created all the awesome games we had the privilege to work on. The book was very much created by the whole scene, and thus we see this award as a recognition for the whole the scene.

Finally, we see this award as a vindication of taking role-playing seriously. Role-playing is not only a fun pastime, but also a sophisticated form of expression, fully worthy of study and critique.

As participatory art is difficult to grasp with the vocabulary of traditional media, it falls unto us, the scene, to explain our passion to each other, and to the outside world — if we ever expect it to be understood.

Thank you.

Mike Tice of Live Game Labs posted a Nordic Larp review. As always, we are particularly happy to read reviews written by people outside the Nordic larp community, as these people are our intended audience.

Nordic LARP is a remarkable tome. Huge in format, and broad in the scope of the LARPs contained therein, covering many of the most famous and infamous LARPs of the Scandinavian scene. Enigma rightly prides itself on the wide variety of games we’ve run, but clearly the Nordic folk have pushed things farther in many, many directions, some of them inspiring, some of them… explain my use of the No Wanking icon. Not that I didn’t know of the general nature of the Nordic scene beforehand, but the book provides a concrete and condensed exhibit of countless person-years of Nordic LARP.

[...]

And I’m not too keen on the most ‘extreme’ ‘weird’ ‘political’ ‘art’ ‘larp’s, though it does make me want to create Nordic LARP: the LARP. 49 hours of wallowing in our collective guilt for the Holocaust, in a plexiglass cube infested with Sumatran cockroaches. Somehow it’s more palatable as meta-LARP. Who’s in?

More seriously, there’s plenty of interesting ideas here to respectfully homage rip off.

Earlier reviews: Vanek, Stark, Ala-Luopa, Bowman, Gateavisa, Särkijärvi, Harviainen, Mäyrä.

Aaron Vanek of Screw It, I’ll Play Make-Believe fame (among his many credentials) reviews Nordic Larp as follows:

Nordic Larp is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to look up from the ground of live action role playing to see the heavens above: this is where we could be. But getting people to read it is difficult. The book must be ordered online (http://nordiclarp.wordpress.com/) and costs about $60 with shipping from Europe. But I feel Nordic Larp is so important I bought a second copy that I am loaning out to other U.S. larpers. Ping me if you want to be on the reading list and we can physically meet.

I place Nordic Larp into the top five most influential books I have read. I hope some day we can achieve the heights the Nordics have blazed for us. I have the possibly quixotic belief that America will experience a quickening any weekend now, creating a flurry of bad-ass larps like no one has ever experienced or will again, and in a few years we’ll have our own “American Larp” book. It could start with someone’s inspiration from Nordic Larp.

Earlier reviews: Stark, Ala-Luopa, Bowman, Gateavisa, Särkijärvi, Harviainen, Mäyrä.

Yay!

We just heard that Nordic Larp has been shortlisted for the 2012 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming! Let’s hope this news helps us spread the gospel of Nordic larp culture among the American tabletop role-playing scene.

The other nominees are Burning Wheel Gold by Luke Crane, the crowdfunding phenomenon pioneered by Kickstarter, Risk Legacy board game by Rob Daviau, and Vornheim, a Lamentations of Flame Princess supplement by Zak S.

The full press release:

Read the rest of this entry »

Lizzie Stark

Lizzie Stark is an American journalist and the author of Leaving Mundania, a forthcoming book on American larp and larpers. Working on her book, she visited Knudepunkt 2011 in Copenhagen, and we made sure she wouldn’t leave the continent without a copy of Nordic Larp.

She writes a review on her website, with the wonderful title “Go Buy Nordic Larp Right Now”. She writes:

Americans reading this collection [...] will surely marvel at some of the spectacular logistical coups Nordic organizers have pulled off, from building a dystopian future slum that sleeps more than three hundred in the center of Copenhagen (System Danmarc), to huge medieval larps garnering a thousand participants (Trynne Byar). Americans may also marvel at the trust which organizers place in their players, who seem to enjoy skirting the line between the real and the fantastical in a way that would simply be impossible in the litigious US. The essays reveal hungry boffer players who kill a real live sheep for food and a number of other shocking acts I won’t demean by taking out of context here — but done for hardcore, let’s-make-this-as-real-as-possible, artistic reasons.

[...]

Nordic Larp testifies to the sheer diversity of the Nordic larp scene, and the dazzling seriousness with which Nordic larpwrights and players ply their arts. Anyone interested in the future of larp and its possibilities as a medium should read this book.

Read the full review here.

Earlier reviews: Ala-Luopa, Bowman, Gateavisa, Särkijärvi, Harviainen, Mäyrä.

The players before the "Prayers on the Porcelain Altar" larp at Digra 2011.

The biannual DiGRA conference on game studies was held for the fifth time last week. I presented a paper The Making of Nordic Larp, which is basically an academic appendix to Nordic Larp. The article opens the process behind the book and addresses challenges relating to documenting larps. Hopefully the article enables researchers to make better use of the book.

At the conference there was quite a lot of interest in Nordic larps. As a taste I ran J. Tuomas Harviainen’s short scenario Prayers on a Porcelain Altar (check also his commentary of it), or actually two simulateneous sessions of it, something I had never done before. However, quite a few people asked me how one finds out about upcoming intereting Nordic style larps.

The easy answer to that question is that you should come to Solmukohta 2012 in the spring. But few people are willing to go to a weird event just to find about something else. Also, we have not made finding even the annual convention that is the centre of the this scene easy, as the names changes every year (Knu(te/t/de)punkt) depending on who hosts the event and we do not have a central site.

Indeed, we are crap at having any kind of central sites online, period. As the community is very loose and uncommercial, no one has (taken) the responsibility to create a shared resource. There have been attempts: The Nordic Scene worked for a while, and there have been attempts on Facebook (this one is the best one at the moment, but of course there is no editorial oversight there). Also, the quarterly magazine Playground does have a section on upcoming intereting stuff. Then of course there are the national lists of larps in different countries, but these usually are not looking for an international playerbase. So the truth is that there isn’t really an established place where you can find out about interesting upcoming larps.

Photo stolen from Digra 2011 Think Design Play Facebook page.

Nordic Larp got reviewed by Saara Ala-Luopa, University of Turku, in Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja 2011. Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja is an annual yearbook of Finnish game studies, a peer-reviewed publication edited by a bunch of academics with fancy titles, so I hoped for a thorough thrashing. Unfortunately, she doesn’t go into many details or strong opinions, but is generally very positive — the most significant complaint she presents is that there should have been more written on topics such as larp organizing philosophies and game mechanics.

Read the full review here (in Finnish).

Earlier reviews: Bowman, Gateavisa, Särkijärvi, Harviainen, Mäyrä.

 

Sarah Lynne Bowman, the author of The Functions of Role-Playing Games: How Participants Create Community, Solve Problems and Explore Identity, reviews Nordic Larp in Branches of Play: The 2011 Wyrd Con Academic Companion.

This is what she writes:

The Nordic Larp (2010) book, edited by Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola, features 317 pages of full­-color documentation of Scandinavian live­-action role­-playing games from the last sixteen years. [...] The Nordic Larp book represents a consolidation and streamlined presentation of these many artistic and intellectual efforts, offering historical context, documentation, and academic discussion.

The editors have selected thirty games to feature in this massive, coffee­-table sized tome, chosen based upon their production value and the variety of styles (Stenros and Montola 11). The book features a several page description for each game written by a member of the Nordic Larp scene who participated in the event. These contributors share first­hand accounts of some of their experiences within play, accompanied by a few stunning images per Larp. The descriptions also provide production details, sketching out basic documentation for academics, historians, Larp enthusiasts, and future Larpmakers who might wish to learn from the examples of the past. For many of these games, more extensive documentation is available in other locations for interested parties, but the book successfully conveys the important aspects of each Larp while maintaining brevity in description.

The diversity of games explored in Nordic Larp is staggering indeed, particularly from an American perspective. Many Nordic Larps attempt a full “360 degree illusion” effect. Hundreds of participants create and inhabit entire villages set in a different time and space, immersing themselves in­-character for several days at a time. [...] The games described in the book are not meant to represent European Larp as a whole or to canonize these particular games as the “best.” Rather, these games serve as key examples to represent the Knutepunkt tradition, which emphasizes the movement toward international Larps with high production values and, at times, highly political and experimental content.

The book is framed by two scholarly articles. Nordic Larp opens with “The Paradox of Nordic Larp Culture” by Stenros and Montola explaining the Nordic Larp tradition in terms of its historical trajectory and the main reasons why people play these games: to escape, to explore, to expose, and to impose (25­-28). The final article by Stenros, “Nordic Larp: Theatre, Art and Game,” details the similarities Larp shares with all three listed forms, but explains how Larp is identical to none of them due to its co­ created, improvisational nature, its lack of a passive audience, and its emphasis on first­-person perspective in experience. Thus, the Nordic Larp book provides not only colorful, eye­-catching documentation of a series of fascinating games produced over the past sixteen years, but also compelling arguments as to the importance of these activities and their artistic merit.

In a few spots, the text would have benefitted from another pair of eyes, specifically a native English­-speaking proofreader, though these typos are hardly distracting. Overall, the text is clean, the English is clear, and the graphic design professional and balanced. In addition, at times the reader may feel unclear as to whether events described in the first­-hand accounts “happened” in­-game or out­-of­-game and which elements were actually performed or merely simulated. However, the majority of the accounts are clear and well­-formulated, providing a stimulating and accessible read. In my estimation, anyone interested in the Nordic Larp scene or the artistic potential of live action role­-playing games in general should read this book.

(See the link above for full review.)

Earlier reviews: Gateavisa, Särkijärvi, Harviainen, Mäyrä

In the Nordic countries, live action role-playing has developed into a unique and powerful form of expression. Nordic larps range from entertaining flights of fancy to the exploration of the intimate, the collective and the political. This incredible tradition combines influences from theatre and performance art with gamer cultures, in order to push the boundaries of role-playing.

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