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