Last week in Digra I gave a short presentation about documenting Nordic larps and Markus talked about bleed games. Many people in the audience were not familiar with Nordic larps, but were interested in finding more about them. An annual collection of articles has been published since 2003 (most of them are online, see link on the left under the heading Knutebooks), but the problem is that there is no single place where one can jump on this train. After all, that is one of the reasons why we are putting together the book this blog connects to. Another unfortunate hindrance is that as with most research that connects to sort-of fandoms (and this unfortunately includes even Digra), there is a too strong a tolerance for crap. So I’ll try to point any interested parties in the right direction.
Larp as it has developed in the Nordic countries is quite different from the rest of the world. There is a high level of artistic (essentially story-telling and first-person experience) ambition, and much less focus on the formal ludic aspects of the game than almost everywhere else. This has opened up the design space for a lot of experimental game-making too, and some of this has been produced in collaboration with established art institutions, or just heavily influenced by contemporary arts. As Johanna Koljonen has pointed out, obviously a fair proportion of the experimental games (like of all games) will be made by people who are twenty years old and have only just come across, say, masques, or Bakhtin, or the Sixties, and the results are not that interesting even to the players. But there are also larpmakers who are widely read, educated either in conceptual art or theory, social studies, who have brought a strong activist aspect to their games and so forth.
Good places to start are some of Koljonen’s writings. She has covered the larp adaptation of Hamlet and written about one of the strongest and most influential design ideals in Nordic larp: the 360 degree illusion. Along with Eirik Fatland’s post-mortem of AmerikA and our Momentum paper, these will hopefully communicate what the games are like at their best. After these, you can either start skimming through the Knutebooks, or ask for specific recommendations in the comments. (For example for “role-play before role-playing games” I’d recommend these two, for “Happenings vs. larp” I’d point you towards Playground Worlds (not yet available as a pdf), for “a through documentation of a single game” I’d point you towards Dragonbane: The Legacy and Momentum Evaluation Report.)
If you want to follow what is happening in the scene, keep an eye for this website. It is updated fairly seldom, but it is the best web resource we have at the moment. The best way to find out more about these games is to come to the next Knutpunkt. It will be in Stockholm April 15th-18th 2010.