You are currently browsing Montola’s articles.

We’ll try to collect all reviews and comments here, whether they are positive or negative. The first one is from Frans Mäyrä, the professor of hypermedia and digital cultures from the University of Tampere. Yeah, he’s my supervisor and Jaakko’s boss, and this is not a thorough review, but hey, this is what he said:

This hefty tome is definitely worth all the extra publicity we can spare: Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola have done major cultural service to game, culture and art studies (as well as to the history) by collecting and putting together an amazing volume of photos, descriptive texts and cultural essays to celebrate the fine art of live action role-playing, Nordic style. Great work, congratulations.

If you review Nordic Larp to some magazine or website, please drop us a tip so we can blog it. Or if you want to review it yourself, drop us a mail at firstname.lastname@uta.fi and we’ll see about a review copy.

Sarah Lynne Bowman, the author of The Functions of Role-Playing Games: How Participants Create Community, Solve Problems and Explore Identity (which I still haven’t had the time to read), speaks about larp and its Nordic variety in a Bitch magazine podcast.

SR: I know that the culture around LARPing is pretty different in Denmark and Sweden, for example, from how we perceive it in the U.S.

SB: The Nordic LARPers, incredible group of people that are fascinated by LARP theory; role-playing theory in general, but specifically LARP and how it can be used to promote social change, how it can be used to challenge gender stereotypes, how it can be used to recreate totalitarian states. It’s absolutely fascinating. It makes what we’re doing over here look like child’s play. There’s this one called System Danmarc where they spent nine months creating a set in the middle of Copenhagen, and they created a shantytown. I forget how many players, maybe 350 or something like that. It’s a post-apocalyptic world, and they’re playing the lowest of lowest classes. I mean, there was like real violence, real sex, just, you know, anything goes—

SR: –As characters?

SB: –Real drug addiction—yeah. And the government was funding it. There are people in America who were doing experimental stuff too, but nearly to that degree. I mean, these people had manifestos, and anti-manifestos, and just, you know… it’s pretty incredible stuff.

Later on she goes on to a certain rape scenario too.

Let’s see….

  1. Proofreading drafts
  2. Wondering whether layout wizard Tommi will get pissed because the errata is so long
  3. Proofreading captions
  4. Proofreading photographers
  5. Proofreading photograph types
  6. Adding authors’ late minute adjustments to errata
  7. Stressing that there will be language difficulties with the printing house
  8. Figuring out what the credits boxes of ancient games should really say
  9. Wondering if we really should say maximum instead of maximal
  10. Wondering whether Tommi will get pissed because the errata is huge
  11. Stressing that after three rounds of proofreading by professionals, we have still found an error or two relating to irregular verbs
  12. Considering running for office just to make double spaces a criminal offense
  13. Commenting the cover drafts
  14. Debating cover drafts
  15. Debating logotypes
  16. Remembering what peaceful sleep was like
  17. Going through piles of photos that have arrived way too late, just to see that they don’t contain masterpieces
  18. Redrafting a marketing plan
  19. Panicking over the correct spelling of a word that’s in 50 captions
  20. Finding out the correct spelling, and waiting the heartbeat to slow down
  21. Figuring out likely reviewers
  22. Stressing that the book will weight almost as much as two milk cartons – and how that will effect all the postage and packaging
  23. Considering running for European parliament just to outlaw Danish last names that are not really family names
  24. Finding out that case Y doesn’t really convey the mood of the game
  25. Discovering hundreds of new photos of case Y
  26. Despairing that we have forgotten something
  27. Delivering dozen photos of case Y to Tommi, hoping he won’t get a burnout
  28. Planning publication parties
  29. Writing press releases
  30. Stressing that there is a just the right kind of balance between the four countries, between genders, between old and new, between documentary pics and awesome promo pics, between players and game masters, between fun and misery, between immersion, dramatism, simulationism and gamism, between colour and black & white, between establishing shots, close-ups and details, between ingame and offgame, between academia and accessibility etc.
  31. Drafting logistics plans
  32. Deciding retail and wholesale prices
  33. Proofreading late-minute additions
  34. Wondering whether Tommi will get pissed because the errata is massive
  35. Figuring out author copies
  36. Writing captions that are still miraculously missing
  37. Panicking over someone commenting that picture X looks like it’s been hardly edited
  38. Finding out that it has indeed not been edited yet, since it might still be changed
  39. Stressing that no one will care about the book enough to buy it
  40. Stressing that the book sells out too soon
  41. Proofreading captions that were just written because they were still miraculously missing
  42. Stressing about correct hyphenation of words in English, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, French, German, Latin and all the other languages featured in the book
  43. Wondering whether Tommi will get pissed because the errata is colossal
  44. Finding out whether the Danish guy took photographs in- or off-character in that larp in Los Angeles
  45. Stressing that someone will have a fit since the book contains frontal nudity
  46. Proofreading and editing back cover blurbs
  47. Worrying that the photographers and organizers whose work will not be featured won’t talk to us in the future
  48. Figuring out the minor details of printing, such as the size of the print run
  49. Just stressing
  50. Wondering whether Tommi will get pissed because the errata is ginormous
  51. Planning the therapeutic Nordic Larp presentation for Knudepunkt, detailing all this and much, oh-SO-much more

As we have worked on this book, and especially now that the end is near, we have in several cases been forced to meddle with crediting practices. While we try to shy away from creating a hall of fame, it is obvious that if you spent X hours laboring on a project, it’s quite important on whether you get the recognition and bragging rights when an occasion arises.

Projects like Dragonbane and Conspiracy for Good unfortunately have 100+ people working for them, and our credit box is not that large, so sometimes you can’t credit everyone. Sometimes the order of listing the credits leads to discussion, sometimes everyone should be credited for “larp design”, even when there’s one person who specifically focused on that.

Whenever there’s been discussion, the chief organizer’s say goes in this book, usually a producer or a chief creative. Then again, the organizers of System Danmarc wanted to only credit Opus, and The White Road lists all players, as it was collectively created.

Personally I think that credits are important. The Company P has stuff ranging from Knappnålshuvudet to Tähti in their early work portfolio, and Rollespilsfabrikken lists stuff starting from teen pirate larps in their cv. Being involved with something like Carolus Rex, Mellan himmel och hav or Delirium can help to open the doors of the digital game industry, a larp-based boarding school or it can help kickstart your event organizing company.

So… for any project that takes at least five person years of work, I say this: Be fair. Don’t shy away from discussing them, or constructively demanding recognition. Sort credits out early, even during the project, and list them on your website. And while it is not entirely applicable to what we do, take an hour to read the IGDA Crediting Guide.

Photo by Bjarke Pedersen, from Level Five.

After more than a year of work, we feel proud, happy and relieved to publish the first preview drafts of the Nordic Larp layout. These are not final, but this is generally how the final book will be like.

So here you go, with The White Road, Luminescence, Dragonbane and System Danmarc. Trust me, the early stuff on The Executive Game and PehmoYdin looks equally brilliant.

For the stunning visuals of the book, we are grateful to our endlessly patient layout artist and photo editor Tommi, to our photography experts Katri and Suvi, and obviously to all our first-class photographers. If you want to comment the drafts, please email your comments to nordic.larp at gmail.

We’ll also close down the crowd financing soon, so sign up for it now or never. Remember, for the supporter price of €50 you’ll get your name on the list of supporters, and a copy of the book at the first opportunity. We might also hug you in Knudepunkt. While our finances are well in order for printing, hard covers and luxurious paper, trickles like these can make or break the deal when it comes to things like dust jackets, final print run and some details of distribution.

The marathon of making this happen is turning into the final sprint. Happily, there seems to be light in the end of the tunnel.

PARTIAL DRAFT, click below fro the whole shebang.

One of the things we try to do with Nordic Larp is to paint a big picture of the Nordic larp scene. One of the nice things in editing the 29 different stories about larps is seeing their commonalities and differences. A nice palette of tools, an interesting repertoire of genres and so forth: Looking at the manuscript and the photos made me realize only now that indeed, System Danmarc belongs to the old tradition of village larps, making it as much a follower of Trenne byar in that sense as Dragonbane is.

One exercise in this is that we think about putting a table of This Stuff to the intro of the book, painting broad lines and generic thematical similarities between our material. We have made  work version of the table, and would invite you to comment below if you can add to our knowledge, or disagree with our draft.

Some of the categories are flimsier than others, and feel free to point out our errors in that sense as well: Physical Action and Therapy especially turned out to be a bit weird. The final version will probably be a bit cut down version of this anyway, so take this as a brainstorm draft.

X is intended to signify a strong relevance of a theme, ? indicates weak, accidental or partially failed relevance, and !!! means that we really need your opinion.

We are really interested to see how this ugly monster turns into an awesomely beautiful illustration in the layout process. 🙂

Bjarke Pedersen went to Wyrd Con One and wanted to share the experience. He needs no introductions; suffices to say that his illustrious larping career was recently crowned by an appointment as the Danish country contact for Nordic Larp book project.

More than 300 larpers met at the Hilton hotel in Costa Mesa for Wyrd Con, the first Knude-style larp-conference on the American west coast. Wyrd One, as it was called, was primarily a conference to play games, but also workshops on how to build or use weapons. Embedded into Wyrd One was “The Summit”, an American take on the Nordic larp conference Knudepunkt. Here larp-designers discussed their craft, the theory behind and around larp.

As a lone Dane amongst American larpers from all over the American continent, it was kind of exotic to talk larp with them. Expressions like: “low intensity”, “theatre style” and “light larp” were thrown around with ease amongst the participants who all but a few was in costume.

I primarily attended the theoretical debates at “The Summit”. Several of the lectures and panels gave a great insight into the American culture of larpers. Discussions like “larp is art” and “social diversity in larp” showed that the American larp-community is trying to move past their differences and work together and learn from each other.

There were several interesting debates. “The Art of Larp” hosted by Aaron Vanek did not contribute with anything not already discussed in the Nordic scene, but it is still an important debate to have for a larp community. Sean Branney and Andrew Leman from the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society told war stories from their more than 60 larps in the nineties. Most of them very well documented. During the “social diversity in larp” hosted by Ben Mandall it was showcased that American larp is much more than classic fantasy. Midnight Seduction is a series of game which borrows from both vampire-larp and BDSM culture. The US Army showcased Fort Irwin, a training facility with 1600 professional larpers playing Iraqi civilians and insurgents, preparing the coalition for war. All larpers had character sheets, clear goals, enemies and friends.

It was wonderful to meet parts of the American larp community and see they are much more than the “lightning bolt!” stigma they carry. We can expect a lot of good stuff from them over the next few years and I am looking forward to Wyrd Two.

More photos below:

Read the rest of this entry »

I’m under the impression that WyrdCon is one of the closest things to a Knutepunkt they have in North America — at least we recall them being explicitly inspired by the Nordic thing when they set it up. The great thing in being a bit like Knutepunkt is publishing edited books for others to read. And here they go: Journeys to Another World, edited by Amber Eagar, joins the happy family of Knutpunkt books and Mittelpunkt books! Welcome to the fold: At the time of writing this I have only read Bill White’s excellent story on freeform, but J. Tuomas Harviainen has of course been faster than light in reviewing it. If his worst criticism is that “so few people decided to contribute”, you WyrdCon people are surely doing something right.

In this point we should also recognize the Italian InterNosCon 2010 for joining the book club with Rifflessioni Appassionate: Pensieri e Teorie per Giocare col Cuore, edited by Claudia Cangini and Michele Gelli. Unfortunately for us, that book targets an Italian audience so I have no idea what it says — but I’m personally very happy that two stories from Playground Worlds have been found worthy of translation: L’ABC del jeepform by Tobias Wrigstad and Concetti chiave nelle teorie sviluppate su The Forge by Emily Care Boss.

The Italians are making another book, for Larp Symposium / European Larp Convention 2010. The book will include papers both in Italian and in English; Read their Call for Papers for more information. We’ve been inexcusably slow with blogging this, so you need to act now: The deadline for Larp Graffiti abstracts is in the end of June.

It took us five years to get it started, but now it’s spreading like wildfire. Someone ™ should fire up a common portal for all these books. There are 12 online: 8 for Knutepunkts, 2 for Mittelpunkts, 1 for InterNosCon and 1 for Wyrdcon.

Knutpunkt 2010 was incredibly good and stimulating. So good and stimulating that we are still recovering and chewing it. Before posting anything on it, here’s something really cool: Tobias Wrigstad speaks about Jeepform and bleed at IT-University of Copenhagen.

This might sting a little.

Most of the readers of this blog probably already know that it’s less than two weeks to Knutpunkt 2010. However, the fun kicks off in eight days already in the Nordic Larp Talks event at Stockholms Stadsteater, hosted by Johanna Koljonen. We’ll be talking with Jaakko too!

Space monsters on Russian submarines. A mechanical dragon the size of a house. Gender-deconstructed space bedouins at the National Theatre. A decadent Hamlet in a 1930s bunker. Six weeks of adventure and every-day life in a parallel Stockholm. Asylum centres, bomb shelters, medieval villages, hippie communes, mental landscapes – worlds for the participants to experience on their own bodies.

The Nordic countries are the best in the world when it comes to role-playing games as a story-telling medium, an art form and a pedagogical tool. In conjunction with the Knutpunkt conference, which gathers the movement’s top Nordic, European and US names to Stockholm, c/o Stadsteatern will be hosting two hours of entertaining, thought-provoking and mind-boggling lectures about the culture of the future, participatory storytelling and interactive theatre.

From extreme emotional experiences in abstract rooms to detailed simulations of virtual worlds, from gripping societal criticism to total escapism, this Nordic movement has achieved what the games industry, institutional theatres and political communicators have only dreamed of – participatory Gesamtkunstwerk of a high artistic quality. Nordic Larp Talks is a useful and entertaining two-hour presentation of some of the movement’s most fascinating experiences and the most exciting lessons learned.

Be there or be square: Reserving a seat is probably a good idea, too.

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.

Archives