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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.
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 homagerip off.
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 (https://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.
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.
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).
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.)
The oldest Norwegian underground magazine Gateavisa reviews Nordic Larp in their current issue. This is what they say:
LARP i Norden
De færreste jeg kjenner har noen som helst formening om hva laiv-rollespill innebærer, og de som har det går som oftest ut fra at det gjelder folk som løper rundt i skogen med plastikksverd og rare kostymer og leker Tolkien. Årets utgivelse, prydboken ”Nordic Larp”, forandrer alt dette.
Boken omtaler 30 LARP (Live Action Role Playing) -spill fra 1994 og frem til i dag, og viser hvordan de nordiske larp-miljøene gradvis har bygget det som begynte som en hobby om til en distinkt og egen kunstform, både hva gjelder teori, utforming og instilling fra spillerne. Jeg skal komme tilbake til selve kunstteorien som trer frem i en senere artikkel, men da dette er en bokanmeldelse vil jeg bare kort skissere noen kjernepunkter i det som gjør nordisk Larp unikt.
Først og fremst ligger det hele i begrepet ”immersion”, på norsk blir vel dette innlevelse. Spillerens utfordring er å gå inn i rollen i høyest mulig grad, og i spillets gang holde på denne rollen uansett hvilke situasjoner som oppstår. Dette betyr at man aldri tar ”off-game”- pauser i spillet med mindre det er fare for liv og helse, noe som en del har funnet ganske så skremmende.
Det andre elementet er hvordan larp-sjangeren har utviklet seg fra å være enkle Tolkien- og vampyr-ripoffs til å bli seriøse intelligente produksjoner, basert vel så mye på akademisk teori og allmenn literatur som på fantasy-sjangerens velkjente formeler. Det kanskje vakreste eksempelet er ”1942 – Noen å stole på” som gjenskapte ned til minste historiske detalj livet på øya Herdla utenfor Vestlandet under tysk okkupasjon. Her var ingen actionsekvenser, ingen kjemping, bare et stille rollespill hvor man levde ut spenningene i bygda mellom de lokale og den tyske utposten med alt det innebar. Et annet spill verdt å nevne er ”Europa”, hvor spillerne i tre dager agerte flyktninger fra den store nordiske borgerkrigen som har søkt asyl i et slavisk land. Spillet foregikk på en interneringsleir, komplett med russiske vakter, og ble for mange av spillerne en erfaring helt opp mot det mentale smertepunktet. Et langdrygt og intenst teaterstykke uten annet publikum enn spillerne selv, der ingen så helheten men bidro til å male et fragmentarisk verk kun seinere manifestert i den kollektive rekolleksjon av spillet.
Boka er som sagt et prakteksemplar, over 300 sider fullfargetrykk, og hvert spill er beskrevet av deltagere eller arrangører. Noe av det mest interessante for oss kunstinteresserte er å se utviklingen fra lek til kunst, hvordan miljøet rundt spillene blir gradvis mer selvbevisste på sin egen skapning og hvordan kunstbevisstheten nærmest vokser organisk frem hos arrangørene. Boken er et must for enhver kunstinteressert, koster 250 spenn pluss frakt, og kan bestilles via nett på nettbutikken Fëa.
In a short summary for those not getting into Google Translate; they recommend the book and call it a must have for their art-interested readers. In addition, they appreciate the growing self-understanding of the Nordic larp community, and — perhaps because they are Norwegian — praise especially the things they found out about 1942 and Europa.
The culture section of Helsingin Sanomat opened with a full page story on Nordic larp and Nordic Larp last Saturday. For those who don’t know, HS is the biggest newspaper in the Nordic countries, with a daily circulation of some 400.000.
While they tell about the book and some of the larps covered in the book, the majority of the article is based on our interview. Since they don’t really give their own opinion on the book itself, won’t be translatinging this to English — everything they write can be read from the book itself or this blog. They chose to highlight PanoptiCorp, Europa and FVV, as such games are of highest interest for the culture section in particular.
Truth be told, we are quite busy congratulating ourselves over this!
Jukka Särkijärvi, also known as NiTessine of Worlds in a Handful of Dice blog, reviews Nordic Larp. He’s a long-time tabletop role-player who has never been to a larp, and one of the authors of a Finnish compendium of tabletop role-playing games called Roolipelikirja.
The review is long and thorough, but here’s the gist of it:
Nordic Larp sets out to present the full scale of what you can do in a larp and how people have done it, be it entertainment, social commentary or artistic expression. I think it accomplishes all of this, and looks good doing it. It’s an excellent introduction to the topic and tells you where to go for further information (though I can’t actually find web addresses for any of the Knutepunkt books, which might be handy to have since they’re free online). Though it uses concepts and terminology developed in the study of larp, it explains those concepts as it goes and does not require prior familiarity, merely an open mind.
It’s a fucking awesome book. It’s big, it’s well written and it looks beautiful, which is important for a coffee-table book like this. What quibbles I have are relatively minor. The production values are absurdly high for something that costs only €30. If you have any interest at all in the topic, I can heartily recommend you buy it.
Not a bad statement from one of those non-larpers, right?
J. Tuomas Harviainen, who is about to finish a PHD on the informatics of larp, writes the following review in his blog:
The long-awaited volume, edited by Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola, is finally out. And boy was it worth the wait! I expected something very nice but not magnificent, and was totally wrong. Hard covers, 320 pages of material with a very good layout and tons of excellent pictures.
Now, I have read and heard plenty of most of the 30 games inside, but not all of them. Really intriguing new material inside aplenty. The perspectives are fresh, and the slightly different target audience means that things are explained with a more beginner-friendly way. This is a very good thing. One can also see definite lines of influences in the book, going from one game to another, which is nice.
Nordic Larp is something you can hand over to someone dismissive of larp as juvenile, and have them very likely reconsider their opinion. It’s an art book, no doubt about that, even if Stenros’ very nice essay at the end critiques such definitions as too limiting.
I am glad to own a copy of the book, and to have been able to participate in writing it. A special thanks goes to the two people who provided the necessary photographs, Mikko Asunta and Sampsa Rydman, to the players who allowed themselves to be quoted and those who allowed their pictures to be seen, and of course my co-designer Nina Hämäläinen, without whom I would not have had the games to write about in the first place.
My sole complaint is that the font is a bit too small for comfortable, fast reading (and my own text has a couple of strange grammar mishaps, probably my own and not due to editing). Everything else is just great. Nordic Larp is a milestone, one that should be found on the shelves and tables of any serious fan of larp, as well as people involved in sibling arts. Go get a copy here. It’s worth the money.
He wrote to Nordic Larp about his PehmoYdin larps, and is portrayed as the Moominpappa of En stilla middag med familjen. Nevertheless, we are pleased to read his review!
Earlier reviews: Mäyrä