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:

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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.

Our contribution to Nordic larp Talks is now up on the website. It is a 20 minute long primer to Critical Strategies of Larp.We actually didn’t perform live at the event due to being grounded by the Icelandic ash cloud, but instead sent a video greeting.

The embedding of the video doesn’t work, so you’ll have to click through to the site.

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.

We now have secured the minumum amount of funding to make the book happen. Everything that we pull together after this will make it even more sensational. Anna Westerling and Anders Hultman, who also produce Knutpunkt, are to thank for this Herculean effort. Thank you Nordisk kulturfond, Framtidens kultur, Ropecon, Sverok, Bifrost, Hyperion, Föreningsbidrag and our other partners. But especially, thank you Anna and Anders.

Kippis!

One of the best parts in a book process is moving stuff out of the agenda and into the proofing folder. Browsing the proofing files, I again fell in love with some of the subheadings of our stories. Do you know the games behind these headings?

    1. Brilliant NexSec Mindfuck Failure?
    2. Changing the World One Sword at a Time
    3. First Person Bourgeois Drama
    4. In Prison with Kafka and Beckett
    5. Sailing the Seas of Mental Disorder
    6. Sex, Death & Decadence

      Read more to get a hint.

      In other news, we are busy choosing photos these days. In addition to Jaakko and me, we have two photographers, Suvi Korhonen and Katri Lassila, helping us out.

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      ROLLE|SPIL is a new Danish larp magazine for kids. To someone who doesn’t read Danish, it looks like any larp magazine to begin with, with contents ranging from costuming guides to flashy fighting, with one story from Østerskov Efterskole and so forth. I think their target group is the younger larper generations; they even have a story on a project for grooming a new generation of larp organizers.

      What really strikes, however, is this: They printed 5.000 copies of the first issue. There are 5.5 million people in Denmark. And they plan to go bigger in the future.

      ROLLE|SPIL is run by Claus Raasted, the main man of Danish children’s larp. With his team, he organizes tens of thousands person days of larping to Danish kids every year.

      Available as a pdf, for free.

      Mike Pohjola recalls: It was published a day before, and I was selling them at a convention. When I gave Mika Loponen a copy, he burned it at the ash tray. Everyone was watching and cheering. ”Get them while they’re hot,” I yelled.

      I am in stuck in Turku at the moment since the winter is wrecking havoc with the train schedules. It is very fitting, since today ten years have passed to the day since the publication of The Manifesto of the Turku School.

      The Turku Manifesto is perhaps the most influential Nordic text on role-playing games. It did not start the theory boom in the Nordic (that was done by Dogme 99, panclou, Knutepunkt and others), but it did sell the idea better than most. And boy has a lot changed in a decade!

      Author Mike Pohjola has some notes on the anniversary on his blog.

      Let’s raise a toast to Turku. Kippis!

      We have again spent a whole day, some twelve plus hours, editing stuff for the Nordic Larp book. It is all a blur at this point. More than half of the texts are now near the finishing line. In addition there are numerous promises that tomorrow we will have more to work on. As before, we are flabbergasted by the strength of these texts. They run the gamut from insightful dissections of projects to pieces of cultural analysis and from deeply personal reflections on experiences to mad (or brilliant) recollection of brilliant (or mad) events.

      One of the things we have been obsessing about is the original names of games. We want to refer to all games by the names that were used when they were played in the original language. The problem is that in English in titles all relevant words are capitalized (The White Road, Once Upon a Time) whereas is Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish only the first word is capitalized (Silmäpuoli merirosvo, En stilla middag med familjen). But, of course, there are games where the rules are toyed with (such as inside:outside, PanoptiCorp, PehmoYdin, Föreningen Visionära Vetenskapsmäns Årliga Kongress). I don’t actually think that anyone notices or cares about this, but we are completely obsessed by it. (Markus has actually blogged about this name once before.) Anyhoo, it seems that in the main headers we will capitalize all words (since this is a book in English), but in body text we shall leave the names as they appear in original languages. Unless the game organizers toyed with capitalization.

      The problem we now face is Nemesis divina, a game that is referred to once. The problem is that upper and lower cases weren’t introduced until the Middle Ages — which means that we don’t know what is the correct form in Latin. (Spelling it completely without capitalization seems wrong, though perhaps historically accurate – and the same goes for all caps.) Since it is a Swedish game, we are leaning towards a lower case d, but somehow haven’t settled on it yet. Perhaps this is because we somehow associate Latin with English, I don’t know.

      Now it is time for port, ice cream and sauna. In some order. We shall continue tomorrow.

      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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