Summarizing Solmukohta 2012
As usual, Solmukohta was absolutely draining: late nights, intense discussions, at least three parallel sessions you want to go to, both formal and informal parties, and a bar that closes way too late tend to have that effect. I’ve lost track of how many Knutpunkt conferences I’ve been to, but I still end up trying to do too much, and feeling that I’ve missed most of it.
The international presence at the conference is increasing, again. This year it actually became an issue, as the sign-up filled up so fast that many of the regulars came to late to it. (Luckily, everyone on the waiting list was eventually able to get in.) I think that the number of U.S. participants was what surprised me the most. I was particularly happy to see the practitioners – Apparently Markus Montola and Jaakko Stenros have done a very good job of marketing ‘Nordic larp’ to the U.S. tabletop community. I also had a fantastic time talking to the visitors from Belarus – in particular the couple with the most complacent one-year old I have ever met. I believe that a childhood which includes seeing your parents sometimes turn into zombies and gorillas – together with thirty other laughing grownups – must be a pretty good one.
The number of academic participants is also on the rise. Apart from the regular suspects, I shared room with Torill Mortensen (who was moderately impressed by the artistic aspirations of the community – a sentiment I sort of share) and had a brief chat with Sarah Lynne Bowman. This does not mean that the conference itself is getting academic – the presentations are dominated by discussions, opinions, rants and creative ideas but very little results in an academic sense of the word. Which probably is a good thing.
As with GDC, certain productions get more attention than others. This year, these were ‘KAPO‘ – the prison larp I already played in, and ‘Just a little lovin’ which I have signed up to play when it’s restaged in Stockholm later this year. As both were productions that evoked very strong emotional experiences for at least some of their players, this is not so surprising. Many of those players were at Solmukohta, still in the process of creating their own stories. It wasn’t hard to spot who was who, though: while the ’just a little lovin’ players met hugging and touching, the KAPO players crouched in the corridoors in their black hoodies with prison numbers on the back… Both games featured prominently in this year’s bleed panel – this time focussed on safety measures and potential dangers. I left the panel with a feeling that the Nordic larp community likes thinking about these productions as being psychologically challenging and life-changing – perhaps more dangerous than they actually are. As Karl Bergström adequately pointed out afterwards: larp is likely to kill someone sooner than it will make someone catatonic.
What were my highlights, then? For me, Solmukohta is more about the in-depth discussions that happen in the lobby than the actual sessions. Still, I was impressed by Eirik Fatland’s presentation on ’fundamentals on larp design’. Being a larper schooled in interaction design, Eirik has applied theory from the latter to larp, outlining a middle level theory that might become a ’larp grammar’ of sorts. This is a text I want to read and cite – Eirik please write it!! I also truly enjoyed the 20-20 vision session organized by Johanna McDonald. The session was made up of five seasoned designers, using 20 minutes and 20 slides each to present a vision for what larps could become. The fact that these were positive and visionary contributions made the session particularly interesting – this in comparison to the hour of ”rants” that I participated in myself, that also was good but a bit less productive. I enjoyed becoming a tiny piece of the puzzle that will make up ’the spiral’ – and soon, you will know what that is – I learned more about pre-game workshops from Peter Munthe-Kaas, and about character creation from Tor Kjetil Edland and Trine Lise Lindahl.
As usual, I left Solmukohta with my mind made up to contribute to next years’ book – I had at least two or three ideas on what to write. In the end, I typically end up missing all such deadlines – let’s see if I can meet them next time!