This year, I started Knutepunkt in Oslo to speak at the Nordic larp talks. My presentation was the last and shortest one, and I talked about how to study larp. As most previous articles (including those I have co-authored) make this sound almost impossible, my aim was to give a few useful hints that make the task manageable. (I am not particularly proud of the presentation, by the way. Since I always go overtime, I had prepared a script. But as I am not used to speaking from a script I didn’t manage to use it, and ended up desperately chasing my notes. Did I already say this? Oh, I missed that! I think I managed to say about half of what I had planned to say.)
Of this year’s Nordic larp talks, I would recommend Stefan Deutsch’s presentation of serious educational larps. Very interesting and thought-provoking. And of course, Jaakko Stenros’ presentation of a definition of Nordic larp is a must-see. (Actually, he gave us two definitions.) His presentation is smart and true, but don’t expect simple and easy to use definitions from a die-hard academic like Jaakko.
Next, off to Knutepunkt, situated at a gorgeus Norwegian fjord. I find it harder to summarize Knutepunkt this time than last year. The main reason is that I tried to stay off the beaten track: I skipped the rants to play a small larp (“Autumn of life” by Tomas Mørkrid, a small gem), and I skipped several high-profile workshops and talks of which I have seen previous incarnations. No doubt all of them were worth attending more than once, but I wanted to see things that were new to me. In this vein, I attended a workshop on writing larp Russian style, the costume larp panel, and chaired the panel on political larp.
The larp of the year was without doubt the Monitor Celestra. Johanna Koljonen organised a whole afternoon session discussing the production, with panellists ranging from the designers and producers, over players to game academics who also had played in the larp. In all, I think the session managed to capture both the truly awesome ambitions and achievements of the production, as well as its problems and shortcomings. The only thing the session missed was to discuss why we came to expect so much of the Celestra production. The marketing hype of Celestra was a double-edged sword, which at the same time managed to draw a lot of attention and participants from all over the globe, and raised expectations to a level that is almost impossible to meet. Despite all its production value and the professional experience of most of the crew, Celestra was still a volunteer production with few of the organisers lifting any sort of salary. I am deeply grateful that I had a chance to play Celestra, it is a memory that will live with me for years to come – but I have had stronger larp experiences from much less ambitious productions.
For me, the highlight presentation was again Eirik Fatland, this time talking about how to design characters for larp. (Seriously Eirik, you have to write a book on larp design!) Right after the talk, there was a character design workshop that I most fortunately was thrown out of for lack of space. The six of us that did not get in teamed up, occupied a cottage and sat down to read and de-construct character descriptions from four different larps (material that had been handed out for the workshop that we missed). This analysis exercise was really useful (thanks to you all that participated), and judging from reports by those who attended, more of a workshop than the real one. (And I spent most of the train ride back from Knutepunkt designing a larp together with some other Knutepunkt participants. It might even materialise sometime in the future…)
I also enjoyed chairing the political larp panel. The panel consisted of larp designers that all have designed larps with clear political agendas. It started a bit mellow, but heated up when the audience got involved both with asking challenging questions and answering them. I want to direct a particular thanks to Teresa Axner who was not on the panel, but still contributed with very interesting experiences from ‘LajvVerkstaden’, and the educational larp they stage in Swedish schools. ‘We teach the ethical agenda about democracy and equality that is written into the Swedish school curriculum. We might just be a bit more thorough in doing so.” Kudos!
On a sad note, this years’ Knutepunkt might become remembered as the year of the harassment scandal. It was a bad story that I don’t care to recount, but I think that it also was a sobering moment for the community. (And luckily, I have yet to get laid at Knutepunkt.)