First of all, if you do not know what Nordic LARP is I suggest that you look into the giant world of Nordic style LARP after reading this blog post. Next, since I have been getting a lot questions about what different inspirations and meanings in Dystopia Rising is, know that I have not abandoned that thread and will be returning to that blog series soon.
Lastly, be warned that this is a longer post. If you have the attention span of a gold fish this post may not be for you. I will try to help with the length of the post by adding in occasional cute pictures and wise-ass comments by me, but this is going to be long.
So not too long ago, maybe a couple years at tops, Nordic LARP became a concept that for the first time blipped on my radar. I had, and a large group of LARPers I know, had been in a book called Leaving Mundania by the amazing Lizzie Stark. In her Jane Goodall approach to learning about all sorts of LARP culture from around the world, Lizzie and her blog started introducing Nordic style LARPs to the US in a much larger way than before. While other LARP academics had been learning about techniques and approaches used in different countries, there was something about Lizzie’s approach that made some bridges between US and Nordic LARP designers.
And the crossing of these two cultural worlds was a good thing! However, most people outside the game design culture of the US probably don’t completely understand why.
You see, the US media machine and the imprint that US culture has on the world is massive. I travel a lot, and I can’t go anywhere in the world without running into the impression of US culture forcing its way into the rest of the world. Our movies, comic books, games… so much of the US media machine infects the rest of the world and has an effect on those cultures.
The influence of the US media machine in regards to LARP is no different. Understand the scale of the following sentence: The US media machine seems to HATE LARP. 99.9% of movies that involve LARP in the story, at all, either have us painted as a dangerous hobby that will destroy the souls and lives of those involved or media has LARP as a place where hapless losers come together for a PATHETICLY NERDY hobby that is intended to be mocked. LARP is the alien thing that is shunned in media. LARP is the universal kicked puppy in media. LARP is the thing that the incredibly dorky friend in the group of lovable outcasts IF WE ARE LUCKY.
So now I want you to visually imagine the US media machine as a really strong sub-woofer and the reach of US culture via the US media as being sound ripples coming from that sub-woofer. You can feel and sometimes see the ripple of the US media and culture machine across the world. Its ripples infect and affect all over. However, here in the US, the sub-woofer is almost defining and one of the messages it is sending out is ‘LARP IS BAD’.
We have people hiding their LARP hobby and trying to scrub their history in LARP from the internet so that they can be a part of ‘acceptable society’. Being a LARPer is something that many ‘adults’ feel they have to hide to prevent themselves from having their LARP hobby used against them. Hell, recently being a LARPER has been used as a tool in political frontiers as a means to attack a candidate (small world, I STed convention games for 'ling that Rush played in). So the deafening media machine here in the US having been so god-damned anti-LARP has made us pretty insular and removed from the rest of the greater world LARP community. Hell, until recently I would go far enough to say that we have been hiding.
LARP communities can be unaware of one another in the SAME STATE due to the restricted and confined communication that sometimes happens. Since many LARPers in the US hide their hobby, our greater community doesn’t thrive and grow. We are often unaware of what our own neighbors are doing in the LARP world, never the less our international neighbors.
So when Nordic LARP was introduced to many of us game designers in the US, it was like an angelic choir had pissed pure light and music from up on high and parted the clouds. You mean to tell me that there are places overseas where LARPing isn’t shunned? There are places where it is considered part of the Arts programs and gets subsidized? There are lands where I don’t have to pay thousands and thousands of US dollars a month to rent basic sites for players to be at? These people don’t hide who they are, and in some countries, BEING A FUCKING LARPER IS A POSITIVE POINT ON POLITICAL PLATFORMS. Somebody build me a contact safe table, because that fucker is getting flipped out of rage.
And you know what we learned in this LARP culture connection? Oversees they have formalized and defined more techniques and approaches to LARP and LARP design than we could have imagined. Unique concepts that we hadn’t evolved to yet in the US. Mechanical designs for simulated sex, post event care, non-mechanical thematic design, and a slew of other concepts. I sort of associate the moment of revelation with a sexually repressed nymphomaniac Mennonite discovering that there was a whittled dildo store just outside of the village. A reaction of ‘you mean to tell me that this shit has been right there the entire time… well fuck me.’
And I apologize to the Nordic LARP designers if there are any social fuckups that happen in our world view being expanded. You have to understand that there are not a lot of very successful LARP designers in the US. Many of us write for a single chronicle style game and do not look around to the outside world. Hell I personally know and game with the majority of the more 'known' US LARP designers who have started looking into the academics and design of LARP. So I apologize because not only are we going to ask what may be perceived as stupid questions as we try to process and comprehend your parallel and different evolution of LARP, but also, understand that some of us are going to be super excited. I sort of envision it as the sad bee girl from the Blind Mellon video ‘No Rain’. We have been walking around for fucking YEARS over here feeling like we were the only people in our little yellow tutus, and only recently did some of us get to the end of the video. Also I apologize because while I don't know if this culture trait exists in the international LARP community, in the US LARPers and Gamers as a whole have a tendency to get a little... obsessive. I am willing to be that every US LARPer knows at least 3 people who just can not shut up about their own character, and will just go on and on and on well past when social guidelines and evolution should have suggested that they stop to take a breath. Lastly I apologize because, again, I don't know if this is a universal cultural nuance in the global LARP community but some US LARPers and Gamers can't just not be interested in something. Instead, these people absolutely must tell you why the subject matter they are not interested in is inferior, is 'wrong', and is worthy of being mocked. I don't get why that aspect of the community exists, but, that part is there too. While they are not large in numbers, holy fuck these negative folk are loud and somehow omnipresent.
So for me? I am learning about all different techniques and tools and approaches from different LARP designers overseas. Some of those tools I am taking and adapting to my American continent player base. Some of those tools I am learning about and putting aside because they don’t work well for what I am looking to do. Some, and this is the part that everyone should be doing and being excited about, I am taking and trying to develop new techniques based on the blending and improvement of both worlds.
Because while I’ve enjoyed some traditional Nordic style LARPS, some US Freeform, and other kinds of LARP design I don’t want to do what other people have already done. I want to push more limits of the medium, approach things differently, and take some chances trying to make exciting successes and failures. I’ve never been happy applying other peoples systems and designs. I will learn, absorb, and produce in a means which will hybrid the best of multiple worlds.