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comments on Nordic LARP

From Paul Graham Raven’s This Is a Game: A (very) Brief History of Larp Part 1:

But in the next instalment, I’ll argue that Nordic larp has a socially disruptive potential that makes it the more interesting end of the scene, while marking it as both an artform native to contemporary network culture and a new experimental praxis in narrative theory…

From This is More Than a Game: A (very) Brief History of Larp Part 2:

True to its network-culture demographic, however, the openness and conviviality of the Knutepunkt circuit stand in stark contrast to the more staid conferences of the liberal arts, resembling science fiction fandom conventions — an important nursery for larp of all types — far more than literary symposia; open discussion and dialogue are not just important to the scene, but central to it. It’s as if the community itself is a collective author, a gestalt entity — an interesting counterpoint for an artform where authorship is inherently unstable and slippery.

All this would be of some note even if larp were just another branch of the plastic or narrative arts as we already know them. What’s fascinating about larp is its seeming potential: all art could be considered software which interacts with the localised cultural operating system running on the platform of our minds, but larp goes one step further, achieving its aesthetic affect by kludging, amending or outright rewriting that code — hacking it, in other words. If mainstream larps are the equivalent of the homebrew software BBSs of the Eighties, developing and sharing new games to play on their newly-accessible hardware, then perhaps the Nordic school are equivalent to the FOSS hacker hardliners, trying to see how completely they can PWN the machine. Pure diversion and escapism have been sidelined somewhat in favour of philosophical and ideological exploration. The language of theory is everywhere, including many scene-specific coinings and neologisms: ‘narrative bleed’ (not always as undesirable as it might sound, apparently); ‘diegetic briefings’; ‘fictional positioning’; ‘formal transparency’. ‘Metagaming’. {…}

Stark suggests that “intense larp gameplay creates an altered state of consciousness”, and as I read game-design papers from the Knutepunkt circuit I kept hearing echoes bouncing back from Timothy Leary’s psychedelic theories of “set and setting”. Implicit in both is the idea that not only is the mind plastic, but that experimenting with that plasticity is something akin to a duty, a possibility for personal development that shouldn’t be passed up by those brave enough to take the plunge and step outside of themselves; a willing step toward becoming one’s own post-Nietzschean ubermensch, if you like. So we might say that the Nordic larp scene is pioneering the development of a new toolkit for meddling with identity and empathy; a non-invasive intervention methodology based on consensual manipulation of environmental triggers and narrative framing.

from Everything is a Game: A (very) Brief History of Larp Part 3:

Furthermore, there’s a realisation that the psychological phenomena which larp explores and manipulates might just be the missing link between a whole bunch of artforms, technologies and philosophies. Perhaps it is the ubiquity of the toolset in use, namely the human imagination, that lends it this interstitial quality: conceived in reductionist terms, Nordic larp is simply imagination-as-play.

Where does experimental theatre end, and consensual indoctrination into a covert ideology begin? Can a temporary intentional community, in and of itself, be a form of performance art? Can a performance art piece become a political movement instead of just a statement? These questions pivot on the fluid dualities of fiction and reality, of reader and subject, which can be upended with a flick of the wrist or a twist of the frame; if we assume altermodernism to have accepted and integrated (if not fully approved of) the ubiquitous ontological hollowness of the postmodern condition, then might Nordic larp be one of the first truly altermodernist forms, an experimental laboratory for the breeding of new metanarratives? {…}

No contemporary discussion of identity and allegiance would be complete without a mention of Anonymous; as such, I’d offer that Anonymous is nigh indistinguishable from a persistent larp set in a territory that maps almost seamlessly to the world in which it is suspended. There’s only one character you can play, and there’s no GM to tell you how to play it. {…}

But the counterculture has no monopoly on larpish behaviour. I’d also contend that the nigh-viral Six Sigma framework of manufacturing quality assurance took on very larp-like characteristics, especially as it trickled down — poorly understood and richly overhyped — to the very same small businesses that its progenitors were busily eviscerating in the mid- to late-Nineties. Imagine a larp designed to explore perfection and efficiency in the workplace, being played earnestly by a handful of converts among a workforce of disinterested and disenfranchised NPCs who haven’t had so much as a sip of the kool-aid… Well, perhaps I’m being unfair, here, but Six Sigma looked to me like an RPG for middle management long before I knew what Nordic larp even was.

again, hat tip to Technoccult’s The Strange And Exciting World Of Nordic Larping

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