I larped a lot as a teen, but I stopped for some years. And in 2010, some things hap­pened that made me think about why I stopped. Larping as a teen includ­ed a lot of a dead time. A lot of time when I was not in the cen­ter of the game. And I also believe I did not immerse into my char­ac­ter enough. I did­n’t know what to do with that back­ground sto­ry writ­ten at home and so on.

So in the game sit­u­a­tions I end­ed up in, I did­n’t know how to… I thought that peo­ple did­n’t take my actions into account. I was maybe a bit shy. So over­all, I did­n’t believe my sto­ry was impor­tant, and that made me feel bad about larp­ing. So I would sum these feel­ings up like some kind of per­for­mance anx­i­ety con­nect­ed to pow­er struc­tures and char­ac­ter work. 

So, what hap­pened in 2010 was that I real­ized I want­ed to do artis­tic work where one could try out life under dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances and come togeth­er with peo­ple in new ways. Things larp had promised me could be pos­si­ble. So, I was intro­duced to this Nordic larp com­mu­ni­ty, which was quite dif­fer­ent from the larp­ing com­mu­ni­ty of my teens. And I under­stood that larp­ing does not have to include months of prepa­ra­tions and lengthy back­ground stories.

I learned that there are oth­er ways to design games and the­o­ry con­nect­ed to it. So, I start­ed to look for a for­mat where the par­tic­i­pants could basi­cal­ly get into a sce­nario direct­ly from the street, just as in cin­e­ma or in an art exhi­bi­tion. No role­play­ing, no pres­sure to per­form at all. I want­ed them to feel good, be stim­u­lat­ed and thrilled about play­ing. And I want­ed them to be the cen­ter of the game.

So, what did I do? First of all, I got some com­pa­ny, because to think and cre­ate col­lec­tive expe­ri­ences is not only bor­ing, it’s also dif­fi­cult. And I could men­tion a lot of peo­ple here, but I want to stick to the mem­bers of the arts col­lec­tive, Nyxxx, which Johanna men­tioned in the presentation.

So, togeth­er we got rid of what we per­ceived as the prob­lems of larp­ing. We took away char­ac­ter. We took away this need to think back, to go ahead. And we took away all choice con­nect­ed to impro­vi­sa­tion and per­for­mance. We start­ed to guide our par­tic­i­pants in detail, and indi­vid­u­al­ly. We made the audi­ence, or the par­tic­i­pants of our pieces, into avatars. 

10 avatars of Vishnu

It was not this kind of avatar. 

Several characters from the Sims video game standing side by side

And not that kind either. 

Promotional art for the movie Avatar

And not that kind either.

Two women stand closely facing each other, wearing headphones

Avatarvaro (The Avatar Condition)

It was more like this. Another voice pos­sessed the lis­ten­ing body of the par­tic­i­pant. This pic­ture is from our first sce­nario. And in this one, you hear and you fol­low instruc­tions that you receive through head­phones, such as stretch out your arm.” Or give the object to the per­son sit­ting.” Or say hi.”

So there are easy, sim­ple instruc­tions. And noth­ing about how you’re sup­posed to feel. So, no per­for­mance. No psy­chol­o­gy. Just phys­i­cal actions. And direc­tions are syn­chro­nized with oth­er par­tic­i­pants’ actions, but they are not iden­ti­cal. So there’s no impro­vi­sa­tion, but still there is a kind of excite­ment about what you will do next, and what oth­ers will do next. And you kind of per­ceive the actions that you do as your own, and you also per­ceive the actions of oth­ers as theirs. And at the same time you know that they’re all instruct­ed. So, it kind of allows you to reflect on this like, what are you, and what is traces and voic­es of others.

Now I’m going to short­ly tell you about three oth­er works that we did, and how they relat­ed to this prob­lem that we had with larp.

Drömdykarna (Oneironauts)

In this piece, to get the younger audi­ence to play, we chose to mix a set­up from the for­mer piece with a sto­ry estab­lished by actors, and the audi­ence also had an objective.

In this piece, we want­ed to chal­lenge the audi­ence a bit by let­ting impro­vi­sa­tion into the game, by let­ting humans into the games of the avatar. So, human avatars. And our playtesters, they wit­nessed about feel­ing calm and in charge as they had the instruc­tions in the head­phones. But more anx­ious and unsure as they had to man­aged them­selves in the for­eign the­ater. And this dif­fer­ence was exact­ly what we want­ed to explore in this piece.

And then this, my last exam­ple. The par­tic­i­pants are school class­es. And they of course know exact­ly what is pos­si­ble for them to do in their class­rooms. Normally. But what could hap­pen when this ghost-like pres­ence of this voice stirs the social pat­terns up. That’s what this piece is about. 

So, I start­ed out by want­i­ng to get rid of what trou­bled me with larp­ing. And I did that by cre­at­ing some­thing new. I not only end­ed up with this arts col­lec­tive respon­si­ble for a series of per­for­mances, but I was also find­ing my gates to a whole new field of artis­tic research.

And maybe one could think that there is noth­ing left for the par­tic­i­pants. But actu­al­ly there is this kind of fleshy sol­i­dar­i­ty of being togeth­er in the room, in a shared space, that avatars have togeth­er, that no god­like voice could ever expe­ri­ence. So, thank you. 

Further Reference

Overview blog post for the 2015 Nordic Larp Talks, and for this presentation