Nordic LARP on TLC, Take Two

I received a number of reactions to my previous review of this documentary on Nordic LARP.  It’s easy to describe and discuss things that need improvement, and in general, I’m inclined to view documentaries of LARP with trepidation. As a result, even though this particular documentary was among the better ones that I’ve seen, my review came off rather harsh and misrepresented my overall impressions. So I’m expanding on my review here, with a focus on the aspects of it I liked.

First of all, the LARP chosen was a great choice for a documentary. Some form of LARPs don’t translate very well to film. Notably, combat in fantasy LARP often looks particularly awkward on camera, at least in part because we’re so used to seeing professionally choreographed fight scenes in movies and on tv. This LARP, by contrast, was well captured on film. That the environment suited the LARP well, I think, helped make this a smart choice for the documentary.

I also very much appreciate that the camera crew fit into the LARP — it requires no stretch of the imagination to accept that the detainees in the LARP would be filmed during their interrogations and exams. I think it has the effect of making the audience feel less like they are watching from the outside, and more like they can understand the experience of the LARP itself. That the documentary filming was not interfering demonstrates respect for the LARPers.

I rather liked that they included shots of the character sheets, though they didn’t go into depth explaining them or show any players reading or reacting to them. Including some of what goes into a LARP prior to it running makes this documentary more complete in this way than many others.

The shots of the LARP creator in numerous high quality costumes from a variety of genre was also a very nice inclusion. It demonstrates the breadth and width of the medium, rather than giving the impression that all LARP is of one genre. (Many documentaries, by contrast, leave the viewers with the impression that all LARP is medieval fantasy.) Similarly, including the line that LARPs vary in duration helps demonstrate how much LARPs can differ in format from one another.

I like how they included a brief introduction to the “cut” and “break” rules before the LARP began. Along with closing shots of the players hugging and applauding after the LARP ended, and the way they juxtaposed shots of some of the more intense images (such as the LARPer whose head was dunked into a bucket of water) with shots of the player calmly and rationally explaining why she wanted to have this LARP experience, and what her impressions of it was, the documentary gave a very solid impression of how the LARPers are capable of divorcing the experience of the LARP from their real lives.

There’s a line describing the creation of the LARP, how it was written with the idea that “everybody needs to feel that they’re the center of their own story.” This idea that every character is the star from their own point of view is part of what gives writing LARP its own set of challenges unique from any other medium. Not every LARP writer buys into this theory, though it’s one I personally embrace and I’m glad to see it exists in other LARP communities.

And lastly, I must say, the narrator’s voice is golden. He sounds terrific.

About Fair Escape

I've been LARPing for years in all different styles, including both boffer and theater. I love classic LARP but I'm always happy to try something new. I have a sort of "gotta catch 'em all" attitude towards experiencing LARPs. I'm currently serve as a board member of NEIL, a member of proposal com for Intercon, the largest all LARP convention in the US, and as en editor for Game Wrap, a publication about the art and craft of LARP. I was also con chair of Festival of the LARPs 2017, and I'm on staff for NELCO, the first all LARP conference in the US. I'm
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7 Responses to Nordic LARP on TLC, Take Two

  1. aaronvanek says:

    Just FYI, again, Claus’s essay on this doc should be coming out soon in the 2013 Wyrd Con Companion Book.

    In there, he explains that they did choose a larp for this, called “What are you worth?” that has been run before. They got it out of their larp library. I think they made some modifications to it (the camera crew, mainly), and recruited the players from a pool of veteran larpers who knew going in what the intensity would be like, and were prepared to handle it.

    Which makes me wonder: are there larpers willing to go to this point in America, and if so, how can you tell? Where can you find them? What larps are they playing or running?

    Thanks for the second review.

    • Fair Escape says:

      Ah, thank you for the clarification. I will edit that line in the review.

      When you say, “this point” do you mean willing to let a documentary crew in on a LARP at this level, or do you mean LARPers willing to be confined and caged, subjected to bags over their heads, interrogations, water-based torture techniques, and invasive medical exams?

      With the exception of this particular medical exam, I think they do exist in the US. I know of one LARP group that wanted to run a rather extreme weekend long LARP that involved cramped quarters, limited food, uncomfortable environments, lack of sleeping gear, and other very unpleasant experiences (such as being sprayed with a high pressure hose). They made it very clear how extreme and unpleasant the experience might be, and still got a fair amount of interest. (Myself included.) They even discussed the possibility of drawing blood (though this would be unlikely due to legal issues surrounding biohazards.) It never ran, but the interest was there, and it was found by word of mouth and possibly email. I think it ran once in a camper trailer, but don’t quote me on that.

  2. aaronvanek says:

    By “this point”, I meant your second example: allow for confinement, cages, torture, etc. I agree with you that they probably do exist, but again: how do we run larps for them, how do we recruit for them? I know that someone out here in SoCal wanted to do an emotionally intense larp, a horror one, that I wanted to do, but it fizzled out as well.

    In the meantime, I’m going to Blackout ( and other extreme haunted houses, but that’s a poor substitute for a larp.

    I’d even be happy to see some Nordic style larps based on the real world. There was some intense bleed in The Family Andersen, which is a larp that’s merely this: brothers and sisters have to decide how to split up their wealthy parent’s estate after their demise. It takes place in one room, no real props, and with mostly one simple mechanic: each character is played by two players, like a tag team personality.

    I think it’s worse here in SoCal than New England, though. I know a lot of the theater style and intense emotional stuff is coming out of there (Intercon, again). But it’s not really here locally (there are a few occasional exceptions; Wyrd Con being the most notable).

    • Fair Escape says:

      Well, if that one LARP that almost ran is any indication, the standard recruitment methods would apply — word of mouth, plugs at LARP events, and emailing pre-existing lists.

      My impression of the Nordic LARPs at Intercon are that a few are real world (Storm Cellar and Play the List sound like Nordic style based on the real world.) Nordic style is still uncommon around here, but they are popping up more and more at Intercon and smaller cons, like SLAW, Dice Bubble and Festival. There was also a full day of Nordic LARPs at MIT sometime over the past year. It’s still a young movement in the US, but growing.

      • aaronvanek says:

        Yup, I agree. You sound like a larp expert–at least about larps in your area. That’s all it is: a wealth of information contained in one person that is comparatively higher than others. 😉

    • idiotsavant23 says:

      You recruit for a niche product the same way as you do for any other game. But in order to fill, you’ll need a large, well-connected community, and/or run smaller teaser games to introduce people to the style and build an audiance for the main event.

      Larp is sold by word of mouth. If you want to change tastes, or introduce something new, then running a small event and turning its players into your advertising-bots is a great strategy.

  3. Hi FairEscape. I read this earlier, but didn’t get around to commenting on it before now. 😉

    Thanks for the second blog post on the program. I’m still amazed at how little online reaction there’s been to the piece, but that just me even more glad that some of the debate it sparked seemed to turn something a bit negative into something a bit postive.

    And as always – thanks for sharing and contributing!

    – Claus

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