In the coming months, I want to evaluate some of the books of larp theory that are out there, such as the books published by conventions like Knutepunkt and WyrdCon, but before I do so, I wanted to think about what it would mean for such a book to be “good.”
For me, Aristotle came to mind. He held that a good thing is one that fulfills its function well, and so with this in mind, I asked myself, “what is the function of such a book?” and came up with the following answers:
- to create a history of larp and larp theory: Knowing what methods work well could help larp organizers arrange better games. Likewise, for those who want to push boundaries and try new things knowing what’s been done is important. Creating a cultural record could be important for legitimizing the hobby as an artform.
- to foster community: A book, much like a larp, is a communal venture that can bring people together, both in the actual creation of the book (submitting, editing, etc), and by the creation of the book, in which people from different traditions can dialogue with one another. The book then becomes an artifact of the culture that the community can look at with pride.
- to advance larp as an artform: Dialogue, debate and discussion, and the thinking that each of these activities requires, push organizers and players to appreciate the hobby in new lights. Also, somehow, creating an aesthetic theory of larp legitimizes it as an art form, in the same way that literary/music/film criticism legitimizes those mediums as art forms by pointing out the thought that goes into and the rarefied pleasure gained through each larp.
- to allow outsiders to understand the scene: I’m not sure how central an aim this is since we’re talking about pretty scholarly books here, but a book can help the uninitiated understand the hobby. However, given the academic scope of these books, I’m pretty sure that “uninitiated” doesn’t mean “general public” but something more like “larpers from other geographical regions” or “academics interested in game studies but not yet aware of larp.”
Are there other reasons I missed?