This week is Danish larp week over at my digital domicile. Enjoy a taste of Scandinavia all week long, as we explore the Danish scene in three installments: kid’s larp on Monday, arty larp on Wednesday, and fantasy larp on Friday.
Today Bjarke Pedersen and Nynne Søs Rasmussen chat about the arty Danish scene.
What local scene are you involved in, and what is your role within it?
Bjarke: The art larp scene is centered around the conference Knudepunkt and the people that go. It is not as much a national scene as a pan-Nordic scene and includes people from approximately age 20 and up.
I organize larps and also play a lot of larps. I think it is important to play and to be able to organize. Some of the larps I’ve made include LevelFive (2010-11), Twentyfivefold Manifestation (2008), and The White Road (2005).
Nynne: I’m most involved in the arty larp scene, but I used to do kid’s larp as well. And once a year I participate in Krigslive, which is a big one-shot war larp set in the Warhammer fantasy world and played with boffer weapons. I am both a player and an organizer, and enjoy doing both.
One great thing about the Danish larp scene is that you don’t have to choose; each scene is so small and so intertwined, that you can be an artsy larper and still fight with boffer weapons or but on you elven ears occasionally –and no one will find it weird.
Why has larp held your interest?
Nynne: The Danish larp scene in Copenhagen is a social community. We hang out a lot, talk a lot about larp and do lots of different projects together. And there is always a party going on somewhere. It’s nice and inspiring to be a part of this creative and dymanic circle of friends. Larp, to me, is also a chance to be creative, meet new exciting people and gain a broader perspective on my life and the world.
Bjarke: Because larp is a very powerful medium which can do things no other media can do. Making larps is my big passion and i wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Why are games typically one shots, and not campaigns?
Nynne: In my opinion a one shot is a more intense experience; you have to let it all out at once and are not worried about your character dying or spilling secrets. The players have to go all-out. I don’t think I could get that super intense and mind-blowing experience if I were to play every other Sunday and it would too exhausting for me as well.
Bjarke: Campaigns and one shots work completely differently. Campaigns caters to slow-progressing stories and character building. One shots cater to strong stories and condensed play. Also, campaigns tend to get boring to organize after a while. With one shots you can keep changing the direction of your design without having players nagging about every little change
How are games funded?
Nynne: Participants pay tuition of a varying amount, but most games get some sort of money from public or private funds as well.
Bjarke: Player participation fees and governmental or municipal funding. It is pretty easy to get $2,000-$10,000 for a game without breaking a sweat.
Are there themes/styles typical of Danish arty larp, as opposed to art larp in other countries?
Bjarke: I do not think there is a typical Danish style. The Nordic style of play is what I pledge my allegiance to.
Nynne: I don’t know if it’s different from other countries but settings of prisons, asylums, camps, and religious sects seem to be popular here.
What are workshops and why do you use them?
Nynne: A workshop is usually a part of the preparation before a larp, where players and organizers meet and do exercises, build characters, relations and bond. It can last from 1 hour to several weekends before the actual larp.
The great thing about workshops from an organizer’s point of view is that you can communicate tons of information to the players in a small amount of time while engaging the players at another level. The players tend to become co-creators and will take responsibility for the larp on a much larger scale. From a player’s point of view, the workshop creates safety, trust, and comfort, which can be necessary to engage in a physically or psychologically challenging larp. Using workshops is a way to make sure that everybody enters the larp with the same expectations.
Bjarke: Workshops convey information verbally and through exercises in a way very difficult to do in writing. Workshops make the participants and organizers move in the same direction and thus make a better larp; if you understand the motivations and vision of the organizer you become a much better player. Also, workshops build team spirit and connections between players that create a level of trust that make the players’ larp more intense.
What are debriefs and why do you use them?
Nynne: Debriefs are done after larps; they’re almost like workshops, but the point of debriefing is to get out of character and talk about (the sometimes emotional or physical hardcore) things that happened during the larp. We use them to get everybody “back to normal” after for instance playing a larp about being a patient in a mental institution and one that has been locked up in a dark theatre hall for 48 hours. They are often much needed and appreciated, but I think we could develop the concept further and make debriefing much more effective.
Bjarke: When you have been through a strong emotional journey, you need to talk about it with someone who understands what you have been through. Players need to express their emotional state to others and through this dialogue build a story of what it is they have been through together. Without debrief (or de-roll as they are often called) you could end up with a lot of players with a shakey emotional state afterwards.
Why would I want to play in a game with a strong political message/that makes me sad/that treats me like a prisoner?
Bjarke: Because larp is a quite safe way to experience things that are otherwise impossible in the real world. It is the same with scary movies or boxing, for example. You get scared and hurt during the experience, but afterwards you have had a great time.
Nynne: Because it can give you alternative perspectives on who you are and you get a deeper understanding of other human beings. You learn something. In some ways it’s like reading book or watching a movie that affects you emotionally, but you get a physical experience at a larp which makes all your feelings stronger; I believe that larps can change who you are or how you view yourself.
I enjoy playing these games because they make me a little bit wiser; I discover something new and interesting about myself. And it gives me a tiny bit of understanding of how it must be to be in prison/discriminated against/very poor etc.
Are you worried about causing people psychological harm? Do you do anything to prevent this?
Nynne: I do worry, but even though people can get extremely influenced after a larp I don’t belive that any larp has ever caused someone permanent psychological harm. We do a few things to prevent psychological harm though; we have a “cut” word and/or a “break” word, which are used to signal that a scene has gone too far for one of the persons involved – if somebody uses one of those word the scene either stops completely or escalates down, giving the player a chance to withdraw. Workshops and debriefs are also tools for prevening psychological harm. They don’t always work optimally, though. In my opinion, the one and only person who can take care of you, in the end, is yourself. If I take care of myself, I must trust the other players to be responsible adults who are able to do the same thing.
Bjarke: As with any profound experience you leave a changed person. You could damage your players both physically or mentally, but that is not the point. Just as in football, where you play close to the edge, the injury of the player is not the point. As a designer I try to make the larps as safe as possible.
Tell us about a game you played in that felt important to you.
Bjarke: Difficult, since there are so many. I would say Delirium. Delirium was the sort of larp that had a lot of great mechanics, workshop methods, and organizing which made a larp bigger than all its parts. A truly profound experience. Please follow the link and see the documentary about the larp. It is well worth your time.
Bjarke Pedersen 36, makes larps that try to challenge our understanding of what larp can do, whether it is interactive performances in major museums or bringing players to other countries as tourists. His work can be found at bjarkep.com
Nynne Søs Rasmussen, 25, is an organizer and player who has been larping since 2003. She’s currently pursuing a masters in sociology, and enjoys many styles of games.