NYU MFA Visits The Heart of Nordic LARP: Knutepunkt 2013

What do you get when you export an NYU Game Center MFA student to Norway for a weekend of live action game design conversation? The answer is an education in the rich tradition of Nordic LARP.

Last year, representatives of the Nordic LARP scene visited the NYU Game Center for a talk on the first US run of the Nordic game Mad About the Boy hosted by author Lizzie Stark. Tor Kjetil Edland, Trine Lise Lindahl, and Margrete Raaum lectured regarding not only the game but their involvement with the larger community in Europe. In response, this year NYU Game Center MFA student and US LARP designer Shoshana Kessock visited the Nordic LARP game conference in Norway known as Knutepunkt.

Held outside of Oslo at scenic Haraldvagen, Knutepunkt is a gathering of members of international LARP organizers and academics interested in sharing the latest ideas and advancement in the community. Since 1997 it has become arguably the most important conference in Europe regarding LARP. The theme of the weekend was Crossing Borders, appropriate for a convention which drew attendees from a dozen countries including Russia, Ireland, Finland, Denmark, Israel, Palestine and the United States. New games were presented, including Huntsville, a LARP that explored capitol punishment in a Texas Prison, Robin’s Friends which explored friendship in the shadow of leukemia and Prison which let players explore the confinement and psychological pressures of incarceration. These kinds of intense games are typical of Nordic live action games, which focus on game experiences that provoke emotional response and thoughtful consideration of the content. The conference also hosted the LARP Exchange Academy, a three-day game jam for new developers the week before the conference to produce brand new games for presentation.

65673_10151641774397650_701875805_nJaakkos Stenros. Photo by: Johannes Axner

Along with the games presented, an extensive program of panels and discussions explored different parts of Nordic LARP. One such short discussion by author Jaakko Stenros (Nordic LARP, Pervasive Games) highlights the difficulties of defining Nordic LARP as a game genre  in the context of more traditional live action games. Other lectures for the weekend included advanced LARP theory by author Markos Montola (Nordic LARP, Pervasive Games), discussions on political LARPs by Stockholm University professor and researcher Annika Waern (Pervasive Games), discussions on the handling of sexual content in live action games and practical workshops on LARP development techniques.

The conference also provided a home for international collaboration. Designers from around the world shared tips on game design and discussed the relative cultures of their communities and brainstormed future collaborations, such as the joint Norwegian-Palestinian conference in Ramallah this summer. Discussions took place about bringing over more Nordic games to the US, with organizers from the Battlestar Galactica-inspired Monitor Celestra game announcing their intent to aim for a US run. Shoshana Kessock spoke with several designers regarding future collaborations for a New York-based academic LARP conference and showcase, planned for 2014, and the importance of importing Nordic games for US runs. Overall, Knutepunkt is a brilliant educational opportunity for anyone interested in pervasive and live action games and essential for anyone curious about the Nordic tradition itself. Next year’s dates have already been announced for April 2014, to be held in Sweden.

Shoshana Kessock is an Game Center MFA student, creator of Phoenix Outlaw Productions, a writer, and much more.  You can learn more about Shoshana here.