Lwss2014 – Day two: Wednesday

Writing this I look at the program, to remember what happened when, and I can see that the first point of the second day was “Why do we larp?” I remember that as a very good talk, but I had to look at my notes just now to find out why (so many memories so little space, I’m so glad I took many notes). It was all about the reasons to larp, and it was a good way to look at a new project and think which of the many motivations is it that drive people to play this larp. But also to make sure that you don’t design one thing and the players except something else. This talk could of course not cover all of the motivations, but went through some of the most dominant.

After that it was two more larps presentations: Kapo And “Between heaven and sea” both games I’ve heard about especially Kapo, as I helped debrief both Oliver Nøglebæk and Thomas Mertz. But it was interesting hearing about “Between heaven and sea” from the designer, having until now only heard about the game and especially the by now famous ars amandi that was created for the game. This game was also one of the games that was referenced to the most.

Next up was the introduction to the mixing desk of larp, the glue of the whole thing, the tool in the center of the idea. The concept is called the mixing desk of larp because it uses the metaphor of a sound technicians mixing desk. Where if he turns up for this fader and down on another it changes the sound profoundly and can mean the difference between horror or comedy. The mixing desks of larp is the same: a lot of faders for different parameters of a game. Change the position on any of them and the larp changes. It’s not so much a design tool as a way of talking about larps, but it can also be used as a way to become aware of your own design and help you guide your design choices, by looking at which faders are most important for your game and what position they should be in. It’s to make the design choices you make conscious rather than just routine or accident. This is something I sorely need.

So for example on the second day and the first of many fader talks we were introduced to the concept as a whole and the faders: “player pressure”, “bleed in” and “player motivation”. So if we for example look at player motivation, the two poles are: competition or collaboratively. Meaning what motivates your players to play the game can at one end be the competition against other players and at the other collaborating with the other players. Many of the traditional larps and most Vampire campaigns focus strongly on this, where most of the things I make is very much about collaborating. Although mostly meta collaborating, that is collaborating between the players to create a good story, rather than the collaborating between the characters in defeating the game.

What is important is that neither pole is correct nor better. Both ends have strengths and weaknesses, but the important point is that where you place a fader defines what game you create. I won’t go into much more detail then that, the mixing desk is well described here, and much better than me:

But what they did next was brilliant. After each group of fader talks we did a short workshop called “Playing the mixing desk,” where we in groups of four or five would play out the same very simple scene again and again, but with a strong focus on one of the faders, we had just had presented. The scene was a family dinner with mom, dad, sister and dog, (son if five people) and it always started with the sister saying: “could you pass me the salt please.” The first time we were just asked to do the scene without any input, just improvise a family dinner from that simple information. But from then on the same scene was played with the many faders set in different ways to illustrate and remind us of the faders we had just had presented.

It was of causer a bit silly and exaggerated but it really served as a way to work with the talks you had just heard. Also the simple scene and that fact, that it was the same scene with the same people really helped focus on the fader, you weren’t distracted by anything else. Brilliant I think. I also think the silliness of it also helped us loosen up and get to know some of the others, even tough we played in the same group throughout. I’m very tempted to contact Østerskov Efterskole and ask if they want to hire me to come and do just a fader course with their students. Because many of the students start designing games during the stay at the school, and they would really benefit from this tool, I think. It will help them break out of habit thinking.

For for the next three days we were after lunch split into three groups, the same each day, and then we circled between three things, a new every day. The three things where: two workshops, the larp White death and the larp Snaphanen. So for example on the first day my group, group B, did the two workshops and group A did White death and group C did Snaphanen. And the next day my group did White death and so on. I’m glad we started out with the workshops, I don’t think I was ready to let loose in the larps on day two. The two workshops was called: “thinking outside the box” and “writing characters”.

If you’re wondering about the thinking outside the box workshop and also need to go a bit mad go talk to Charles and he’ll gleefully take you through the exercises, which has caused much pain but is also a good way to get the point across. I’m not gonna say much, because that would spoil it, and the point can’t get across on the written language, a bit of a problem for some of the items at the school.

It was interesting, but a bit hummm symbolic? He used the exercise to show a point but it really didn’t give us any concrete tools to help outside the box thinking. But of cause that might be impossible to teach. So using the exercise to give us something to remind us to not get stuck inside the box when we are wondering about design might be a good substitute.

The character writing workshops was much more hands on. Where we actually wrote characters going through the method that the organizers use themselves. It was very reminiscent of the teaching style of the Danish School of Journalism, where you learn by doing. This worked very well. You can feel that they have done this workshop before all around there was very little ehh and ehems. But the whole summer school was like that. They knew what they wanted with each talk and workshop and that was so cool. A very high level for an event run by volunteers. Higher than some of the schools I’ve been to.

The way these posts is written is very summing up, and very focused on the content, what happened, what did we do and so on. Which is fine, it’s what’s it’s all about anyway. But I just wanted add, at this point, that it’s impossible to convey the emotional and social experience, just know that while I’m writing this, I’m in a very strange and powerful space because it brings me back, which is both good (yay fond memories) and bad (buhhu I’m not there any more). As the song says it hurts so good.

After the workshops and for the two other groups the larps, we all did one great big larp together. That’s the one I mentioned in the previous post. “New voices in art”. But I wrote quite a bit about that, so that will get it’s own post. Look forward to that and the rest of the summer camp later.

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