Inspired by the famous Nordic larp convention circuit, the GNiales is a Parisian event where larpers meet, share ideas and experiment on the hobby (GN is French for larp, GNiales is a pun with the “genius-like”meaning of «genial»).
Knudepunkt à la française
Now in its 7th year, the GNiales does knudepunktify itself a bit with time, as speakers get less scared to give more theoritical talks in addition to the many hands-on workshops. It still maintains its French character, meaning it takes place near Paris, does not provide on-site housing and features useful country-specific workshops about running non-profits organizations, legal risks, statistics from the FedeGN (the French larp federation) etc. Unlike at Nordic larp cons, GNiales talks try to stay neutral, forbidding both self-promotion and obvious ranting. Hallway conversations however do involve their fair share of badmouthing: FedeGN, organizers of mass larps, parisians, non-parisians, all are fair game when it comes to dissing, so the French reputation for complaining is saved.
Another sign of knudepunktification is its growing international audience. Originally made of Francophones (Belgium and Switzerland are a short high-speed train ride away), it officially opened to English speakers in 2011. Once again, our Norse cousins had been pioneers in 2010, when Jeepers Frederik Berg Østergaard and Tobias Wrigstad made a surprise visit. After blowing their cover (the thick-rimmed glasses were a dead giveaway at the time), they did a great impromptu lecture on jeepform and ran an ethically dubious game. To improve from the 2010 improvised translation services, the 2011 GNiales featured a full track of events in English, and we were glad to have Italian and Spanish attendees in addition to the usual francophone foreign guests. I was happily surprised by the speakers’ willingness to present their content in English, which means all is not lost for the internationalization of French ideas! It was also great to see faces met at Knudepunkt or online.
They call it «Le programme»
Like I did for KP, here is the list of sessions I could attend.
State of the French larp world: while it couldn’t cover 100% of larpers in France, this overview from the FedeGN was great to have as a resource. Another French specificity is the alliance of this federation with airsoft groups who, while they don’t necessarily larp, have found common ground in obtaining a similar insurance for similar activities.
Specificity and originality of larp scriptwriting. An interesting take on what «story» or «scenario» means for larp, and how larp writing is different than a novel or film scriptwriting, backed by a survey on why people larp, with very different answers between players who also write games and players who don’t.
Special Effects 2011: a perennial favorite, I am glad our foreign guests got to experience the magic of Tonton Copt, from very simple but believable alchemical glass jars to fancier electronics. I will reuse a lot of the tools presented in this workshop, so to avoid spoilers I won’t go into more details. Like every year, I was very impressed, especially because Tonton Copt solved several problems that had blocked me from using certain technologies in the past. Do check out his website.
Intro to first aid: a Red Cross volunteer larper taught us basic techniques, including how to use an automated external defibrillator and all kinds of common sense behaviors, including roleplay exercises on how to properly call for help. My yearly dose of self-improvement thanks to the GNiales.
The Larper International: my talk on international larp: what is available nowadays in the world (mostly Europe) and where to get it, from games to conventions to books. I was skillfully seconded by Joséphine Verneuil, Stéphane R. and Olivier V., who had also traveled abroad to play and attended international cons. Apart from contact information, the talk included advisories on cultural differences. For example, Dutch passer-bys will stop you if they see you running in the street in real life while someone yells «stop that thief!» in game, while the French won’t move. It also covered the joys of larp-specific culture shock when playing a game you though you knew abroad, e.g. there is usually much less bleed in French larps.
An overview of Nordic Larp: a more specific talk by Stéphane, a larper who experienced a near life-changing event by attending Knudepunkt 2011. He later on attended Kapo, a prison-based, highly immersive larp which provided an amazing source of «WTF?!» moments for the French audience. I particularly liked seeing a video of Luminescence, it looked just like I imagined 🙂 .
Organizer’s worst goofs: a roundtable-meets-group therapy session where every attendee shared their worst mistake as an organizer, from game design problems to casting to forgetting where they left the drinkable water supply. Beyond laughter, the rest of the crowd discussed possible solutions to avoid such situations in the future.
Créa’GN/LarpMaker, a software to organize larps: a demo of an impressive tool to arrange everything from rules systems, plot connections to game sign-ups with fees in different installments. Probably better suited to large larps, but pretty flexible, and soon available as a commercial product on a pay-by-character basis.
There were many more sessions and all are listed on the GNiales’ website. Some of the slides, materials etc are available for download year-round.
To see what it looked like, check out this video, featuring subtitles in English.
What about cheese-melting neutral monkeys?
After attending Knudepunkt 2011 and GNiales 2007, 2010 and 2011, I decided to adapt the concept to the needs of the local Swiss scene. As throwing an event of that scale is a daunting task, I made use of the flawless organization of Orc’Idée, the local tabletop gaming convention, and created GN’Idée, its embedded larp-focused convention. As I have no qualms about self-promotion and the French-speaking Swiss larp organizing community is small enough to fit in one room, the con will open with the presentation of their games for the 2011-2012 season. The workshops will definitely pay tribute to the GNiales, and we’ll try to share notes and contribute to their knowledge base. GN’Idée will be in French, but you are interested to visit please contact me and we’ll try to arrange crash space and some level of translation.
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