After Knudepunkt 2011, I decided to attend Solmukohta 2012 for three main reasons, in no particular order:
- meeting larpers from around the world
- discovering stuff with pure shock value that makes me go «Nordic larpers are sick»
- discovering stuff that makes me go «hmmm… I’m gonna dump 90% of what this person said but I will steal and implement that one really cool idea».
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read Part 1, otherwise read on.
Solmukohta before Solmukohta
The Nordic Larp talks were held on Wednesday night in a metal club in Helsinki. Go watch the videos instead of reading my drivel!
How to become a god, by Mike Pohjola, took us through a journey from shamanism to antique chorus and larp as «the best spot in a play». Surprising at first (“where is this guy going?”) but as one of my favorite Swiss larp groups is called Coryphée (Coryphaeus, i.e. the leader of the antique chorus), I could only concur.
From preforming arts to larp, by Johanna McDonald. A very good «compare and contrast» between the two activites, and I fully agree both on the differences and the ways to incorporate one with the other.
Larpification, by Claus Raasted. Larpers! Use the word «larp». Not «interactive drama» or other half-assed synonyms. Use «larp». Last year I thought Claus was the Big Lebowsky, this year I think he is actually Jesus Christ. I will explain more in part 3.
The interplay between player and man in the street, by JP Kaljonen . A recap of Dublin2, a larp organized by activist artists where people played asylum seekers, NGOs and cops in downtown Helsinki. A very interesting experiment, and it was great to talk some more with JP during the Saturday party to get his feelings as a new larp organizer.
Getting A Haircut And A Real Job, Panel with Mikko Rautalahti & Andie Nordgren. Experiences of moving from roleplaying to corporate video gaming life. Added bonus: the companies that make Alan Wake and EVE Online are hiring. Oh, and I just love Andie’s voice.
Experimental Larp Design, by Jesper Bruun. Doing tango larp is one thing, communicating the process on how to make it work and improve it is better. Tango was already cool last year but was «the» thing this year. Ze French Crew is super motivated about bringing this to France, but Knudepunkt 2011 and Solmukhota 2012 have taught me that I’m more comfortable with larping naked with two people than dancing clothed with one.
Playing in Graveyards: Terror collides with larp, by Lizzie Stark. An account of how 9-11 affected New York vampire larpers. Considering I was playing the exact same game in San Francisco at the same time, it was very emotional to realize more than 10 years later how it affected larpers on the other side of the country.
Bonus: States of Play – Solmukohta 2012 book presentation by Juhana Petterson. A dry wit delivery on how the book came to life and highlights of its content. The book will deserve its own review, but let’s say I was already happy to be allowed in, and being showered with all the different versions just blew my mind. Kiitos!
Major thanks to the techies and the flawess MCing of Johanna Koljonen, I’m very impressed whenever she’s on a stage, more about it in Part 3.
The other talks I would label «Nordic» where at Solmukohta proper
This Year in LARP academia, by Jiituomas Harviainen. The traditional lecture on what was published on larp in the past year, always nice both in terms of delivery, snide remarks and pure informational content. Some fellow French Crew members would have liked a bit more details on the content of each item, but I just wrote down tidbits using my very selective hearing: when someone describes «proceedings from the digital games research association» in a few sentences, I’m the type of guy who only remembers the words « Firefly larp ».
Gender for dummies, by Emma Wieslander. An introduction on the differences between words like sex, gender, sexual orientation, what is biological, what is a social construct etc. To illustrate her point the speaker and others dressed on purpose with behaviors and clothes more usually associated with feminine roles. The explanations were very clear, and especially targeted at an international audience, with some hints for larp organizers. I had to bite my lips when people started asking about phenotype and would have loved to talk about the neuroscience of it all, but to respect timing I shut up. As I was raised on Simone «on ne nait pas femme: on le devient» de Beauvoir and lived for four years in Northern California, the talk did not come as breaking news, but it was both very clear and triggered all kinds of reactions, so I was happy.
Finnish larping- Small nation, big difference? by Ville-Eemeli Miettinen, Jo Granvik, JiiTuomas Harviainen and Niina Niskanen. A panel of various ages, genders and communication styles, who did a good job at showcasing various aspects of Finnish larp. I loved the bit about the rumors around «real sex» in Finnish larp. There was a fetish organization that asked for help on how to make their roleplay better, but also larpers who wanted to have an orgy but as renting a place for it was difficult, they pretended to rent it for a larp. That was nice mirroring, as for my farewell larp in the USA I rented an art space regularly used for orgies.
Non-Nordic but pretty badass
Franco-Swiss Sensory Overload, by Ze French Crew and yours truly. The anti-Swiss sentiment was apparent again this year, as «my» event was scheduled parallel to the hour of the rant, again. One day I will get to see the damn thing, and one day I’ll get the Nordic larpers interested in angry political talks to come to my event! Just kidding, Massi of the organizing committee did a great job at answering our last minute requests like a massive amount of water jars and provided trash bags to create makeshift curtains. It was funny to be standing on a chair sticking them 3 meter high with duct tape to block the sunlight 10 minutes before the presentation, because I went through the exact same situation during the Shadowrun larp.
Attendance was actually quite good, and I was very happy to see a majority of larpers from Nordic countries, as well as some Germans, and my favorite returning Russian (yay Diana!). We played larp videos ranging from crazy Swiss ninjas at Conquest of Mythodea to seriously good looking French Prohibition-era or Old West larp. We paired each with various stimuli, from nasty soft drinks to sausage to absinthe. It was pretty funny to see people starting to smell their drinks to get rid of some of the cheese aroma, I’ll provide the menu and full video links next time.
Apart from the laughs and booze, it was nice to see we provided our fair share of WTF moments for the audience. The first one came from custom-made fragrances by a professional perfume maker for the elemental temples of La Faille, a large, now-defunct French fantasy larp campaign. The other one was about larp budgets in France and Switzerland. Bruno answered «it depends if you have to rent a castle or not», which to me was a perfectly sensible answer. But the follow-up dialogue went a bit like:
«-What do you mean you can actually rent castles?
-Well yes, we have lots of them, don’t you?»
It’s for moments like this that Solmukhota is so much fun. Between last year’s talk, this year’s event and book, I sometimes I feel like I overpromoted the old Shadowrun larp, but such reactions confirm that there is room for more communication on things that appear obvious to us. And that I need to document more in English.
In retrospect, I also feel bad that sometimes we were a bit loud talking in French and mostly staying among ourselves for meals, but as Ze French Crew is actually scattered accross Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland and various parts of France, it was a great way to catch up, get to know each other and debrief some of the talks we couldn’t attend.
Enough with the talking! Did you larp at all?
I tried to avoid games that are available online and that I could re-run, but did play two games, one with 300 players and one with 3 players.
The Solmukohta flu – The Opening Scenario, by JiiTuomas Harviainen: zombies are always good as larper lingua franca. For this warm-up game, all the consenting attendees were given a sheet describing the setting: a zombie invasion in a closed building, and very basic characters. Some played more helpful, or more domineering etc versions of themselves, others played the same but as infected zombies who could only growl and try to bite the others. It started a bit slow for me as people would walk everywhere while attempting to very visibly roleplay their character, and I wasn’t warm yet. It got more fun as zombies came closer and we started to get bitten. It went downright hilarious when dozens of zombies kept entering a small room to catch a single human (I think it was Nathan Hook, who tried a glorious escape), it really felt like we were playing «how many zombies can you fit in this room». My favorite moment was when the SWAT NPCs arrived: one of them who was down on the floor, surrounded by crawling zombies, and preferred to shoot himself with his owngun. Seeing this, and then roleplaying the frustrated zombie was really fun. The circular bleed moment really came during the rest of the convention when a lot of people actually fell ill, sometimes even bedridden to the point of missing sessions. I was OK during the con but I am typing this in bed, mucus still oozing down my inner passages, so I am still feeling the bleed, in and out.
Soulstrip: three naked people standing in a closet play three aspects of the personality of a lover who just committed adultery. This was probably the first French run of Soulstrip, and because we wanted to keep some level of decency we kept our berets on our heads (more on berets in part 3). Vincent played the Macho, Joaquim the Romantic, and I played the Bad Conscience. The game was partly bilingual as we played in English with people who were outside the closet. This game will deserve a proper, separate review on electro-gn, but in the mean time it was a fun experience and made more for increasing my comfort level about nudity than any sauna session could have.
The plague is winning again against my cognitive abilities, so good night, and the next, third and final part will feature:
- America, fuck yeah!
- random discussions and WTF moments
- the Parties
- actual, practical stff
- and more!
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