Nordic Larp, the seminal collection of articles about important games in the Nordic countries. Is finally available as a freely downloadable PDF. Get it here. I have an article in the book, about the larp Luminescence.
I and some friends have a project of trying to watch all movies, tv episodes and other stuff with moving pictures related to roleplaying games ever made. We’re pretty far along on this goal. I’ll write here about old and new things we’ve found and watched.
(Knights of Badassdom)
Movies about groups of roleplayers or larpers tend to follow easily distinguishable patterns. Knights of Badassdom is one of the biggest movies about larpers so far, but in many respects it follows the usual cliches. The less known Canadian movie Lloyd the Conqueror does the same.
Both movies have reluctant male leads who are forced to larp by external circumstances. Both protagonists are really bad larpers, and routinely disrupt the game experiences of others. Taking larp seriously is seen as suspect and weird.
In these movies, larp is essentially a male pursuit. Among the major characters, there’s a single female larper, meant as a romantic interest for the male lead. Misogynistic humor abounds, sometimes simultaneously with material that seems to have been meant as empowering to women.
Knights of Badassdom does one more thing that these movies usually do, but Lloyd the Conqueror doesn’t.
The game becomes real.
That is the supreme cliche of all game movies. In Knights of Badassdom, a guy playing a wizard uses a real spellbook, and accidentally summons a demon. As a result, the movie turns into a slasher comedy.
Despite its cliches, Knights of Badassdom is fun to watch. Or at least it was for me, as someone who has seen a lot of these movies. In its own category, its well made and often funny, which is more than can be said for most larp movies. Its nice to see so many familiar actors, like Peter Dinklage, Summer Glau, Ryan Kwanten, Danny Pudi or Steve Zahn.
Still, the sexist jokes and the dismissive attitude towards larp are annoying. The female lead played by Summer Glau is in the larp only to take care of her mentally unstable cousin. By the end of the movie, she and the male lead have successfully stopped larping.
(Lloyd the Conqueror)
If Knights of Badassdom is larp movie as a slasher comedy, then Lloyd the Conqueror is larp movie as a slacker comedy transitioning into a sports underdog story. Lloyd is a college student about to fail a class. His teacher is an evil larper who blackmails Lloyd and his friends into participating in a larp tournament. Trained by a veteran larper and game store worker, they succeed in the tournament against all odds. Often by cheating and off-gaming.
Lloyd the Conqueror is a strange movie. Its often fun to watch. The cast is good, and the jokes sometimes work. The female lead, a women’s self defense instructor, is pretty funny. Later in the movie, she uses ideas from larp in teaching her class. When one of the slackers insults larp, the mentor character actually exhibits some backbone and attempts to evict him from the game store.
Still, the sexist jokes… In the worst one, it’s posited that if women were more like men, they would be turned on by harassment. The protagonist is a creepy stalker, and naturally gets the girl with his stalking moves.
Knights of Badassdom and Lloyd the Conqueror are better larp movies than most. Still, I wouldn’t want what I do to be represented by either one of them.
The Nordic larp conference Knutpunkt will be held shortly. The books published together with the conference are now available as free PDFs. This time, there’s two: a collection of new articles called The Cutting Edge of Nordic Larp and a collection of old articles humbly titled The Foundation Stone of Nordic Larp.
The Cutting Edge of Nordic Larp is edited by Jon Back. It’s the traditional Knutpunkt book, a collection of new articles about Nordic larp and related subjects. There’s two articles in the book about our larp Halat hisar, one by myself (Larp for Change) and another by Kaisa Kangas (Bringing the Occupation Home).
There’s other good stuff in the book too. Harald Misje, Martin Nielsen & Anita Myhre Andersen’s article about taking children’s larp to a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon is extremely interesting. I’ve always taken the power of larp as an article of faith, but articles like these make me realize it’s not a matter of faith anymore.
Alexey Fedoseev writes about “almost larp” productions made in other fields like cinema or the theatre. Reading the article, it feels that if these projects had been organized inside the discourse of larp, their status as larps would not be questioned.
Markus Montola writes about how crowdfunding worked in the larp The Monitorship Celestra. I played in that game myself, and the expectations and relationships created by the funding structure affected my game greatly.
The Foundation Stone of Nordic Larp is edited by Eleanor Saitta, Marie Holm-Andersen & Jon Back. It’s a collection of old articles, manifestoes and talks. The idea is that if you’re new to Nordic Larp, you can pick up this book instead of immediately reading through all the old Knutpunkt books. Many of the articles are from old Knutpunkt books, but not all. There’s two from the one I edited, States of Play: Simo Järvelä’s The Golden Rule of Larp, about larp ethics, and Larp and Aesthetic Responsibility, by Tova Gerge.
Old articles have new prefaces written from a current point of view, which is good because many of them require some historical context. Even if you’ve already read all the old articles, it’s still worthwhile to go through the new introductions.
Non-fiction: James McClintock: Lost Antarctica (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)
James McClintock is an American scientist with a long career of work on Antarctica. His book Lost Antarctica is one of those that I can recommend with: “If you read one book about Antarctica…”
Lost Antarctica is part career retrospective, part adventure story, part popular science and part a heartfelt polemic about climate change. The stories of how science gets done on Antarctica are interesting, but McClintock’s real gifts seem to be in writing about the discoveries in an interesting manner. Often the adventures of king crabs carried the most meaningful scenes in the book.
One reason for this is that the science and the discoveries have a tendency to move towards the direction of global warming. The route from the adventures from the king crab to the challenges facing human civilization is surprisingly short, and McClintock is good at bringing the ways climate change has already impacted Antarctica into vivid focus.
Novel: Jamie Craig: A Line in the Ice (Carina Press, 2011)
Jamie Craig’s A Line in the Ice is the first Antarctic Harlequin book I’ve read. Polar literature is not usually big on romance or sex, and this book has plenty of both.
Charlie is a member of a small American team of soldiers sent to Antarctica to fight against a dimensional rift that regularly spits out individual and easily killed monsters. Her love interest also appears from the rift. He’s a tall, handsome, brooding, earnest man called Lysander.
I don’t really have a problem with the conventions of romance. Lysander immediately falls in love with Charlie, and they seem to have surprising amounts of time to spend together in bed, but so what? That stuff is the meat of a book like this.
Unfortunately, this makes the book hard for me to write about. I feel like a porn critic writing about something that isn’t even meant to appeal to me. The setting, the characters, everything in the book is tedious and unimaginative, but maybe that’s beside the point if the emotional action between Charlie and Lysander feels appealing.
There’s one strange scene in the book I can comment on. At one point, Lysander feels necessary to mutilate and murder a conveniently evil prisoner with his bare hands. After this emotionally exhausting task, he gets the “oh you poor dear” treatment. Reading that, I started to suspect I was behind the times in terms of what was required of a male lead in a romance.