Three Speeches on Nordic and American Larp

While touring for Leaving Mundania over the past year, I’ve given a couple speeches about American larp. One revolves around American values and how they influence US larp. One explains Ars Amandi to a US audience and talks about why people might be interested in playing love plots. And one tells the story of how 9/11 influenced the US larp scene. Here are the notes for each of the talks, which I’ve stashed on my blog:

Larp Love, Not War: Nordic methods for sexy roleplaying” – a talk I wrote for a Valentine’s day event held by NYC game collective Babycastles. I also gave it at Gen Con in 2012, and I’ve given abbreviated versions before various Ars Amandi Workshops.

Don’t Touch or I’ll Sue: American larp as national metaphor” – I wrote this talk based on some work I’d done for the 2012 Knutebook and on a few blog posts. I delivered it in 2012 at Solmukohta, Wyrd Con, and Gen Con.

Playing in Graveyards: Terror collides with larp” - the story of a set of larpers who gamed in a public space in NYC, and how 9/11 affected their community. I delivered this as part of the Nordic Larp Talks in 2012. You can see the video here.

Larp Love, Not War: Nordic methods for sexy roleplaying

The below is the rough text of a talk on Nordic methods for larping love, delivered at the indie video game design collective Babycastles‘ 2012 Valentine’s Day event, as well as at Gen Con 2012. Most of the talk is based on Emma Wieslander’s essay “Rules of Engagement” from the 2004 Solmukohta book Beyond Role and Play (pdf), my interview with her, and some games I played on my first trip to Denmark in 2011

 

Introduction – Why should we larp love?

Typically, in the states, (I’m going to be generalizing here) we use larp to tell epic adventures set against a genre-literature style of background. We tell high-fantasy tales of bravery and derring-do, we tell stories about backstabbing vampires, and we tell stories about the demon Cthulhu rising to consume us all. We do not the quiet moments where relationships start to fall apart. We play battles, not sex. And if we do play love, it’s often incidental — two characters falling in love on the battlefield — not an intentional theme of the larp.

In comparison, if you look at an older story-telling medium, like say, the novel, you’ll find a wider range of stories. Sure, we’ve still got awesome tales of saving the world from giant robots with cunning and death-rays, but there are also tons of novels that take place in the real world, that tell stories about love. In fact, love is one of the great themes of art in general and the novel in particular. Sometimes it manifests in escapist ways — as in romance novels — but there is a ton of literary fiction about love, relationships, and adultery.

And if larp is really a simulation of the real world, if it has high-art aims, which I think it does,  I think it’s important that no theme be off limits, if a game organizer wants to address it sensitively.

You might think about violence and lust as two intense peaks in human emotion, (as Wieslander does) and I think it’s important to be able to play both of those.

So why should we play love?

  • It represents the real world that we live in
  • Widens the number of playable plotlines
  • And provides for an intense experience, because love is as intense as violence.

And I think that Swedish larp organizer Emma Wieslander, creator of the Ars Amandi mechanic said it best, “I believe that we need stories of hope, of choosing life over money, stories that go beyond the mainstream dualistic, black and white i.e. the stories that make us strangers to each other and to the world. Creating situations, or even whole societies, where only feelings of hate, anger and aggression are expected to surface scares me. Also that it’s so normalized tells you something about the vast need of promoting all the other aspects. Love, romance and sex are some of them. I think it’s quite sad that many players should have a greater expectancy of their character getting killed than fucked. I also believe that these stories deserve to be told in their own right and not just as background info, motivating the violence.”

 

Why We Don’t Play Love

Why don’t we play love in the US? I think there are a couple reasons: it’s messy, and we don’t have many mechanics to render it.

  • For starters, love feels more risky to play than violence. We live in a civilized world. In real life, few of us will ever swing a sword or, to quote Johnny Cash, “kill a man just to watch him die.” But love is something almost all of us will experience – even if it’s unrequited. Love is a universal experience, which makes it a powerful thing to play, but also a scary thing to play because emotions are hard to leave behind. If you slay me at the game, we can still ride home in the car together afterwards, because the physical act of violence is over and done. (though the emotion of anger might remain) But if I fall in love with you during a game, what happens if I’m unable to turn off those emotions?
  • Playing love feels risky because of its potential for bleed. “Bleed” is a technical term from the Nordic larp scene (explain bleed in — when your real life emotions affect your character actions — and bleed out — when your character emotions affect your real life emotions) I’ve noticed that US larpers are nervous about bleed; we think of bleed as something to be avoided since it can cause shouting fights and quitting and revenge larps. And yet, this must not be universally true, because the Nordic gamers seem able to handle that. And I’ll talk about some of the ways the Nordic art larpers manage those emotions in a minute.
  • Our fear of bleed also has to do with litigiousness – we come from a culture of lawsuits, and so many games have an explicit or implied no touching rule. When I asked American GMs about this in a non-scientific survey, they said it was there to prevent “he said she said” situations and to help them cover their butts from a legal standpoint.
  • The other reason we don’t play love in the US is lack of mechanics. If you give players boffer swords, they’ll expect to fight. If you give them lockpick skills, they’ll expect to pick locks. And if you give them the means to play love, they’ll fall in love.

 

How the Nordicans deal with potential issues

Here’s how the Nordic larpers — explain use of term — manage some of the potential emotional flare ups:

  • One mitigating factor is that in Scandinavia, larps with love themes tend to be one-shots (designed to run only once) not eternal campaigns, which have installments every month. That immediately dials down emotional risk. It limits emotional affairs temporally — they have a defined endpoint.
  • They mitigate the emotional risk of playing love by creating a safe space in which to talk about emotionally charged games via the workshop and the debrief, which bookend many larps in the Nordic countries.
    • The Workshop: A workshop is a meeting between players and organizers that occurs before a larp. Sometimes it lasts only an hour or two, sometimes it requires multiple meetings across several weeks. Workshops have a whole bunch of functions – they are an opportunity for organizers to teach mechanics and communicate expectations for the game, and an opportunity for players to get to know each other. Sometimes workshops include acting exercises to help people develop their characters and to develop the network of relationships within a given larp. Sometimes workshops include crash courses in feminist theory or WWII history or other material that might be relevant to the upcoming game.
    • Most of all, though, workshops establish the community of players and create a safe space in which players can communicate what their own physical and emotional boundaries are. It goes a long way to circumventing miscommunications between players. During workshops, players may also plan romantic entanglements; these discussions help everyone get on the same page in terms of expectations.
  • Afterward, there is often a debrief, the bookend to the larp experience. In the US we do this informally – it’s the post-game trip to the diner where players kvetch over what went down at the weekend’s game. For Nordicans, the debrief is more formal; it’s a structured session of talking about what was problematic or what might have been problematic. Depending on how big the larp was, organizers split players into smaller groups and everyone takes a moment to talk about their experience. It’s a time for players to talk to one another and say, “hey, I felt really vulnerable when your character said mine was childish” and to clear the air. The more intense the game the longer the debrief required.
  • Because the emotion of love is so powerful, I think that the workshop and the debrief are an important part of roleplaying love – they allow the risk of playing strong emotions to be mitigated and understood. It takes time to create a safe space for players in which they feel comfortable exploring these emotions.
  • Use of Safewords. Some games make use of safewords to help players feel in control of the intensity of their game experience. These can be introduced and practiced during the workshop. There are three types of safewords, go, break, and cut words. So if Bob is really yelling at me and I’m getting freaked out and don’t like it, I can say, cut and walk away. Or if Janell is nervous about seducing me I can say to her “go,” if I’m comfortable with her coming on harder. Or if Pete is seducing me and I’m starting to feel uncomfortable I can say, “break” meaning “this level of intensity is fine but please don’t rachet it up.” Even if the safewords aren’t used, their mere existence communicates to players that a game may be emotionally intense and push boundaries, and that is supposed to help players prepare.
  • Mechanics are also important for reducing our fears about bleed; they introduce rules and limits for what constitutes acceptable behavior, which can help mitigate misunderstandings.

In Emma Wieslander’s  2004 essay “Rules of Engagement” – she lists out all the different types of mechanics the Nordic larpers have tried, and gives us a bit of background on why Nordic game organizers introduce mechanics to start with — which is a bit different from the way we do it here.

She says that organizers introduce mechanics when they want the character to experience something, but not the player. Violence is a perfect example; my character wants to stab a goblin, but obviously, I don’t want to use real steel to kill whoever is playing the goblin; I want the goblin and her player to experience the phenomenon of character death differently, so I introduce a mechanic, like a padded weapon, or a dice throw, etc. We want the character to experience injury or death, not the player.

Amorous roleplay is not different – it can be emotionally risky; it can feel physically risky and so we want to introduce mechanics so that the players and characters experience the phenomenon of love or sex differently from players; this is part of what creates the wall between player and character, which can increase emotional safety.

Here are some mechanics for love that have been tried:

  1. WYSIWYG. The Scandinavians have a tradition of mechanics-lite larps, where WYSIWYG is the rule. And this includes sex. The WYSIWYG has some advantages – preserves immersion, helps you stay in the moment, easy to remember because there’s nothing to remember. 120 Days of Sodom …Not a great option because – what about people in relationships? What about minors? What if my character falls in love with a sweaty barbarian that I’m not attracted to in real life? What about secret pedophiles?
  2. Dry humping. It’s like sex with your clothes on. But still, it’s getting up in people’s personal spaces. I’ve heard of this technique used in some medieval games. But it seems impossible in the litigious US – too much potential for it to go awry. Like wysiwyg, there’s the risk of somewone doing something rotten, like bullying another person into contact, or taking physical advantage of a situation; there’s the risk of players feeling physically violated. It’s not a great system because there aren’t any rules setting boundaries for the players.
  3. Talking through sex. “Oh baby, oh baby. I take off your shirt and tangle my fingers in your chest hair.” It works to connote intimacy, but it also seems to take players out of the moment because we’ve all got to giggle about it. There’s none of the physical sensation of intimacy.  Ideally, a sexy mechanic would feel sexy, just as a good mechanic for violence – like boffers – can feel aggressive, right?
  4. Symbolic methods, where one action stands in for the action of lovemaking. The Scandinavians have come up with a bunch of these. For example, feeding another character a piece of fruit can be unexpectedly sexy. Or giving a massage. Sidenote: I’ve heard that in Russia, characters in love brush one another’s hair. The mechanics I’ve just mentioned preserve the sensuousness of a physical relationship, but aren’t very flexible – how intense can a back massage really be? How many ways are there to brush someone else’s hair? Another problem with these mechanics is that they reinforces traditional ideas of sex, where one partner is passive and the other active, and by extension, our gender stereotypes, where women are supposed to be passive and men are supposed to be active.

So that’s kind of the background for the rest of the talk. I’m going to look in more depth at two methods of playing love, which are symbolic or representative: tango dancing and ars amandi.

 

TANGO DANCING

In 2011 I played in a larp called In Fair Verona while on a reporting jag in Denmark. The game featured tango dancing as a way of representing relationships –including love and hate — between people. The point of the game was for each of our characters to find love. The game itself was set in the Little Italy ghetto of NYC in the 1920s, and was divided into three acts. Each act consisted of a specific number of tango dances, which played one after the other.

We had two workshops totaling 14 hours before the game, during which we learned how to tango, built characters for ourselves around props picked off a communal prop table, and during which we did a series of acting excercises to develop those characters and their relationship to their community. For example, during workshop, we each received a character dilemma, and during the first act we were supposed to dance with our negative relation, which would catapult us into that character dilemma. During the second act we were to explore the dilemma, and during the third act, we would either overcome our dilemmas and find love, or fail to change.

The only rule was that to refuse a dance was forbidden. Even if someone you hated asked you to dance, you had to dance out that hatred.

The tango mechanic really worked during the game as a proxy for love and other emotions, because you can tango close to someone, far away from them, rigidly or more softly – the physical mechanic of the tango was really flexible in terms of presenting character emotion, including amorous emotion.

Of course, the tango isn’t perfect – there’s a leader and a follower in each pairing, and for the purposes of the larp, these translated to male-female pairings. During a later run in Stockholm, the organizers made it more clear that this game was a game about heterosexuality, though they put no restriction on who could play what role. I thought it was interesting that they were having that discussion at all, because it’s not one I’d heard on the larp scene before.

So I think dance would be a method for romantic roleplaying to explore.

 

ARS AMANDI

Lastly, there’s Ars Amandi. Emma Wieslander created Ars Amandi for the 2004 larp Mellan Himmel Och Hav, or “Between heaven and sea.” The larp was based on the writings of Ursula K. LeGuin and explored the idea of gender as a role, and  the possibilities of polyamory.  This world did not have men and women, but morning people and evening people. Evening people wore red and yellow, concerned themselves with philosophy and decision-making, and served as the objects of sexual gaze. Morning people wore blue and green, were responsible for practical arrangements and implementing the decisions of the evening people,  served as the sexual initiators. The occasion for play was a marriage among four people – their families and supporting community coming together for the festivities. It was a tremendously influential larp on the Nordic scene.

Wieslander created the Ars Amandi mechanic for Between heaven and sea. And she had this to say about it. “I wanted to play on love, of all kinds, and had encountered a lot of players that said that it was impossible, or at least not ethical. That made me bounce. How can it be unethical to play out romance whilst mass murdering is ok? I realized that, in many cases, it came down to fear. Fear of falling in love, of being used by other players, or of having a muddled experience where it would just come too close. When I was exploring the possibilities I talked to an actor that said that he had once been in an improvisation where they used a form of circling each other, like a dance, to improvise lovemaking and where the touching of hands represented sex. This inspired me a great deal and I guess that was the spark I needed. I had tried some of the other methods and they didn’t quite do it for me. When I did the larp Between Heaven and Sea I had a perfect opportunity to try out out-of-this-world stuff. So I did.”

What she created is now called Ars Amandi. When I asked her to describe it, she said, “Basically it’s a method for doing things in a game in a way that makes the character experience them fully, enabling play and really going for the energy without the player ending up in messy situations. Much like the use of boffers enables players to rush into battle with fear and anger flaring because of the character’s fear of dying, but without the player having to worry.”

The mechanic allows players to touch permitted zones with permitted bodyparts. The permitted zone is the arms, up to the shoulders, across the sternum and upper back, and the neck, keeping it below the ears. The permitted bodyparts are hands, forearm, and neck.Touch can be light or firm, but most players say that the true magic happens in the eyes, between players. Breathing in a more sexual way can also dial the tension up.

Ars amandi has several advantages – one is that it doesn’t pre-script the active or passive role that one might play during sex. It’s gender neutral. It preserves and individual’s sense of space by restricting the zone of touch, and it’s a remarkably flexible technique that is capable of representing tender new love and hate sex with equal aplomb.

It can be used within the frame of the game (diagetically) or symbolically. In Between heaven and sea, for example, it was used within the frame of the game – instead of the primary erogenous zone of the human body being the genitals, it was the arms. Likewise, the method can be used symbolically, with two vampires, say, touching arms and declaring that it represents  sex.

It’s also a useful technique for game organizers because it’s easy to scale back the zone of touch. For example, while running an Ars Amandi workshop for some stateside gamers, we decided that touch on the neck was too personal and intimate, and so we were able to take it off the table. It’d be possible to scale touch down just to the shoulders, or the elbows, or even to confine it to just the hands.

All of the participants felt surprised at how intense the mechanic felt — no one had been prepared for that — and everyone mentioned how exhausted they were after these two and a half hours. People were also surprised that the technique felt so “hot.” A couple folks said they’d be bringing it home to their significant others.

That said, I think it’s a mechanic that requires a workshop before the game, especially in the US where it’s not widely known, and where love isn’t widely played. During the workshop I ran, I noticed players finding ways to enforce their personal boundaries with their partners in non-verbal ways, and I think that a workshop is necessary to helping people listen to one another in that way.

Wieslander views her creation not as the endpoint when it comes to playing love, but as a jumping off point; we need lots of ways to play love. It’s just that hers is one of the first, it’s easy to learn, and it’s exportable.

Ars Amandi in some ways revolutionalized the Nordic scene, simply because it’s so adaptable to a variety of situations. Soon, fantasy players were bringing their technique, of their own accord, into more traditional campaign games. Fair warning: the technique has had explosive results — there are plenty of stories out there about people who jumped in or out of relationships after undergoing an intense relationship game. So playing love can change your life; I don’t think it’s something to do lightly. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it at all.

Engaging with Games at Babycastles Summit

On Saturday, I spent a great day over at the Babycastles game design summit, which took place at the Museum of Art  & Design in Columbus Circle.

Nietzsche and Game Design

Nicholas Fortugno, chief creative officers of Playmatics, gave a thought-provoking talk on narrative in games, covered in depth over at the Verge. Although he explored a lot of intriguing ground — including the public perception that games shouldn’t address serious topics — his discussion of games as an art form most interested me.

In particular, he focused in on a quote by critic Roger Ebert suggesting that games aren’t art, since games invite in players as co-creators, and often, players aren’t artists. As Fortugno put it, if you gave Romeo and Juliet to some dude off the street, chances are good it wouldn’t surpass Shakespeare’s version.

Fortugno gets around this “games aren’t art” argument by exploring what we mean by “art,” using Nietzsche’s distinction between Apollonian and Dionysian artistic impulses. There’s probably been a jillion books written on this, but to grossly simplify, Apollonian art appeals to reason and aesthetic, while Dionysian art appeals to emotion and sensuality. So as Fortugno suggested, ballet is Apollonian — it’s meant for looking! — while Dionysian art is dancing while wasted — meant for doing. If you judge a drunk dancer on whether his toes are pointed, you’ve missed the point.

Fortugno extended this understanding of art back to games, suggesting that games are a Dionysian art form, one where judging the poignance of the story misses the point, which lies in the doing of the player, the engagement and engrossment of the player.

Of course, my mind jumped to larp. Nietzsche held that theater — well, the ancient Greek tragedies — unified the Apollonian and Dionysian elements. And it seems to me that good larp does the same thing, encouraging a Dionysian participation — immersing players in their characters — while still telling a beautiful Apollonian story. To me, the Apollonian element in good larp is the design of the game, which should create moments of Dionysian intoxication, of intense emotion on the part of the player.

Take, for example, the jeepform game Doubtin which Tom and Julie, a pair of actors in a relationship, perform as Peter and Nicole — a couple having relationship problems — in a local play. Two people play the real-life couple Tom and Julie, and two play the fictional couple Peter and Nicole. Game play cuts sharply between them. The game design has an Apollonian elegance, with themes that play against and echo one another, almost regardless of the quality of the players. I’ve run this game six or seven times, and the story is always intriguing to watch on a thematic level. And yet it’s got the Dionysian too — the structure of the game allows people to pour themselves into their roles. It’s written to create bleed — the interplay between a character’s emotions and a player’s emotions — and it does so with amazing frequency. Not every run of Doubt I’ve facilitated cuts close to the bone, but it does so with remarkable frequency.

So to me, that’s good larp design — using the Apollonian to create opportunities for Dionysian immersion. (FWIW: I feel dirty and academic even writing that.)

I have the sense that perhaps applying notions of the Apollonian and Dionysian to larp is nothing new in the larp world. I’m not well-read on this topic, so I’d love suggestions for further reading in the comments, if you feel so moved.

Ars Amandi

I ran my fifth Ars Amandi workshop for some of the Babycastles crowd. Ars Amandi is a method for simulating romance/intimacy in larp, where the touching of arms represents amorous contact, including sex. It’s one of a host of methods of simulating romance in Nordic larp, and it’s one of the most successful at creating emotions of intimacy as well as an in-game representation.

I had twelve participants, and as usual, even though I warned them it’d be unexpectedly intimate, the intimacy of the technique suprised everyone. One source of tension in the room, I think, is that the vast majority of participants weren’t roleplayers, but rather digital gamers. In the workshops I’ve run for larpers, participants take on a sort of amorous persona as they experiment with the technique, which is a way of creating some distance from the intimacy.

In this workshop, the stakes felt higher, I think, for the participants, who didn’t create a facade between themselves and the technique — they represented themselves in a very brave, but perhaps anxiety-producing way. Roleplayers are used to slipping in and out of character, for example, so the idea of what happens after the experience (off-game) is over is more familiar. So I think the participants evidenced a lot of courage in trying something new, especially given that our room had a glass wall that attracted spectators. (Typically, I try to cordon the workshop off from prying eyes). I wish I’d done a better job of easing the folks in to the idea of roleplay up front.

Still, judging from the intense debrief after the workshop, I think the participants went away changed.

Games in Public Spaces

I enjoyed the panel “Designing Games for Public Spaces,” which featured three interactive game designers, including Ramiro Corbetta, who designed the simple sports game Hokra, played with four people, numerous spectators, and a large screen; Mathew Parker who created Recurse, a game played by moving crazy with your body in front of a screen; and  larpwright J.R. Blackwell, who recently scored a judge’s spotlight Ennie for her one-shot zombie larp Shelter in Place.

Listening to the digital designers discuss their work alongside an analog larpwright created some interesting resonances, particularly after watching Fortugno’s talk. Here were three games, two of them digital and narrative-less, and one of them analog and narrative-heavy.

Parker and Corbetta’s games directly involve only a few players — one to four people could play their games at a single time — but they got around this limitation by creating games that are interesting to watch. In the case of Hokra, people like to root for a team, and in the case of Recurse, spectators gather to watch people moving their bodies in silly ways. In contrast, Blackwell’s Shelter in Place directly engages ten to twenty-one players, although it may not be clear to spectators what is going on.

Parker and Corbetta’s games seek to engage people for a few minutes (but hopefully longer), while Blackwell aims for a few hours. And the sort of engagement they are aiming at is fundamentally different. Larp, arguably, has a transformative aim — in embodying a character, participants leave the magic circle fundamentally changed by it, while the digital games offer a quick-hit of achievement and skill-building.

This creates an interesting inversion. The digital games are for a small direct audience of players, but a large possible audience of casual observers. The larp, in contrast, has a bigger direct audience, but is less accessible to the casual passerby because it requires a deep engagement. At the same time, spectator engagement, when it does happen, is deep and intense.

I’m reminded of the larp Dublin2which took place in the Helsinki city center in 2011, and is slated to be run again in Stockholm this year. The game, set up in a public space, looked at what it’s like to seek asylum in a foreign country — what it’s like to go toe to toe with the migration board, risking possible jail time or deportation. Players were able to talk to passers-by about their in-game plight during the run, creating public engagement around the issues of asylum. And sometimes, casual observers became very involved. In his Nordic Larp Talk, game creator JP Koljonen talked about these interactions, including what happened when some players — portraying fascists — staged a riot against the camp.

Thanks for a thought-provoking Saturday, Babycastles!

Leaving Mundania at Gen Con

Hey there, Gen Connites!

This year, I’m attending my first Gen Con, and am looking for suggestions on what awesome stuff I simply cannot miss.

Friday is my big day; I’m talking ’bout love in larp, D&D and its larp analogues as the American dream, and on Nordic larp with Industry Guest of Honor Jason Morningstar. Here’s the rundown:

  • Friday, August 17 1pm-2pm: We Hold These Rules To Be Self Evident: LARP As Metaphor For American Values
    A short talk based on my paper in this years’ Solmukohta book States of Play, and on some content from the blog. I’ll be looking at how elaborate rules systems re-create the American dream in game.
     Location: Westin, Chamber room. ID: SEM1233714
  • Friday, August 17 2pm-3pm: Larp Love, Not War: Nordic Methods for Amorous Roleplay.
    Why should larpers play love in game? Come find out and learn how the Nordic roleplayers do it. An explanation of Ars Amandi, tango dance, and a few other methods.
    Location: Westin, Chamber room. ID: SEM1233717
  • Friday, August 17 4pm-5pm: Art on the Edge: An Introduction to Nordic LARP with Industry Insider Guest of Honor Jason Morningstar!
    What is this weird Nordic larp thing and why is everyone always talking about it? Come learn about the intense, immersive, and awesome world of Nordic roleplay from Americans who went to there one time.
    Location: Crown Plaza, Victorian Station C/D. ID: SEM1236423

Finally, I’ll be hanging out ’round the Indie Press Revolution table in the vendor’s hall. Come by and nab yourself a signed copy of Leaving Mundania!

DEXCON 15 Debrief

This weekend I returned to DEXCON — site of much of my Leaving Mundania research — on book tour.

While my travel schedule this summer has left me tired, the enthusiasm of the milieu kept me excited and ready to play some games.

The best thing about DEXCON is its bustling hallways, crowded with people running to or from games, or talking avidly about the play experiences they just had. I had a ton of interesting discussions, fun play-tests, and interesting game runs that made me meditate on my GMing style. Here’s the rundown:

Art Larp in the US

There’s a nice cluster of folks interested in freeform, jeepform, and Nordic larp developing at these conventions. Death by Awesome ran five scenarios — including two pickups — all of which filled up. I also felt out the level of interest in full-immersion Nordic larp and found many folks enthusiastically intrigued.

Psychological Safety in Nordic Games. A crowd of sharp listeners focused in on this issue during the Q & A after my Leaving Mundania reading. Maybe it’s the litigious American culture, but this concern has recurred at most of my readings, and it’s a confounding one that’s still a topic of debate on the Knutepunkt scene. Interesting to me that so many folks in the US raise this topic — if Nordic larp is going to cross over into the US, this matter will need a satisfactory explanation.

Tons of interest, as well, in what makes art larp work so well. Do smaller games make for better quality control when it comes to the experience? I suspect that yes, this is true, but I think there are other more important factors, such as the types of plots used and the way the Nordicans strive to create player community before games. I’ve got some other ideas too, such as how the idea of freedom in roleplaying is defined in different cultures…but I think that’s another post.

Awesome Games I Played

Somehow, I lucked into playing only awesome games at this con.

Cat and Chocolate. A short Japanese card game. Everyone plays Japanese businessmen and tells stories about how they avoid fiascos, which are suggested by the cards. The players vote on whether the methods succeed and fail. Short, easy to learn, and fun to imagine — I want to own this one! I lucked into this one by milling around the hotel lobby.

Hyperreality. A new tabletop roleplaying game by Tim Rodriguez, in which player create a reality gameshow too real for television in which participants use their hidden secrets to get ahead. We created the TV show Joe STD and the maturity went downhill from there. (Note: The gross-ness of our game was a facet of our particular group of players and not the game materials themselves.) Dare I say that our run was epic? We had a character “just here for the health insurance,” a rich dude obsessed with creepy dolls, a dude who would eat anything — anything — and a handful of other characters.

To give you a sense of the game play:  I played a plastic-surgery-obsessed bad girl named Fab Fab, and drew the secret trope “unbelievably pedantic” from the pile we had written together, causing Fab Fab to contemplate the essential nothingness of being while trying to catch syphilis from a french tourist in another contestant’s locked truck. The rest of the content is too disgusting to print here, so suffice it to say that four hours of laughing so hard made me lose my voice. Here are a few trailers for the game, from real play experiences.

Project Ninja Panda Taco. A low-prep roleplaying game in which players each portray a mastermind trying to take over the world, and a minion ready to help. This game lent itself to light-hearted silliness and creativity, and would make a great family game — it teaches the basics of how to roleplay, giving participants suggestions that they must then incorporate into their Pinky-and-the-Brain-esque plans to take over the world. The Kickstarter for this wonderful game is here.

Cards Against Humanity. It’s Apples to Apples for the extremely sarcastic. Or as the website says, it’s “a party game for horrible people.”

A Few Lessons in GMing

I ran five games — two runs of the freeform game Let the World Burn, a pick-up of Doubt, The Upgrade, and The Mothers — and learned some stuff.

Three games in one day is too many. On Thursday, I ran a pick up of Let the World Burn, a pick-up of Doubt, and then my scheduled run of Let the World Burn. It was tons of fun, but 14 hours GMing heavier scenarios is too much. I felt exhausted for the rest of the weekend.

Practice makes better. The second run of Let the World Burn went more smoothly than the first, and I felt I was able to game master it with better nuance and attention to the game materials. I have to run a game once to figure out what it’s about. In The Upgrade, our second run of the game, Tim and I better nailed the form, and the game ran more smoothly, tighter, and more intense as a result.

It’s possible to run a game too many times. I’m Doubted out, y’all. I’ve run it so many times that I have many ideas about how the game should run — my idea of what the game should be has hardened somewhat, and this makes me less sensitive to what the players want to do with the game.

I’m a better director than I am an improver. In The Upgrade, which I GMed with Tim Rodriguez, I had a hard time improvising lines as the host of the reality dating show that comprises the game. It’s not my strong suit, and I’m not as practiced in it; as a writer, I rely on editing to help make my words better, and in an improv situation, that’s not an option. I’m much better at cutting, fast-forwarding, helping raise the stakes externally than I am as a GM representing a character. My ability at casting has improved a lot over time — thanks in no small part to the advice of last week’s panel —  and at least from a GM standpoint, that’s making it more interesting to watch the games I run.

Confessionals don’t facilitate bleed. For a while, to get folks comfortable with one another, I’ve been doing a little bit of enforced sharing at the beginning of some freeform games. As in, let’s go around in a circle and say one thing we’re afraid of. My theory had been that it’d get strangers comfortable sharing their lives with one another by breaking the social convention that says we shouldn’t bare our souls to people we just met. I thought it’d help people feel more comfortable putting some of themselves into their freeform characters.

It’s worked well with a few groups, letting folks get things out onto the table. Sometimes it sets the tone of seriousness for the game — but only when everyone shares something of equal intimacy and only if all of the players are equally relaxed about putting things on the table. And that’s impossible to predict. More often than not, I think this suggested sharing does the opposite — it telegraphs what topics are sensitive to the rest of the group, and then, intentionally or unintentionally, we spend the game perhaps avoiding those.

Let the World Burn. I had two good runs in this surreal game about three people (and two abstract concepts) searching for the woman who means the world to them. The biggest difference between the two runs was my ability to run warm ups and explain the game to participants. Much easier the second time around, and as a result, folks used the game mechanics more frequently.

The Mothers. It’s not a nice game, though it’s an interesting one. The game is about group dynamics in a mother’s support group. I found the type of bleed it created particularly intriguing — I think I felt more wrecked after the game than most of the players.

Conversations

One of the more enjoyable aspects of this convention is the intriguing conversations available with designers, game-sellers, and roleplayers of all ages. I had an intriguing exchange with a couple designers about the genres of TV and writing that really sock them in the stomach — horror mostly, which was interesting to me, since I’m more of a literary drama woman myself. Our thread prompted the amusing comment about jeepform, “I don’t need some Swedish person to make me feel bad about myself.” Apparently, that’s what Lars von Trier is for.

I argued with some larpers about whether reenactment is really larp. (Short answer: no. Though it is possible to larp at a non-larp, and I think some reenactors do it). And there was some lively talk with designers and larpers about how to advance larp design in the US. A local campaign game is considering the introduction of ars amandi as a supplementary and optional mechanic. I think emotional one-shots are the way to go, primarily because I think emotionally intense campaign games challenge psychological safety too much. Also some interesting discussion on whether Americans would be willing to play in certain Nordic larps. Short answer: yes.

I also met at least two women who want to start GMing jeepform at cons: yay!

Tragically, I narrowly missed my chance to play Steal Away Jordan, a roleplaying game about slavery I’ve been dying to try. I guess I had to leave something for next time!

See y’all at Gen Con.

A Visit to Intercon L

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of swinging by Intercon L‘s pre-con, 24 hours of panels on topics of interest to larpers and larp desigers that precedes this story-game convention. Sadly, I had to jet before the real convention began, but here’s a fast blow-by-blow of what I witnessed:

  • I gave a fast talk and held a fast demo of the Ars Amandi mechanic for intimacy. My crowd of eight was a bit nervous to try the technique, so unlike other workshops I’ve run, we limited ourselves to just the hands. And wow! I was impressed with how even that limited zone of touch affected folks. It generated a lively discussion afterwards, with most of the participants talking about how emotional the mechanic made them feel — in some cases bringing up feelings that had been buried for years (in a good way).
  • My wonderful crowd let me know that they’re a bit unusual among US larpers, because romance is something written into game plots at Intercon with some frequency. I heard about a few home-grown methods for roleplaying intimacy. One involved linking pinkies as symbolic of sex. Another involved coding participants badges from A to D, with A meaning something like “do not touch me” and D meaning something like “I am willing for other players to kiss me,” and other gradations in between.
  • I didn’t play in any larps, since unfortunately, I had to head home before the real fun started, but I heard a bit about how they’re structured. Intercon larps seem to be short, plotted, one-shot scenarios. Players answer a casting questionnaire in advance of the games, then GMs assign roles and send out extensive character sheets beforehand. GMs and players also use something called “bluesheets,” which contain common knowledge about the game world. So everyone who knows magic in a game might get a sheet explaining how it works, for example, or everyone in game might get a sheet explaining the current political situation. (Interconners, feel free to chime in in the comments — I’m extrapolating here from conversations I had, rather then from direct knowledge).
  • I went to a well-attended panel on race in larp, a topic I wrote a bit on in Leaving Mundania, and a great discussion for a larp community to have, in my opinion.  It was also nice to see an all-lady panel, and to see some larpers of color on a panel!
  • The panel talked a bit about how to use pre-game questionnaires to manage player expectations around race and playing racism. There was also some discussion of how to render reality-based race (as opposed to elves and dwarves) in games, because racial masquerade is — to say the least — very problematic, especially in American culture. One game had used a system of colored buttons to represent character race, which was salient to the main plot.
  • The race panel also talked about the complications around cross-racial casting. If I, a white person, play a character of another race, how can I try to be true to the character without making my portrayal racist? This is a thornier question, and the conclusion the panel came to is that it’s impossible to put on someone else’s racial identity because the construction of race in America is tremendously complex and thorny. The consensus for designers and players seems to be: do your research — really try to get beyond the stereotype and look at the historical experience of the characters you’re writing/playing. This doesn’t actually immunize you from creating a racist character — racism and privilege often function in subtle, non-obvious ways — but in general, if you’ve made an honest effort to get beyond stereotypes, folks will give you the benefit of the doubt. And of course, slip-ups might generate useful discussion.
  • I missed a bunch of fascinating-looking panels, from a cathartic screed titled Players are SCUM to a talk on larp and linguistics, to a panel on cross-casting (casting across gender).
  • A crowd of friendly Brits was in attendance. The overseas presence surprised me.
  • Overall, the con had a visible gender queer presence, more so than other gaming scenes I’ve encountered.
  • I met some wonderful folks that I Internet-know from various mailing lists and articles. Fun times.
  • Lively discussions all around about larp, where it is and where it’s going.

Thanks for having me, Intercon!

Dreamy Dreamation Recap

Last weekend, I had a delightful time at Dreamation. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Death by Awesome ran five events — four jeepform games and an Ars Amandi workshop. Our fifth game, slated for Sunday morning, almost went off, but then didn’t.
  • I played in the Thursday night run of Doubt, intriguing because it came out so differently from other runs I’d played in. This version wasn’t about big epic moments of temptation, but more about small moments of yearning; no one was seriously in danger of leaving their partner during the game, rather, the temptations reflected what might have been but could never be.
  • On Friday, I ran Ars Amandi workshop. We had a pretty good turnout of eleven people, and for the first time I got to participate in the workshop and witness first hand how intense Ars Amandi can be. I also got some great feedback from the group. Usually, at the end of the workshop, I have people play scenes — young love, for example — my participants wanted to player fewer intimate situations, and more intimate emotions. For example, instead of playing a one-night stand, they’d be interested in playing flirtation, or jealousy. People said they came into the workshop thinking it was all about playing sex, and left thinking that the mechanic is more about intimacy.
    They also talked about Ars Amandi needing a bit of a makeover — it seems to have gotten a bit of a reputation at the convention as creepy arm sex, rather than a mechanic for intimacy. (And yeah, I’m sure my clickbait blog title contributed to this idea. Forgive me, people of Dreamation?)
  • Friday night, The wonderful Jenskot GMed a pickup game of Dogs in the Vineyard (Everyone plays “teenage virgin gunslinger priests with ultimate power and zero life experience judging people for doing bad things for good reasons”) for me and some friends. Usually, I don’t like to kill stuff, but after such an emotionally heavy 24 hours, it felt great to ratchet my character’s sawed off shot gun and perpetrate some heinous crimes. Perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had playing tabletop.
  • Saturday morning, Tim Rodriguez and I successfully ran The Upgrade, a game about reality show contestants choosing whether or not to trade up. It was our first time running/playing the game, and it went off pretty well, though we upped the total number of players from eight to ten, and that proved a bit much to handle. It was a ton of fun to watch and GM, but also exhausting. Read Tim’s Dreamation recap here.
  • Saturday night, the delightful Emily Care Boss GMed her jeepform game Under My Skin, which is about relationships and new flames. We were a bit short on time, but Emily did a great job of helping us not feel rushed. We played out our story arcs successfully, but I can see that if we’d had a bit more time, there’d be room for even deeper development. I’d love love love to play that game again. And our group has been in voluminous email contact, planning for such a moment (Want to read an in-depth recap from a former jeepform skeptic? Peter Woodworth has you covered.)
  • In between these main events, I met a ton of great people, played a demo of the awesome and awesomely-named Ghost Pirates, and helped play test Emily’s awesome new fantasy RPG. I was also lucky enough to bounce my first ever game idea off a couple experienced designers, and I got helpful tips on some upcoming conventions I’d like to hit up during the book tour.

Best. Dreamation. Ever.

Meet Death by Awesome

I’m part of a new group called Death by Awesome, which will run jeepform style games and other Nordic detritus at the Double Exposure convention DREAMATION, which runs in Morristown, NJ at the end of this month. Allow me to introduce the other members:

Ashley Zdeb, who works at Eschaton Media and runs the zombie apocalypse larp Dystopia Rising.

Tim Rodriguez, head of Brooklyn Indie Games, and host of the podcast Dice, Food, Lodging.

Our mascot is Hoppy the Pirate. Suffice it to say that he’s got a pogo stick for a peg-leg, and he comes from an extensive martial arts background. To meet the anonymous man behind the eyepatch, simply show up to one of our games.

At DREAMATION, we’re running several jeepform games, plus an Ars Amandi workshop.

A quick word on jeepform:

Jeepform is a school of gaming that hails from Sweden. Jeepform games feature minimal mechanics and emphasize story. Typically, they are written for 2-10 participants, and operate like an improvised play — in many games, the number and type of scenes played are already fixed. Jeepform tells stories that are ‘close to home’ — that is, about the real world, not vampires on spaceships — and often induce strong emotions in players.

While the name “jeepform” sounds like this:

When you play in a jeep, it can feel like this:

But then afterward, you feel like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more about jeepform games over on the jeepen website or read my interview with jeeper Frederik Berg Østergaard.

Here’s what Death by Awesome is running at Dreamation:

Thursday, 8pm-midnight: Doubt. 4 players. A game about relationships, love, and doubt. (Event L003)

Friday 9am-1pm: Previous Occupants. 4 players. A game about murder and escaping the past. (Event L005)

Friday 2pm-6pm: Ars Amandi workshop. 6+ people. Learn how to have Scandinavian arm sex. Then think about all the cool games you could write using this mechanic. Want to know more about Ars Amandi? Check out a workshop descriptiona recap of a previous workshop, or an interview with mechanic creator Emma Wieslander.  (Event L009)

Friday 8pm-midnight: Drama on the Lawn. 5 players. A Tim Rodriguez original about a Shakespearean troupe who has trouble letting go of their roles. (L013)

Saturday 9am-1pm: The Upgrade. 6-8 players. Participants in a Temptation Island-style reality show must decide whether to upgrade their romantic partners. (L017)

Sunday 10am-2pm: Doubt. 4 players. (L034)

If Doubt and Previous Occupants fill up we may be able to run two games.

Intro To Ars Amandi

Ars Amandi is a Nordic mechanic for simulating romance or sex in larp. The full mechanic permits players to touch permitted zones (arms, shoulders, sternum, upper back, and neck below the ears) using permitted boydparts (hands, arms, neck).

In the wake of the Ars Amandi workshop I ran at METATOPIA, I caught up with Swedish mechanic creator Emma Wieslander, who kindly answered some questions.

What is Ars Amandi and how is it used?

Basically it’s a method for doing things in a game in a way that makes the character experience them fully, enabling play and really going for the energy without the player ending up in messy situations. Much like the use of boffers enables players to rush into battle with fear and anger flaring because of the character’s fear of dying, but without the player having to worry.

It’s also a try at creating the “missing link” needed to widen possible playable themes. I believe that there are an infinite amount of stories out there to be told about love and a better world and that perhaps we need less about genocide and “all orcs/humans/martians must die.”

Why is it important to play romance or sex in a larp?

When I do larp I use the media to tell stories that I think the world in general and the players in particular really need to hear. I believe that we need stories of hope, of choosing life over money, stories that go beyond the mainstream dualistic, black and white i.e. the stories that make us strangers to each other and to the world.

Creating situations, or even whole societies, where only feelings of hate, anger and aggression are expected to surface scares me. Also that it’s so normalized tells you something about the vast need of promoting all the other aspects. Love, romance and sex are some of them. I think it’s quite sad that many players should have a greater expectancy of their character getting killed than fucked. I also believe that these stories deserve to be told in their own right and not just as background info, motivating the violence.

What inspired you to create the technique? Did anything–earlier games, techniques, etc.–influence you?

I wanted to play on love, of all kinds, and had encountered a lot of players that said that it was impossible, or at least not ethical. That made me bounce. How can it be unethical to play out romance whilst mass murdering is ok? I realized that, in many cases, it came down to fear. Fear of falling in love, of being used by other players, or of having a muddled experience where it would just come too close.

When I was exploring the possibilities I talked to an actor that said that he had once been in an improvisation where they used a form of circling each other, like a dance, to improvise lovemaking and where the touching of hands represented sex. This inspired me a great deal and I guess that was the spark I needed. I had tried some of the other methods and they didn’t quite do it for me. When I did the larp Between Heaven and Sea I had a perfect opportunity to try out out-of-this-world stuff. So I did.

Why did you name it Ars Amandi?

Ars Amandi means the art of love, which I guess it is in a way. Mostly though it’s a reclaiming from Ovid who wrote the books with the same name. They’re basically a manual advocating rape that has influenced western thinking to a great extent with regards to male and female and the subjugation of women’s sexuality. (It used to be mandatory in all forms of “classical” education since the renaissance). And then it’s a playful nod to all the martial artist roleplayers who maybe should try another “art”.

Why should game organizers use this tool?

I hope that many other methods for lovemaking will emerge. I believe that different games need different tools. Using Ars Amandi can be a start. It works on a very psychological and emotional level, allowing for players to play with the emotions but not really engage fully in the physical. It’s fairly well tested by now and several variations have been made. I guess one answer would be: Because it works.

How has Ars Amandi changed your local larp scene?

It has been a great tool for allowing the discussion to widen. To play being in love, relationships and sex, a lot of issues need to be dealt with. This means that there is a lot more gender awareness these days, but also that the games are perhaps a little less heteronormative in their hidden and not-so-hidden power structures. I think it’s definitely been part of developing the Nordic larp scene into what it is today, mostly because so many different games have used it, which has been great in other respects too.

In 2006 Between Heaven and Sea was voted the most influential larp ever in the Nordic scene. I think that is huge overstatement but maybe it illustrates how revolutionizing many players experienced it to be.

How should newcomers approach learning this technique?

I think they should do it like with everything else – with curiosity and with a feel-good set of mind. If it doesn’t feel good, take a break, play it in another direction. Remember that most of it is in they eyes. That’s where the true magic happen.

You can read more about Ars Amandi on my blog, on Facebook, or on the web.

____

Emma Wieslander has been a gamer and larper since the late eighties and served as a front figure for the Swedish national gamers association during the times when role-playing was still under suspicion. Emma’s more notable larps explore love, gender and how we construct these norms. In creating these games, she invented methods to enable play around these topics. Her most known contributions are the frozen moments and the Ars Amandi method.

Ars Amandi: The Post-Coital Review

On Saturday at METATOPIA six brave souls — two men and four women — tried out Ars Amandi, a Nordic game mechanic for simulating romance and sex in a larp. I think it went pretty well.

The Mechanic

In a nutshell, Ars Amandi allows players to touch permitted zones (arms, shoulders, sternum, upper back, neck below the ears) using permitted bodyparts (hands, arms, neck). Experienced practitioners say it’s all about the eye contact, and the rhythmic breathing, which allow couples to dial the intensity up and down.

I based my workshop on the detailed account that Swedish mechanic creator Emma Wieslander sent me. The workshop operated a bit like a dance class, with participants swapping partners after short sessions. I functioned as the square-dance caller, telling people where to go and what types of touch or emotion to explore during each segment. While they explored, I watched and kept neutral music on in the background.

The Workshop

At first, we limited ourselves to just the hands, and the pairs rotated until everyone had “met” each other. Folks tried out active and passive roles with their eyes closed, then with eyes open. The permitted zone expanded from hand to elbow. Then, instead of taking on active or passive roles, couples mutually explored each other’s hands and forearms.

During this first leg of the workshop, the participants laughed and talked with one another, across couples, almost incessantly. All the chatter helped them diffuse the tension in the room, but it also helped them ignore the intimacy of touching someone else’s hands. At first, their touching was tentative and very unsexy — they simply tried to touch every different part of their partners’ hands. But by the end of this first phase, they were touching each other with more liquid strokes, and were experimenting with different hand positions. Still, the chatter was protecting them from really going for it emotionally.

During the second phase of the workshop, they graduated to the shoulder. We had discussed the clavicle and neck as a zone of touch, but not everyone was comfortable with that, so we stopped at the shoulders. I forbid talking and enforced it, with the almighty power of the “shh.” For the first few rounds, there were still some nervous giggles, but the air in the room subtly changed, becoming more charged. They tried moving around each other, touching their partners’ arms from behind. They tried breathing more sexually. At first, everyone tried out the novelties incessantly — lots of eye contact, lots of heavy breathing, lots of walking around each other, arms folding together and apart like some swing-dance move. Very quickly, everyone backed off of the new additions, using them more as a garnish to the lovemaking than as its substance. Later, they mentioned how far a very small amount of eye contact goes toward increasing the intimacy.

As the workshop progressed, the sessions between partners lengthened, and we tried playing scenarios — storybook romantic love, oppositional and angry love, a one-night stand, the casual sexual opportunities of a long-term relationship. By this point, each of the participants seemed to have developed a signature style, a method of playing Ars Amandi unique to themelves. The dynamics between different couples differed quite widely, even when I didn’t give them anything specific to play — I saw innocent flirtations and intense, fraught bedroom scenes. Some pairs touched each other with slow tenderness, some almost danced together, others seemed both exploratory and ashamed at time. Beautiful love scenes unfolded.

The Response

Afterward, we all sat down and talked about the mechanic and its possibilities. Here are some of the observations that came out of that discussion:

  • All of the participants felt surprised at how intense the mechanic felt — no one had been prepared for that — and everyone mentioned how exhausted they were after these two and a half hours. People were also surprised that the technique felt so “hot.” A couple folks said they’d be bringing it home to their significant others.
  • As a group, they said they really enjoyed this technique and asked when it might be used in a larp and how this technique might play out in a five-hour convention larp setting. Sadly, I didn’t know the answer to either of these questions. I figure you’d have to require workshop attendance before a game, and I didn’t know whether convention-goers would be willing to give up two slots of time (one for the workshop, one for the larp).In terms of running an Ars Amandi larp, I’m no game designer, but I’d borrow and run someone else’s shorter scenario, if such a thing existed. However, most of the Scandinavian Ars Amandi larps I’ve heard about lasted a couple days and had really complicated staging unsuited to a short convention game. So, Nordic people: are there shorter Ars Amandi games out there?
  • We had some lively discussion about costuming possibilities — velour opera gloves (kinky!) — staging possibilities — wouldn’t chopping celery in the kitchen make for a great, handsy set-up? — and made lots of jokes about everyone being arm sluts now.
  • The participants felt that as the workshop became more intense, everyone got better at enforcing their own limits, typically in a non-verbal fashion. People said things like, “you showed me how you wanted to be touched,” and “you could tell when someone wasn’t comfortable with a specific move.”
  • While the workshop proceeded without interruptions, during the debrief, a couple people tried to walk through our room, despite the signs I’d put up. This led to some interesting discussion — one participant said that she wouldn’t have cared if someone watched the workshop, but that now, in this moment, while talking about her emotions, she especially didn’t want an outsider in there. Several people echoed her feeling, testament, I think, to the power of this mechanic.
  • Some interesting discussion about whether an Ars Amandi game could have a “non-combat” equivalent. Many stateside boffer games, for example, allow players, either by choice or by necessity (in the case of children) to wear a non-combat headband. If you’re wearing the headband, that tells other people not to hit you with boffers. Instead they call their damage from a distance. Would this work in an Ars Amandi game?
  • Ars Amandi ettiquette. A couple people thought it would be fun to write up a little sheet advising hand-lotion, getting the grit out of your fingernails, and gum. At least one of the ladies sighed longingly after another’s manicure. If only she’d known it was going to be so intense, she said, she’d have done the same.
  • General improvements: I could make the workshop better by limiting talking earlier on, introducing a safe word or a specific motion that people could use to ask their partners to back off, just as a fail safe. I could also have done a better job of letting people know when they were about to change partners — several people (very politely) complained that my abrupt cuts had resulted in coitus interruptus. I needed like a one-minute warning method, or a “3-2-1, stop.” Also, a more formal warm-up game might have helped diffuse some of that initial chatter.

Not enough Ars Amandi in your life? Tune in on Wednesday for an interview with Emma Wieslander, creator of the technique.

Thanks to the folks at METATOPIA, Double Exposure’s new awesome game design convention, for making space for this. Rob Donoghue has a really nice description of what the rest of the convention was like.