The past couple of weeks have been joyous for me. So many positive things have been happening both at work and in my private life. The run-up to the Nordic Larp convention Knutepunkt and the convention itself was a big part of that.
Knutepunkt is an event that alternates between Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. It’s a gathering of live action role players from all over the world. This year there were participants from Belarus, Russia, Latvia, Portugal, The Netherlands, USA, France, Switzerland, Palestine and Israel just to name a few, in addition to the usual suspects from the Nordic scene.
It felt good and inspiring to meet and hang out with people from all over the world who share your interests but bring their own fresh perspectives.
It’s a weird event. Part frat party, part academic discussions, workshops, actual larps and more. People bring a lot of different experiences, opinions and perspectives to the convention. You have educational larpers, activist larpers, art larpers, people studying larp, organizers of larps, and people like me who participate in larps mostly as a fun past-time. You have journalists and academics, performance artists and occultists, anarchists and social liberals, and a plethora of nationalities, as mentioned above.
If you’ve read the comic «The Invisibles» by Grant Morrison, that’s sort of the crowd I’m talking about. A disparate and varied bunch, with their own internal conflicts, but sharing some important common ideals and methods. Learning from each other (to create a better world?), bending reality to their will. There are people attending Knutepunkt who’ve achieved some crazy shit. I don’t know all the details by heart, but you’ve got your people who’ve staged massive Alternate Reality Games involving big media, people who’ve gone on national TV to explain about their polyamorous relationships, people who’re going to bring larp to big theatre scenes, and people who’ve done smaller-scale, but nevertheless really interesting and strange projects using the methods of larp.
This curious blend of people contributes to the special atmosphere at the event. It’s an open minded crowd, readily interested in new ideas, unafraid to share.
This year’s event was held at Haraldvangen conference hotel near Eidsvoll, birthplace of the Norwegian nation. It lasted from April 18 to 21, with a prelude in the form of the “Week in Norway” for participants who decided to show up earlier. There was also the Larp Exchange Academy the weekend before, where the participants produced larps in only three days (with quite a busy schedule, from what I gather). These larps were run during the week-in.
I was working during the week-in, so I could only participate in the events in the evening.
Knutepunkt, to me, had a dramatic social curve somewhat reminiscent of a larp. There was an instigating event on Friday where one of the rants during “the hour of the rant” was an internal joke that was drawn to far for some. Feelings were hurt, some were offended and felt personal boundaries has been overstepped. (I won’t go into details in a public blog post.) Then came the gossip, the retribution in the form of posters, which generated their own retribution in the form of more posters and bad taste jokes, then there were shitstorm tendencies on Facebook (the dramatic curve climbing ever higher) where people who didn’t attend the convention also weighed in, then there were two public apologies. Then the denouement and the happy ending with the burning of the ritual bird. There were a lot of different perspectives on this whole debacle, also known as “Rant-Gate”. There were personal issues, cultural issues, lots of different stuff in the cauldron. In the end, I think the community will learn and grow from the whole thing.
For myself, I tried to achieve a good mix of doing and listening by attending both talks and lectures aswell as workshops and actual larps. I somewhat achieved this, but I wish I’d been able to do more and listen passively a bit less. That was more or less down to me, though, as some of the doing stuff on offer was a bit too depressing for my tastes (like “Huntsville”, the game about the death penalty, or “Death Poems” about being held captive by a serial killer or the “Autumn of Life” also about death(?)).
Mikodine XA: a larp about board meetings in a pharmaceutical company. A bit unpolished, but a nice game overall.
The last parts of the Hour of the Rant: See above.
Designing playable characters: A very good lecture on how to create characters for larps that actually function in play.
Designing characters story: a somewhat unstructured group discussion meant to be a follow-up to the lecture. Didn’t quite work for me.
Playing the Mixing Desk: A fun workshop were we experimented with different kinds of scenes, adjusting the techniques that were applied in them along the way.
Geek Feminism 101: A very basic introduction to feminism, and more specifically “geek feminism”. A useful reminder.
Designing for social manipulation – a practical guide to evil larp design: Boy, those Danes sure have done some crazy shit. I’m still not sure whether it was thought provoking or just plain provoking. I guess I’m interested in pushing the limits of the medium, but would’ve liked for there to be at least some kind of symbolic reference to issues of psychological safety. It’s powerful stuff we’re playing with.
Larpscripts: An inspiring workshop on how larpscripts can be designed to heighten replay value.
Shut your mouth and play it out: a workshop on expressing character through body language alone.
Game mastering black box larps: some cool impro theatre style techniques applied to free form scenarios. Workshop.
Mistakes in larp: Amusing (some would say hilarious) panel on mistakes made as organizers. I loved Mike Pohjola’s presentation of the one-person-alternate-reality-game he designed for his wife’s birthday, which ended up scaring the living daylights out of her.
The Knutepunkt is decadent and depraved?
So… in addition to all the larps, talks and workshops, there is a lot of partying going on at Knutepunkt. In the info desk, there was a large bowl of condoms, there was a rant about the “Fucking rules”, there was drinking every night and a few spliffs were passed around outside of the cabins. Love was in the air. As well as maybe some other vibes, you know. I stayed sober for this years KP (for some reasons you might guess at if you read this), and when you’re sober you tend to get tired sometime after midnight, even though there is a lot of fun to be had. I guess I entered spectator/lurker mode during the nights. I’ve been spending a lot of time with people drinking over the past couple of weeks whilst sober. For me, it works in smaller groups, but with 2-300 (more and a lot less) intoxicated people, it gets harder for me personally to join the festive atmosphere. I did manage to have fun dancing at the last party on Saturday, though, and was a little proud of myself for that, because I tend to become very self-conscious when dancing. But with this including and fun crowd, I felt safe doing my Elaine-moves. I went to bed early though. Two weeks of relatively late nights had taken their toll.
The upside of staying sober was feeling relatively fresh and rested in the mornings.
On a personal note, I’d like to again thank the week-in crew for making the Itras By release party happen, and the info desk for letting me sell the book there. It meant a lot to be able to reach the KP audience.
This was my best Knutepunkt so far. In Norway in 2005, I felt somewhat left out. In Sweden in 2010 I was convalescent and not functioning that well socially, Denmark in 2011 I stayed sober as well and had a pretty good time. But this year the program was tighter, people seemed more chill (and mature?), and, well… my joyous weeks helped.
Also thanks to the varied and fascinating bunch of people who were this year’s event. Lots of love. Stay weird.
Other blog posts about this year’s KP:
Play: The Soul of Knutepunkt by Markus Montola & Jaakko Stenros
My Knutepunkt 2013 by Lizzie Stark
Swedish game scholar Annika Waern’s post
French larper Thomas Be’s subjective recap, part 1, part 2, part 3
German larper Stefan Deutsch’s take
Norwegian larper Secretmoose’s take
US larper Shoshana Kessock’s take
A Russian larper’s take (in Russian)
Italian larper Raffaele Manzo’s take (in Italian)
Check out Jaakko Stenros’ talk on the definition of Nordic Larp from the Nordic Larp Talks: