Play Journal LEA vol. 1 – Olsson, Karlsson, Nilsson, Hexagon

by Thom Kiraly

Hey. I’m in Norway! I’ve been playing tons of games! I’ve had almost no access to the Internet… So I split the Play Journals from the time here into seperate volumes. This is volume one. Mmmk? Mmmk.

Having slept remarkably well, considering the field bed I slept in and the long trip (not really that long) the day before, I finally really arrived at the Larp Exchange Academy (LEA) in Oslo on Friday. In short, this is a larpwriting boot camp leading up to the Knutepunkt event the following week. Almost 40 participants from eight different countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belarus, Czech Republic, Russia, Portugal and Palestine) meet up to spend a week playing and writing larps. It is incredibly intense.

The day started out at full speed with a quick wake-up, a quick breakfast and a quick intro (for those keeping track, that’s three quick things in just one morning). The intro mostly consisted of warm-up games like Penguins and Flamingos (Flamingos chase the slow Penguins and turn them into Flamingos. Think of it as a zombie game in disguise) and the like. After a very nice chill-out exercise to finish off the one hour intro we swiftly moved on to a 5 hour larp session.


This image is here because blog posts without images are boring. It’s the street outside where we live.

I don’t feel like writing a lot about all of the warm-ups before the Friday larp, so I’ll just list them here along with a very short description. I know no one reads this, so it’s mostly for my memory anyway. Poop! See? No one is going to read that, so it’s OK for me to write it. Poop! Oh, there I go again.

Truck Driving – physical contact exercise performed in pairs.
In-character Values Exercise – You position yourself in the room according to how much your character agrees with different statements.
Impro Exercise – One person starts: “Do you remember thatn time when we [did X, went to X etc.]?” The other person says “Yes, and we [X]” and they both act it out physically.
Status Exercise – Simple sit down/stand up exercise to gauge the status relationships between characters.
+ super short scene to try out the family dynamics.

Families Olsson, Karlsson, Nilsson – This larp was mainly designed to examine what it can look like when you play separate timelines and spaces in parallel with each other. In actual play, this meant that the game’s five spaces were marked out with tape on the floor of the big room wherein we played. It also meant that scenes played in these spaces could be seperated in in-game time. The players would thus be aware of things going on in other parts of the game’s timeline, but the characters wouldn’t.

The setting of the larp was some sort of camp site where, every year, three families (Olsson, Karlsson and Nilsson) met up to enjoy the summer in their caravans and around the BBQ. Of course, every single one of the twelve characters had their own personal, mental, and physical troubles. Some were more severe (pedophilia and potential kidnapping) than others (petty theft), but all were condensed into a short description accompanied by questions for the players to answer through play. The character description also included instructions on how to play the character in the three different acts.
I played the one character without a blood relation to any of the families, which turned out to be useful when I wanted to be part of scenes taking place where others maybe weren’t expected to be.

There is always a lot to say about these games, but to keep it brief I’ll say that the game really did sing when we played along with the premise of disparate scenes being played at the same time, in the same room. I especially liked a moment in the game where the game slowed down a bit just as a very serious scene was going on in one of the caravans. Everyone not in that scene stood in the off-game area (still in the same actual room, mind you) and waited for whatever was going to happen. I decided to juxtapose that scene (which was taking place late in act three) by starting what turned out to be a very early scene (act one) around the BBQ. The combination of a character crying a couple of steps away from us while we talked about what a wonderful time we were going to have together was priceless. It tethered on the brink of silliness, but never quite went over it.

A consequence of the non-linearity of the game was, unsurprisingly, that establishing facts was very hard to do without contradicting something that had been or done somewhere else in the diegesis (fancy word for in-game truth). There is probably some genius impro technique of which I am unaware that could have been used to mitigate this.

The shifts players made between actor-spectator-participant was very interesting. When not in a scene, people could stand in the off-game area and plan new scenes to complement the ones going on, build on previous scenes in the game or throw it all into a new direction entirely. This freedom also allowed players to very quickly move between different emotional states, leaving one scene to immediately walk into the next.

Finally, in retrospect, one of the coolest things about the game was the split between the diegetic/in-game timeline and the sequence in which we actually played out the scenes. Even though this created it’s own unique set of problems, I was constantly fascinated by the two time axes the game ended up moving along and how well the game actually ended up working in spite of/thanks to it.

Super Hexagon – During breaks, I’ve been whipping out my phone to check e-mail, Facebook and whatnot. The thing is that we’ve had a disturbing lack of internet at LEA (that reminds me; ALMOST NO INTARTUBEZ! SEND HALP!) and that makes checking internet stuff really hard. Not being able to fight my reflexes, I end up staring at my phone anyway and by that time there’s basically only one sensible thing left to do: play Super Hexagon.
I’m happy to say that I’ve improved my high score from 37.18 to 45.48 at the hardest hyper level. This means I’ll probably make it if I just keep at it. I’m consistently reaching 20-25 sec as it is now. If I do beat it, this being the only level I haven’t yet completed, I don’t really know what I’ll do. Move south, start a farm, write poetry; all of these things seem like valid options, to be honest.
Yes, let’s do one of those, mmmk?