Larp for larp’s sake


Just read The Larping that is not Larp by J Tuomas Harviainen, which was published in Think Larp, the book of KP 2011.

Harviainen’s argument is that larping is a bigger activity than larp, and that there are many sibling activities to larp that use larping.  For example, historical re-enactment, sado-masochistic role play, military exercises, and so on, all use larping as a part of what they do, but according to him they are not larps.

There are several special qualities about larp that make it different:

– a larp usually has characters rather than just social roles (such as submissive/dominant in the S&M example);
– the ‘magic circle’ of larp is not porous;
– a larp is an activity in itself (a military exercise uses larping for the purpose of learning about strategy, etc).

These people are definitely larping, but are probably not in a larp

This weekend I’m trying to write an abstract for an article for next year’s Wyrd Con that looks at sibling activities to larp within psychotherapy (see my post on The Therapy Game).  So in the terms of this article, psychodrama could be an example of larping that is not larp.  Psychodrama usually does have characters – so it’s larp-like in that sense.  But we don’t enter into psychodrama just for the sake of it (it’s usually pretty painful).  And the magic circle is intended to be porous – the point is to take something away that is of relevance to my actual life.

I think what most interests me here is the idea of larp as being an end in itself.  I remember reading somewhere “wisdom, like games, should be pursued for its own sake” – I think it was St Thomas Aquinas.  I don’t like the idea that a larp ought to be ‘improving’, or educational, or therapeutic, or politically instructive.

All those things might happen, or they might be useful by-products, but for me there is something vitally important about the idea of ‘larp for larp’s sake’.


4 thoughts on “Larp for larp’s sake

  1. A.

    I think LARP that meets your definition but that has pretenses of not being LARP (SCA, foam battle games) would make an interesting topic for another piece in this series.

  2. Since you mention psychodrama: I think Moreno’s lesser-known inventions of sociodrama and the Theatre of Spontaneity are more larp-like than psychodrama. Both come very close to modern notions of larp, although Moreno only jetisons the audience completely in sociodrama, and only cultivates roleplaying-for-the-sake-of-roleplaying in the Theatre of Spontaneity.

    • Thank you Eirik. That’s very useful information. I confess I’ve only had practical experience of psychodrama and haven’t read the theory of it as yet.

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