I got a blogging challenge from Sami Koponen, one of the men behind roolipelitiedotus, Finnish roleplaying info web site, that gives basic information about roleplaying and stuff that’s happening in Finnish roleplaying scene right now. It also collects list of roleplaying blogs wrote by Finns and as they seek to serve roleplaying in all its forms, also this blog is on their blogosphere.

“How do you view Finnish roleplaying scene 2014 and where would you like our roleplaying culture to evolve?” was the question. As my blog is described there as not only a larper’s blog, but also as an convention organizers blog, so I try to put those aspects on this post also.

When thinking about 2014 afterwards, I’m hoping that for Finnish larping scene the most remarkable thing will be the new larp calendar. As our old pages went down last December, and we’re now working with substitute format, the new larp calendar should see daylight somewhere next summer. I have high hopes on Laura S who is making it. We’ve discussed what is needed, what is nice and what won’t work, and she’s doing it as part of her IT-studies at Aalto University. I’m hoping it to encourage people to use calendar more for their games. That would make it easier for new soon-to-be-larpers to find larps, and also document the scene better.

This year Ropecon is also again giving small grant to projects that improve Finnish roleplaying scene. It’s of course said with longer words what does it (or we) support, and what not, but the basic idea is, that it’s possible to get money to fund ones interesting roleplaying thing or card, board or miniature game project. I’m hoping people would more use it to different kinds of projects. Many larps apply for money to make something special happen. Ropecon has funded special effects, authentic props, documentation and so on for larps, and addition to those I’d like to see for instance character writing workshop, course for roleplaying organisation treasurers and so on.

Larps don’t really have big themes anymore. It’s impossible to say anymore that “Most common genre in larps is fantasy, but also Vampire is big thing in southern Finland and big cyber games are happening in the middle of Finland while people in Turku still larp on their closets every Thursday”. And it’s great! People use their imagination more than to create just another fantasy world.
As projects vary more, pure genre games grow fewer. Production values have risen, but still too many games fail to see the big picture: More special effects won’t make a game better if contacting characters to each other sucks. More and better food is a good addition, if characters have also other stuff to do than eating, etc. Many times when talking about production values, the very basic core of good larp, like plot and characters are forgotten as time game masters have, is invested to that special thing that is supposed to put larp on new level. But failures are great learning possibilities, so as this generation has started investigating what they can do with larp, there will probably be plenty of great experiences still ahead.

Also what makes me glad is that terminology from Nordic Larpdom has at last found it’s way to Finnish mainstream larp. Many people have now an idea about bleed, Ars amandi is known by name and many people are willing to try it or have used it on their games. That’s great. What I would like to hear next, is more talk about player safety, when it comes to psychological side of games. There has been new wave of different kinds of horror games that play with players mind and those games have been praised a lot. I’d like to see more edgy games that try to create strong and surprising feelings to players, but also make gamemasters knowledge the fact that debrief is an important part of any game that touches players feelings deeply, and it’s not just about everyone telling what their character did. And also get players to understand, that feeling totally cracked days after game isn’t a desirable condition, but maybe a hint that either game was badly planned, or not really for you.

That’s my two cents. Most of the blog posts around this theme will probably be table top oriented and/or in Finnish, but when they’re gathered, I try to remember to put link here.

This is about languages, not about the 2014 even or 2013 event. These thoughts that have crossed my mind at some point and if I’m saying this to somebody, it’s more to certain English-nazis I’ve meet on the events.

Knutepunkts are international events, where people are encouraged to speak English, which is okay and great. But also at some points it seems people are trying to force others to speak English. I find there’s a small problem. I go there to meet new people – It has to happen in English, as for instance my German is rusty and Portuguese nonexistent. I go there to meet old friends – Still going with English. Learning new stuff from lectures and workshops – in English again. Debriefing that experience after intensive workshop, or planning with your friends if you really should rerun some Norwegian game – Engl… Unfortunately that is not so easy to do in English. Not for me, and not for many others. I’m capable of some kind of shallow debriefing of my thoughts in English, but stream of consciousness in English – unfortunately I can’t do that and I’ve understand that not many other can do that either. But they’d need that to be able to construct their ideas into form, that they can bring with them back home.

And yes, I know I’m still on that half of Knutegoers, who speak English less fluently, even though I took courses before SK2012, and I just can’t continuously think in English. But what I’ve talked with some others, I’m not the only one. And trying to actively make it impossible to be able to speak your own language in any other place except maybe in your room, if even there, makes me sad, as there’re those who would get more from the event if they were not actively being poked to speak English even when they’re saying something that’s not interesting to othes..

This being said, I still believe organizers should do their best to communicate in English. During SK2012 people contacted us at our fb-page and email in English, Finnish and Swedish (my favorite, must be the burden of this last name). AFAIR publicly on FB we answered always in English, but we answered also to those questions that were asked on some other language. I think nobody should feel unwelcome because they won’t understand public conversation organizers are having, but also nobody should be afraid to ask if they can’t make their questions perfect in English. Both feeling of welcomeness and insecurity are feelings we should try to avoid when organizing event.

During the last a couple of years offgame has become more accepted, and it’s more okay to go offgame after intensive part of larping, or to plans for future actions in the game, talk through the hard parts etc. When we at larps allow that to happen, at cons people are more expected to stay 24/7 in the role of a conference participant, without taking thinking and talking breaks.

I disagree.

In Sweden some women are considering to organize a larp convention where to play games written only by women. So if I’ve understood correctly, even though all organizers and game wrights would be women, also men would be welcome to participate the event and play on those games.

As a Finn I first thought about this to be “nice idea, but definitely not something Finnish larp scene needs, as about 2/3 of us are women”. After thinking about it the whole day, I realized that even though I wouldn’t organize such event myself, nor would I ditch the men I usually work with to accomplish some kind of equalityish goal, I can easily understand why event like that would be needed anywhere.

I make simple example with our national roleplaying, larping, card gaming, board gaming and miniature gaming convention Ropecon. Ropecon has been held every summer for last 20 years. I counted the organizers from the webpages or program booklets for last 4 events, so all information is more or less public and I’m not using inside info here. I counted each year separately, so yes, for instance I was counted more than once as I’ve participated in organizing the 3 times in four years. About 35 % of the organizers (N=140) were female, so about every third. Yes, that’s smaller numbers than estimates of how many larpers are female, but there’re the card and board game organizers and other reasons why it really is understandable why there’re more men there. From the 13 main organizers of those 4 years, only one was female. That’s 8%. Yes, next year is the first time that more than half of the main organizers are female, as three of four main organizers are, so after this year the number of last five years will be 23%.

But that makes a point that even though we have plenty of skillful women and men, still men more often try reach to the top on the organizing level. I tried to quickly go through Finnish larp calender to make some kind of statistics from there, but really couldn’t come up with any easy numbers of how many of the organizers are men and how many are women as I didn’t know who to count, all who write characters, or also those who do only webpages or food etc, besides not all games state all organizers publicly. Still I have a feeling that in games that have teams of 3-10 game masters, men more often are main organizers than they “statistically” should be. Same with the language of mathematics: Y/(X+Y) of main organizers > than Y/(X+Y) on all game masters. Y is male, X is female.

And that’s what we should change. That all roleplayers, also female, would trust on their own skills to run the show. May the “show” be a larp, a larp campaign, a convention, a roleplaying game book, or what ever. And making a convention (or a book!) around games written by women, (woman defined one way or another,) would make a great example that also women can do every single bit that it takes to make a convention.

Solmukohta 2004 and 2008 AWiFs included were both done by 33 % of organizers being female, when Solmukohta 2012 was organized, 78 % of organizers were female. (Couldn’t come up with any facts about 2000, except main organizers.) Each team containing 9 to 12 organizers, 2000 and 2012 have been organized with female main organizer(s), 2004 and 2008 as male, so I guess I can easily blame that SK is more gender balanced and that on those circles people let their gender affect less on what they could achieve. At least I got only once during my organizing year dealt inappropriately because of my gender, so it’s easy to assume, that that one person is just a moron.

During the last 15 years I’ve done enough different kinds of projects in Finnish larp scene. So at least these days I get enough space to do stuff I want as it is, but I believe not all women do. That’s why even though I still prefer to do larps with people I enjoy working with, both women and men, I give my full support on organizing events by only female larp wrights and producers also as statement needed.

We organize run of Mad about the Boy in ten days. Game has 28 female characters and one man. But I wouldn’t call that larp really a feminist one, as the game is quite much about missing the important men characters had in their lives, nor is the game chauvinistic, as women are still able to survive without men. I consider the game more to be something that raises peoples understanding and awareness of the gender issues. As we only have guts to one run, we decided to go with a mixed gender game. As this is first touch to many of the players to the Nordic Larp, I really much like to keep it inclusive for all interested players, regardless of their gender. Also it’s not organized by women. The core team includes me and two guys, who I enjoy working with. There’re also some more persons helping: one or two guys with Black Box light and sound, and one with food, also a couple of other women helped us design the signing up form, and one other helped us to do the casting. Also we have two or three persons who have played on previous runs, to run the workshops, They’re all great people and I can honestly say they’re all part of the team because of their skills and interest, and they’re not doing less than they could, because of their gender. Larpwise I’m in a really great position right now.

Sorry about the title, but always when I see an iceberg, I think about Titanic. Not even really the ferry, but the movie.

But anyway. A popular iceberg metaphor illustrates “hidden culture”. Most of the iceberg is not visible and the world of assumptions, habits, beliefs that may not be consciously articulated or taught can’t be learned when looking for the part that’s above water. Some of the deepest things people never even realize to be part of the iceberg. I know many of you have heard about it time and time again. As it’s not really an essential part of educational sciences research tradition, I crossed this first time last week at an university course about teaching home economics to multicultural groups. I usually try to put everything on the context where I’m more familiar with, as it makes stuff easier to remember.

Seeing larp culture as one kind of culture, gave me a strong Eureka moment. I and many people I know have went to larp abroad. And afterwards some of us (me included) have been disappointed on what we got, as we knew something about local larp culture, and expected the rest to be like back home. Which of course won’t work, as if game is 6 times longer than typical Finnish game, the character probably won’t have 6 times more to accomplish, so the playing style also might differ and goals for the game etc.

And there’re plenty of examples of people expecting something more like at home and then disappointing. Some Latvians were surprised about how Finns immerse into character, not into the scene, a certain Finnish girl was very surprised when and art exhibition in an Irish Vampire game was done with papers stating here’s a sculpture, here’s a painting. And how some US players told afterwards how strongly they felt about certain provocation attempts in the US run of Mad about the Boy, but didn’t show it at all during the game.

I tried to scratch some kind of model of the hidden larp culture, that we know so well in our own culture that we forget to tell about it to foreigners and also expect to stuff to work same way in other parts of world too.

Here’s a link to original picture of Iceberg model of Culture and here’s how I see it. Some of the tems are stuck to my head from the Mixing desk of Larp, so some credit to the organizers of Larp Summer School 2012 organizers. Also some ideas are from Suvi and Santeri who I’ve talked about this.

This doesn’t really give any great answers, expect maybe some ideas what to communicate to your players if they all, or some of them are unfamiliar with your larp culture.

Lessons I’ve learned during the last a couple of years.

I know math isn’t usually larpers’ favorite subject. If it would be, we’d be stuck in Runemaster, D&D and other tabletop roleplaying games with huge piles of tables instead of this going out and immersing and having fun while suffering. But let’s make some kind of calculation.

Many of us study and work, of have a hobby other than roleplaying we passionately spend time. Please calculate the amount of studying points you do this autumn. Multiply it with hours one studying point theoretically is. We know it isn’t usually that much, but it’s a good approximation as occasionally school makes us so tired we won’t be able to do anything but watch telly after school. Then count your work. How much hours you do on average week, does your work need some kind of planning that’s done at home. Count that too. Then your hobbies, the ones you do every week. Tantra, Aerobic, Kendo, Cooking that’s more of a exploring food cultures than to fill your stomach. If you have kids, make some kind of random guess, how much time they take each normal week. I have no model for that. Then divide the amount of school with weeks your autumn semester last, and sum it with your weekly work hours and work planning hours, kid hours and hobby hours. Then divide the number by seven. I for instance work every day, weekends included, for about 11 hours a day. Try to remember that, when you start planning your next larp, campaign or con. As volunteer working is fun as hell, if one has time for it. But doing it on the edge of burnout isn’t honestly good for anyone. Yes, sad but true, you’re replaceable. Don’t take more stuff than you can handle and still have fun on the same time. and if you do, don’t make the same mistake next year again.

I’ve had not much to write. Solmukohta 2012 was lovely, I’m still proud of it after a year, just talked about it with Laura. How ever because stuff that happened behind the scenes (like it always does) I completely lost my interest to keep myself connected to what was happening in Nordic larp scene. I know that Jiituomas had his dissertation. And Markus too. There was (and is) Nordic Larp wiki, that I never got interested enough to write stuff, or even read it. I went to Knutepunkt this year without really knowing what is alibi in roleplaying sense. And I hadn’t read Lizzie Stark’s Leaving Mundania.

I’ve played larps and roleplaying games more actively than in years. As Jiituomas moved to Helsinki metropolitan area, I could participate his biweekly rpg-campaign, just like I did when we both lived in Turku, this time WoD. And it has been great fun! And we kicked Helsinki Roleplaying Factory up and running with Suviko, Santeri and MaijaKo, it has been really nice too. But I really haven’t had any of that inner flame that makes me spend hours in the middle of night to read roleplaying related books, homepages of Scandinavian or German larps that I can understand with some help from dictionaries. I have had absolutely no interest to listen larp podcasts Claus has been making. And so on.

So personally biggest reason to sign up for KP2013 was to get back to mood of doing stuff. And even more importantly, getting back to being interested of stuff others do, as my strength doesn’t really lie on artistic side of roleplaying, but more in a daily bread that needs to be done.

The event itself was different from others as one of the personal themes was feeling somewhat offended and then feeling guilt of feeling that. Every night I very Finnishly got a bit tipsy with half a (small) bottle of vodka, went sleep around two when I realized I wasn’t having fun anymore and it was not worth trying to desperately to get back to funzone. And woke up for breakfast. So I managed to participate program most of the day, mostly trying to find out what had happened during the last 12 months. And pretty amazing things had. Like Mad about the Boy – American run, Celestra, Palestanian larp, Larpwriter Summer School and so on. And somehow I stared to get the right mood back. These guys are doing interesting projects and even though I can’t or even want to be part of all of them, I surely want to read more about them. And I want to be part of organizing committee of the Helsinki Roleplaying Factory summer con, and produce Mad About the Boy rerun in Helsinki next winter, and host a Helsinki edit-a-thon for Nordic Larp wiki next month. And so on.

So my personal Nordic Larp Depression starts to be over. Luckily. Project for next week: Gym with Claus’s larp podcasts.

I dislike the discussion of larp as educational tool in Finland. The whole discussion of WHY also not-roleplayer-teachers should use roleplaying seems to be circling around the subject, but not reaching good points.

Let’s admit it. We’re not Denmark. Here it can’t be a popular hobby used as an educational tool, because it’s not really even a possible hobby for primary school kids so they won’t be excited to learn through it.

“But it will motivate them with all the not-sitting-on-your-desk-and-learning-from-book -way.” You’re welcome anytime you feel like, to check the school of this decade just to see your point is old-fashioned: There’re plenty of other activities that are actively used in the class rooms that teachers already know how to use, that already have ready, tested teaching material so on. And PC and tablets and all IT is just so cool that roleplaying will easily lose the contest against if it would be just because of motivation. 

What about the special kids? As we know, people have gotten great results with roleplaying with traumatized kids etc. Jupe can probably do that, but I doubt that roleplaying would be a easily learnable skill that will make magically the kids open up and heal themselves up magically. So before suggesting that, please check that you know what you’re talking about. Breakable people must be handled with care.

All drama is also so important and role play is one of fifteen basic types of drama, if we believe the grand olf Finnish drama professor Østern. Finnish Core Curriculum doesn’t say that much about drama, it has sentences like:  The pupils will learn to express themselves in a versitile, responsible way, and to interpret the communication of others.

So now we should come up with reasons why roleplaying is better or more efficient way of teaching than making plays, process dramas or dialectic exercises. One good reason of course is that it’s not a goal itself, like a play is. It’s something that can be used as a tool, so pupils will learn simultaneously mathematics, home economy, parts of speech etc. But it still lacks something, same can be done easier by process drama etc, where a teacher can monitor kids more easily, as the space is naturally more definite. Between acts teacher can also teach or correct pupils.

Now that I have criticized most reasons why there should be  more larping in schools, I will tell you my better reasons.

A| Because of transfer. It’s commonly known problem that stuff pupils learn in school is loose from their everyday life. They know what’s 50% of 10 apples, but they can’t count 30% discounts at shops. They know how to count area of a hyperbola, but they buy too big sofas to fit on their living rooms. Etc. The power of roleplaying in schools isn’t in the motivational stuff or learning new things more efficiently, but to transfer already learned stuff to every day use, by making games that reconstruct one’s normal life and how the knowledge just learned can be put to real use.

B| Because you can’t understand society just by reading from it. By a roleplaying game it’s easier to understand why people have done terrible things believing them to be good, or how people have felt when they’ve been hounted etc. It doesn’t have to be at the Kapo level to make people think.

C| Because of immigrants. As we’re trying to grow up in the multicultural country, understanding others and making them to understand our culture is important part. By roleplaying we can also break some boundaries, take roles that one’s culture doesn’t normally support and that way educate more tolerant and understanding pupils. Both from immigrants and old inhabitants.

So please. Stop always bringing Østerskov up. It’s amazing idea and place, they have great ideas that can be modified to fit here, but it can’t be brought here and after some point trying to copy their ideas here will do more harm than good. This time the wheel must be partly invented again.