Contains Spoilers for SparkLRP’s games Thread and Weave. (Currently neither are intended to be run again but, y’know.)
I’ve come to the conclusion that my preferences in LARP are hugely similar to my preferences in art. Had a conversation with a friend about when you worry if your game idea is pretentious or not and I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t tell. I blame my secondary school art teacher, going to Sensation (the Saatchi exhibition) when I was fifteen seriously impacted my idea of what art is and can and should be.
Absolutely the reason I love Tracey Emin is the feeling of crawling into Everyone I Have Ever Slept With at fifteen. And I loved the idea that art could be so rawly about exploring ideas. I still do. The notion that art is the everyday too, that it’s a step between the two, that takes up my entire inner-world.
The connect between LARP and art for me is probably born because of my fascination with performance art, and I’m talking about things like Jennicam and alt.sysadmin.recovery – honestly when you’re thinking of that as art it’s very easy to talk about LARP, a series of emotionally intense experiences, as art.
I’ve enjoyed turning up to random games where I know no one and playing with people I don’t know at all, this has absolutely doubled this last year with the online games and I’ve noticed with interest the thousand nuances (often location based) in the ways people play. It reinforces to me the idea that Lancaster is a little bit weird. We play like Nordic baby-larpers who like to hit things. The themes that we’ll play with and do emotional shit with wouldn’t give an actual Nordic larper pause at all, though our emotional safety standards likely would, whereas the fact that we tend towards structured mental/emotional health briefs and debriefs usually does get a raised eyebrow from most UK larpers and I know places where our weapons checking standards causes rolled eyes. I’m a horror larper who stumbled onto latex weapons, giggled madly and held on tight. So I’ll even defend a well written linear as potentially being Art.
But now there’s such a thing as well written and nuanced conceptual LARP which isn’t based on D&D hashing and rehashing ‘what even is reality?’ And I am in, utterly and completely. You have a conceptual LARP? Good gods let me lick it. Metaphorically.
Earlier this year The Fairyland Ref ran a game called Thread, a group of characters with half memories of their lives but unknowing of their names or who they were, woke up in a cell of a labyrinth (complete with Greek mythological overtones). I loved it, I did far more internal play than I was supposed to be doing and went full Geoffrey Rush in Quills as an Artist (well not quite, I made art with blood and pee but didn’t get scatological).
Today he ran the sequel, Weave, I played the same character with additional half memories from Thread.
It was much more tightly run even than Thread, and fuck – that format, mmmm! It was a beautiful use of Discordbots and server and I fucking loved it. And he ran it tightly enough that we remained completely bought in to the concept, that we were somehow trapped inside a giant loom (and I was rather concerned that in a Greek Mythological référence heavy game the loom was overseen by someone called Penelope!) and we were being used to created some kind of Tapestry.
The Tapestry, turned out to be two conceptual entities (Warp and Weft) who may or may not have needed to have sex and create some sort of God being or maybe the monster that haunted the labyrinth we were trapped in in Thread.
In any case I had an awesome time and I have no way of telling whether anything is pretentious right now because I made an actual sketch for this game that I’m proud of and even finished it! The tensions, the emotions, the story, everything existed perfectly for the time of the experience, if that isn’t art then nothing is!