Solmukohta 2020: Eleanor Saitta, Johanna Koljonen, Martin Nielsen – Maps, Loops, and Larps

Solmukohta 2020: Eleanor Saitta, Johanna Koljonen, Martin Nielsen – Maps, Loops, and Larps

Have you ever thought about what you actually do when you larp? How you understand the game around you and decide what to do next? Have you thought about that awkward period at the start of a game where nothing connects yet? In this talk, Johanna, Martin, and Eleanor will try to make sense of the way we manage information and make decisions during play.

Slides: Maps, Loops, and Larps

Q&A from the original viewing at Solmukohta 2020 Online event

Anon 1: I love it that some people joined hearing Joc just ask random questions: “Where am I? Am I hungry?”


Anon 2: Very important questions.


Johanna Koljonen Essential to larp! ๐Ÿ˜€


Anon 3: The map is not the territory ๐Ÿ™‚


Anon 4: That’s basically the OODA loop, right?


Johanna Koljonen Anon 4: yes, exactly


Eleanor Saitta Yes.


Anon 4: Cool!


Eleanor Saitta Like most OODA-loop versions applied to practice, we tweak ours for the task at hand


Anon 5: If you don’t know much about OODA loop, yes. If you know a lot, then no. ๐Ÿ™‚


Anon 6: as a cognitive neuroscientist, I’m very happy with the concepts of map and loop <3


Anon 7: Enjoying this a lot so far.


Eleanor Saitta Infinite love to Anon 8: for doing a huge amount of work editing this video for us. <3


Anon 8: Part of the hyper-realistic SK experience of panic-finishing a talk an hour before it goes live <3


Anon 1: I think Anon 9: might know what you’re talking about.


Anon 9: Hey, I’m now rendering the final version, 1min50sec to go, and then uploading, still 56 minutes of ample time left! ๐Ÿ˜€


Anon 1: What could possibly go wrong?


Anon 10: Yes, Im just playing w changing the word larp to life? so curious of it there are differences


Johanna Koljonen not very much difference, if I remember my cognitive semiotics classes correctly ๐Ÿ™‚


Johanna Koljonen But the fact that these are temporary and categorized as fictional is a big difference of course!


Anon 10: i use the kind of similar concept to describe some art experiences, and then the differences are about framing or just what you pay notice to. larping as a way of paying attention to life Johanna Koljonen


Johanna Koljonen Yes! Of course this has the difference that the art form typically relies on our building equifinal maps, since weโ€™re also co-creators.


Anon 10: Johanna Koljonen what do you mean by equifinal maps? do it together?


Anon 5: Equifinal = leading to equal (indistinguishable) outcomes.


Johanna Koljonen Sorry I forgot I cut it from the talk! Equifinal maps are close enough that the differences donโ€™t matter in practice


Anon 10: So the art form relies on the players ability to build maps thy can be shared, and make actions, makes it different from other art forms.


Anon 11: Okay, this is excellent. Thank you for giving me words for what I think, again <3


Anon 12: Finally some larp theory that me the geographer feel a bit “in” on. ๐Ÿ˜›


Anon 13: I’m so glad i’m watching this <3


Anon 14: This is so cool! As a psychology student currently studying cognitition, this is so relevant to my interests.


Eleanor Saitta There’s an 8400 word version of it coming your way soon, if you want it in much, much, much more detail ๐Ÿ™‚


Anon 15: I’m autistic, and thinking about how that influences how my map is (re)created.


Anon 2: Oooooh, now I understand heuristics!


Johanna Koljonen I am so relieved that you recognize your play in this! ๐Ÿ˜‚ Otherwise we would have worked so many hours for nothing.


Anon 16: I’m really looking forward to the article in the book to learn more about this ๐Ÿ™‚


Johanna Koljonen Looking forward to talking about it and your challenging it too! ๐Ÿ˜€


Anon 17: might be language differences, but the ‘you’ format in most of this makes me not as good at listening to the content ๐Ÿ˜ฎ


Eleanor Saitta It’s because in the book, we address “you” as a player throughout; we kept the same framing here without even really thinking about it


Anon 17: ok. Sitting alone at home at watching this, i think the effekt is probably different then when ill read it


Anon 18: If you kill another player, co-players will perceive you stepping outside of the fiction. ๐Ÿ˜€


Anon 19: Important point about affordances there


Anon 5: One thing I hope we’ll have a LOT of conversation afterwards is this:

Htf is it so hard to make a map out of a larp before you are on-site, compared to how easy it is during the first 10 minutes of the larp.

That gap is a source of 95% of my stress prior to larp. I don’t know how this is going to work. But ten minutes into it, it all always clicks together (although not necessarily in a way I’d like.)


Johanna Koljonen So true


Anon 17: percieved reality versus reality?


Eleanor Saitta So we didn’t write the design paper about this, but I think we haven’t been designing for map warmups


Eleanor Saitta or for pre-game map sketching


Eleanor Saitta I don’t know that we can totally fix it, but


Anon 20: Sometimes it feels like the map gets a major revision 10 minutes after the larp ends.

Let’s go again, now I know how to do this!


Anon 13: Remind me to get back, I have ideas I can’t articulate now


Anon 5: When you enter a space, physically, you immediately figure out most of its constraints and affordances.

When an organiser says “characters will live in a camp”, you still have NO IDEA of anything.


Anon 17: NAME i would love to – at some point- dive into what things you (and others) persieve as the important information needed before the larp. My guess is that there is something in how many ppl prep that gives them a somewhat useless luggage to bring


Anon 21: Designing for this could both be 1) giving the players a better picture of the map before the larp (but we are already trying to do that and it’s difficult, and besides some of the on-site larp that will happen is as as much a mystery to the organisers as the players before the larp) and 2) designing time/space to do this mapping after the larp has started and you have some real observations to do the mapping from.


Anon 5: I suspect most larp organisers (51%+) don’t understand their own maps before they start physically building on-site.

If even then.

Also note: Map is also temporal. So issues of space and affordance is not all there is to it; also “what should I be expect to be doing 11pm Friday night”.


Anon 21: Anon 5:. During runtime of House of Craving I thought about this more than I have previously when running larps. Very significant parts of this larp is a mystery to me and it’s as much an exploration for me to try to map this as for the players.


Anon 20: On the other end of that, a 100% accurate map would be immediately hacked.

When I think of pregame frustrations they are often very basic: What will be doing when we are idle?

How will this idea work when everyone has so many layers of clothes?



Anon 7: Great work all, I’m going to have to watch this many times


Anon 1: Thank you! Tactical loop and strategic loop… Do these terms come from some field of science? Or did you develop them specifically for this?


Eleanor Saitta So, “strategic” as the top-level timescale, and “tactical” as a finer-grain time scale is a standard construction in military doctrine, which is also where the OODA loop comes from. Adding the “performative” loop as the finest timeframe, and the “act”, “scene”, and “phrase” as names for iterations of the loops are from larp/my head.


Anon 1: Right!

Cause I come from a fairly different background, and would have maybe used words like dramaturgical or structural. Depends on where you look at it from, I guess.

To me those words sounded slightly gamist as in, you are trying to make the best choice strategically. (The explanations didn’t carry this stigma.)


Anon 10: I read tactical and strategical more as in the moment vs making plans ahead


Eleanor Saitta Sure โ€” I guess in part because the loop model came from OODA, we took other bits of that language with us. But you can substitute “act-scale” for strategic, “scene-scale” for tactical, and “phrase-scale” for performative. Basically, each one is an increasingly short-term set of thoughts, where you also think about things more practically and in more detail.


Anon 20: These words are also prevalent in company lingo, the tactical scale being about our immediate operations, running teams, etc, and the strategic being about larger business choices.

I’m not a fan but it’s readily understandable from that vocabulary as well, which I am sure also comes from military doctrine.


Anon 4: I’ve recently come across this quote from Gerald Abrahams, a chess player: โ€œThe tactician knows what to do when there is something to do; whereas the strategian knows what to do when there is nothing to doโ€.

Which gives me the idea for the following distinction in larp: strategy is about deciding what goals you want to achieve, while tactics is about doing things to achieve these goals.

Goals, in this case, can either be something like “take over the rival kingdom” in a political larp, or it can be things like “explore how I handle a painful breakup”.

(Just a half-baked thought.)


Anon 19: I now really really want the book.


Anon 22: Thank you so much for this wonderful and thought provoking talk. I have so many questions, in the best possible way.


Anon 23: My takeaway:

In a competitive game, “In order to win, we should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversariesโ€”or, better yet, get inside [the] adversary’s Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action time cycle or loop.” (Boyd)

In a cooperative game, we need to make our loops accessible to other players on all levels, especially on the performative level.


Johanna Koljonen interesting!


Eleanor Saitta This is a super-useful comment, thank you.


Anon 17: So where did this version of Affordance theory come from? Within my field of tool/human interaction the concept is more narrow.


Eleanor Saitta It is late and I am probably not being entirely clear, but can you expand on the difference? Like, yes, I think we’re using it broadly, but not in a way which is outside the spirit of the meaning.


Anon 17: To me there is a diffence between actions ‘ affordances are the actions you can do’ and affordances as something that happens in relation to something. To me, affordances is something _something_ has/is percieved to offer.


Johanna Koljonen I can’t answer this late but e use affordance as a design term and I’m pretty sure design theory is where constraints comes from as well.


Anon 17: no need to reply this late but it would be lovely to get it elaborated at some point


Anon 20: I understand the use of affordance here to be the conventional use in interaction design, i.e. what does the environment (in this case the larp situation as a whole) offer that I perceive as possible.

And likewise, constraints are then limitations on these affordances, for example game mechanics or social convention.

I think constraint is used somewhat broadly here. In interaction design, constraints guide the user to useful actions. As I understand them used here they also provide outer bounds.

In this way of laying it out, a constraint will always be a boundary (“do not go past the red building” tells you not to bother the neighbours) and will sometimes be a guide (“secrets may only be discussed in places where you are likely to be overheard” tells you that this is a larp where we spill our beans).

Says Joc: “Affordances is what you can do and what are the costs and risks for you of doing that thing”

I would nitpick that affordance is cost/risk-agnostic. If something is perceived possible, it is afforded.

In these terms I see risk/cost as a factor in mapping affordance to agency, making them soft constraints.

Agree? Disagree? Am I misunderstanding something?


Anon 18: I’ve read the article this talk is based on and I seem to recall that the concept of affordable used there is compatible with Gibson’s formulation, although obviously, since this is dedign-adjecent, Norman is also an influence.


Anon 17: Anon 18-> Super! Then it is just the quick use in the video that ended up being a bit off? ๐Ÿ™‚ – I think the important part of the concept of affordance is that it is something that something has. Not the person experiencing it (or not if designissue) but the thing itself. That the perception of an affordance makes me able to take an action makes it easy to say that it is all about me, but that – as i know it- is not the point with the concept.


Anon 18: Hm. My understanding is that affordance is a relationship between an object and an organism in a specific ecology. It varies depending the thing, the user, and the site.


Anon 17: Anon 18- > Im happy with that definition ๐Ÿ™‚


Anon 24: I thought the use of “affordance” was a bit different from the way it’s normally used, but it was a useful stretch of the definition.

There’s a very interesting question about what the “affordance of a LARP” is: that is, if we import the term “affordance” into LARP, what would that mean? The classic use of “affordance” applies to a tool like a hammer: it “affords its use”, because the design makes it clear that you pick it up using the handle and hit with the head. The idea of a LARP “affording its use” must be different, because it’s not a physical object, so the definition needs to stretch.

(Just to be clear, I know that there has been work on “affordance” within LARP before, and I’m not forgetting that. I’m really just making the point that the definition of “affordance” needs to stretch if we bring it into LARP.)


Anon 17: Anon 24: i think that stretching the term is…counter productive compared to importing it. Talking about a character texts persieved affordances would be a good investigation for example. The same goes for the setting and the physical setting of a larp


Anon 24: Anon 17: I think that’s a fair argument: I often think that “affordance” is used in a way that stretches the term beyond usefulness. For me, I liked the way it was used in this video: that was a useful stretch for me. (Although maybe not for you!)

This was part of the Solmukohta 2020 online program.

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