Solmukohta 2020: Mátyás Hartyándi – Larp – Oddity, Hypernym or what?

Solmukohta 2020: Mátyás Hartyándi – Larp – Oddity, Hypernym or what?

A talk about the future and self-definition of larps for those who are interested in overlapping activities and/or multidisciplinary cooperations. As the meaning and praxis of Nordic larps evolved and expanded during the last two decades, some of its larps became nearly indistinguishable from other established forms of role-playing (e.g. process drama or socio drama). Is this a bug or a feature? What type of relations can enrich larp? And (how) should we react to these changes? Larp has the potential to become a new, inclusive, and all-encompassing umbrella movement, but inbred ignorance in its circles might also limit its recognition in favor of more established forms. How can the larp movement stay geniune yet be open to change? And what kind of role should larping take in the eyes of outsiders?

Slides: Larp_ Oddity, Hypernym or What_ (SK2020)


Anon 1: Here, I googled it for you:

Bibliodrama, called Bibliolog in much of Europe, is a form of role playing or improvisational theatre using Bible stories.

Mátyás Harpgándi To my best knowledge there are at least 2 different lineages of Bibliodrama/log. One is more of a version of sociodrama (structured activities which includes a lot of improv and role-play) and the other is more of an interactive meditation on holy texts.

Mátyás Harpgándi Also something important: Bibliodrama is mostly about the Bible but not only! That is actually a subgroup called Bibledrama. Bibliodrama means drama of texts and could use any kind of (holy) script for comtemplation. Beside Christian sources I regularly use ancient Chinese and Indian text.


Anon 2: Hard disagree that thin roles are not role-play… sorry Jiituomas <3

Mátyás Harpgándi I think he says its role-play but not strictly ‘larping’


Anon 2: How do we determine what makes a role deep?

Anon 2: Not weird… super cool!


Anon 3: Interesting – something I have also wondered about i edularps


Anon 1: Playing “the drunk” or “the elf” is enough of a role to make it larping, imho.


Anon 4: Super interesting, need to look at Leveleki


Anon 5: Not sure if there’s anything about Eszter Leveleki in English. It might be a good idea to change that.


Anon 6:…/2557_everybody_is…


Anon 1: Hungarians always mention these fantasy camps. I want to know more!


Anon 7: While I stayed in Hungary I met some people who run one of them. They described it as a larp game where they use three days to represent each year and encouraged the children there to roleplay while structuring the events in such a way that they tought them social, political and management skills.

Anon 7: Their typical event runs for about two weeks over the summer holidays and they use the ‘three days makes the year’ structure to look at a much longer period of time than most larps manage.


Anon 8: So many shortforms rely on characters based on one word, if that. I would still call it larping.

Mátyás Harpgándi You can, but then larp becomes nearly synonymous with any kind of embodied role-playing. Do you agree?


Anon 2: I think a lot of these distinctions are silos honestly where independent groups think they invented something and have their own term for it. It’s more useful to compare individual larps and their content with these other exercises, as well as their go…See More


Anon 9: While I encountered this less in larp, tabletop rpgs have a whole category of games where you’re playing yourself in some imaginary situation. (There’s a zombie apocalypse, but you are literally yourself)


Anon 4: For a long time I tried to design larps where there wasn’t really a “character” as much as a “social role” and a “situation” – if you get it and design it really well, it totally works, but it’s really hard to get people around “what do you mean there’s no character”


Anon 2: There’s still alibi of fiction, so you are still technically a character. Just a character nearly identical to the self.


Anon 9: Anon 2: You’re absolutely right, of course. But it is the “thinnest” role I can think of, and it is also harder to justify actions with an alibi in such circumstances. Sure, you would only kill your friend in a zombie apocalypse, but… do you mean you would actually kill your friend in a zombie apocalypse?


Anon 10: I think it would be impossible to be play your authentic self because there is a wide gap between an actual crisis situation and a larp/rpg context in terms of real-world consequences. This is, I think, what makes it “a character based on you” rather than “you as a character”


Anon 9: By the way, probably the most popular incarnation of this idea is this line of games:…/the-end-of-the-world/


Anon 2: I play a lot of extremely close to home roleplaying where basically we are versions of ourselves. The narratives and actions often can diverge wildly from everyday life due to fiction and people have alibi due to the setting to speak about things they normally wouldn’t in polite conversation. It adds new affordances that daily life does not.


Anon 11: It might sound like a very silly question, but can someone please clarify to me what does the term “authentic self” mean? Isn’t there some saying that identity is a taking of roles? And if so, and I am highly speculating here, can’t we strive towards the goal of making the players identify more with their characters than with their “real” selves?

Mátyás Harpgándi ‘Role-shaming’ 😀


Anon 1: Mátyás Harpgándi Great stuff!


Anon 10: I’ve been using the definition of larp by Tuomas Harviainen from the 2011 book where he says that the characters should be more than social roles 🙂

Mátyás Harpgándi This is a serious misconception in Hungary. Harviainen talked about the key criteria of larping (the activity), not about the definition of larps (the events). His whole writing is about this separation.


Anon 10: Thanks for the clarification!

I’m looking forward to having your article to quote from too in the future 🙂


Anon 1: There are no set definitions of larp and larping, it’s an ongoing discussion. That you are now a part of! 🙂


Anon 2: I usually just simplify as “playing a character in a fictional environment and some degree of physical enactment of character.” Pretty close, without the “deep role” specification.


Anon 12: I think that as long as it doesn’t result in flat characters (because playing a trope is just boring) any form of characterization should be valid


Anon 12: …although there are, of course, even interesting ways to play a trope 😉


Anon 8: But how do we determine what a “flat” character is? That’s the part I’m struggling with, what’s the bar here? When is it a deep character?


Anon 12: I’m going with the definition of flat character I was taught as a lit studies student at uni — a character that consists of nothing but stereotypical definitions, with only a single point of view and no form of development or insight.


Anon 2: ^^ this. I also worry that it stigmatizes less skilled or experienced role-players. (“How do we determine a flat character?”)


Anon 1: A character description may be super short and flat, but the character interpretation can still be deep and nuanced. There’s really no way to know except for the player.


Anon 12: I respectfully disagree with that, Anon 2, as I don’t think a less experienced or skilled player would necessarily gravitate towards playing a flat character — to me, it seems more likely that they would play an aspect of themselves as a character (‘me as the king’), which by definition wouldn’t be a flat character.


Anon 8: Anon 12: That still feels really vague to me. Like Anon 2, I worry it will stigmatize people.

I think there’s already a high barrier of entry for larp, and newer players often talk about not being good enough for various roles or responsibilities. How do we work with this definition without telling people their characters are too flat?


Anon 2: Me as the king would fall under “just a social role” in Harviainen’s definition.

Mátyás Harpgándi Anon 2: they might start as social roles but these kings & queens can organically became nuanced and unique personalities during the long process… thus larping? 🙂


Anon 12: Which is why I said that I believe any form of characterization should be valid — that we should not be using too narrow a definition. Perhaps the ‘flat character’ caveat is just my own preference, though, I do admit that. I would never tell anyone that their character is too flat or that they can’t play a certain way.


Anon 2: Mátyás Harpgándi social roles are still larping to me 🙂

Mátyás Harpgándi Anon 2: But then larp becomes nearly synonymous with any kind of embodied role-playing. Is that good? Why do we need a second, hobbist jargon (larp) for a general phenomenon? Because we are larpers who like their hobby? 👿

Anon 2: Mátyás Harpgándi I discussed this in my comment to your paper, but one of the things I think that makes edu-larp unique is it arises from leisure play. So some of the techniques and experiences of leisure play may apply to it (say, experience points, o…See


Anon 13: We (Terrible Creations) cater most of our games to non-players. We don’t use the acronym larp at all because we found it was confusing them.


Anon 2: Anon 13: I tell my students they will be larpers by the end of the session when we edu-larp. They are nervous at first, but then have no trouble using the word larp afterward. (They span several decades for age groups). I think it’s okay for them to be confused at first.


Anon 13: Anon 2:D Good approach! We usually congratulate adult newcomers afterwards on losing their larp virginity. 😉


Anon 2: Haha not sure that would fly in American schools but intriguing approach 😉


Anon 13: Anon 2: Emphasis was on “adult”. Wouldn’t do it with a bunch of teenagers. 😀 But it tends to work well with grown-ups.


Anon 2: Adults too…. Americans tend to be very sensitive about sexualizing language. Which is probably for good reason considering power dynamics of teacher-student 🙂 but also religious students may be actually saving their virginity for marriage


Anon 13: Anon 2: Cultural differences may apply, of course. And should. We do stress it’s a larp virginity, though. But I can see how it might not sit well with some audiences.


Anon 13: Also, we avoid comparisons to theatre if we can help it because people tend to freeze when they think they have to act.

Mátyás Harpgándi I think using the term ‘deep’ roles was misleading. I’m not neccesarily talking about the quality of role-taking or the depth of immersion. Would you like to see an English infographic about the different stages of role-shaping?


Anon 11: I would love to, while I didn’t agree with everything, I would really like to read some more. 🙂


Anon 2: Absolutely!

Anon 2: I think what Harviainen means is not just playing a function or social role, but a personality, a more complex ego structure with additional motivations and characteristics. I think these things can evolve in role-playing even with thin characters depending on player choice, but a larper is still role-playing if the role remains thin and they are engaged.

Mátyás Harpgándi So as a summary, I dont really have any problem with our larp jargon, people talk the way they talk. But I think some of those words are so biased that we should avoid them and use more neutral terms when dealing with outsider specialist (especially if they are from a related sibling field like other forms of role-play)


Anon 4: That was something I encountered a LOT coming from theatre. I felt like larpers were using words that had a whole heckton of meaning and context behind them, in ways that were sometimes accurate and sometimes perversions of what they’d borrowed. But! Getting deeper into larp (or, in my experience, any field at all) you always seem to end up with these terminologies that have limited application outside that field, and the challenge is simply to be able to become familiar with the depths in other people’s fields and learn how to bridge between them.

Mátyás Harpgándi If I identify as a larper, everything I borrow from Drama in Education could be considered a part of edularp. If I identify with process drama, every technique from Nordic larps could fit into my DiE practice as a new convention. But is there a neutral language to communicate between fields? I think we who work with applied larp should work toward that if we want to avoid terminology wars.

This was part of the Solmukohta 2020 online program.

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