Together at Last: Romantic Paradox in a Not-Quite-Dystopian Future

Together at Last: Romantic Paradox in a Not-Quite-Dystopian Future

This article is the third in a series on Larping Intimacy and Relationships.

Content advisory: Dysfunctional relationships, domestic violence, murky consent, grooming, virginity, incest, pregnancy and parenting, potential spoilers

Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in Together At Last, February 15-18, 2024 in Berg en Dal, the Netherlands. Together at Last is a larp focused on romantic play by Reflections Larp Studio, designed and organized by Karolina Soltys, Patrik Bálint, David Owen, Lu Larpová, Marie-Lucie Genet, and Phil D’Souza. Based on the Black Mirror episode “Hang the DJ” and, to a lesser extent, the film The Lobster, the larp is set in a governmental facility in which volunteers are matchmade three times in order to find their Perfect Match. The larp originated online during the pandemic and was run 15 times as Together Forever, then transitioned to in-person play for 4 runs, with 2 additional runs planned for 2025. This run of the larp had 40 players, including 4 organizer-run characters.

Photo of two people in hazmat suitsThe original setting made use of the actual pandemic and social isolation conditions players experienced to maximum effect; in this near-future scenario, humans cannot leave the house or socialize with others outside of hazmat suits without facing instant death from the mutated virus unless living in the same household as a family. Once a person decided to leave home, they must live alone, as proximity was too risky. As physical contact and companionship was deemed necessary by the government for human thriving, the Together Forever program was designed in order to allow people to date. At the end of the program, the system decides which characters are matched together, as well as which characters will remain unmatched. The matched participants are married in a perfunctory mass ceremony. Participants must choose to marry their “forever match” assigned by the algorithm at the end of the program; otherwise, they forfeit their right to ever go through the program again. Their alternatives were to beg this person to reject them or to run off into the wilderness to become part of the Banished, a group of people living in dangerous conditions outside of society. Divorce was possible long after the match was made, although that was deemphasized in play.

A once-per-lifetime vaccine giving 3 day immunity neutralized the virus enough to allow the participants to temporarily be physically co-present with multiple people, which for most characters meant the first time they had ever experienced physical intimacy in-person instead of VR; in other words, even if VR technology had become advanced in this near-future world, most characters were physically virginal for all intents and purposes. This chip was “new,” as previous versions of the program occurred online. In practice, this meant that play was punctuated by the strangeness of being physically co-present with so many people, able to go outside without a hazmat suit for the first time, etc. We actually started the game with a hazmat suit and mask on, waiting in line to be sanitized and processed, before we could change into our first “date” clothes and experience our first match. This contrast between the sterile government facility and the nightlife vibe was also emphasized in our costuming requirements for daytime, in which we were only permitted to wear white, grey, or light pastel comfortable clothes, including the optional Together at Last t-shirt with the program’s logo.

People in hazmat suits bathed in blue lights

The sanitization process. Photo by Marlies. Image has been cropped.

The characters were jointly designed by the players and the organizers through an extensive in-game and off-game online form. The majority of the character’s personality arose from player inputs, with the relationships designed for us to link these disparate characters together. My character, Hope Novak, was one of the few who had experienced the program before, having been successfully matched for twelve years before her husband died. 

While much could be said about the design of Together at Last, this article will focus upon several tensions I noticed — some which are embedded in the design and some I consider byproducts of it — which I will label paradoxes for dramatic effect. To be clear, none of these paradoxes are bugs of this brilliantly-designed larp, but rather features when exploring the difficult nuances of interpersonal intimacy. I enjoyed myself immensely at the larp and had incredibly powerful experiences with my co-players, in part because of the brilliant design. That being said, I think foregrounding these tensions is important due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, especially when discussing a larp framed as aiming for play on a spectrum between absurdist comedy to realism to melodrama.

Photo of person in black on a couch

Photo by Bianca Eckert.

The Paradoxes of Consent, Rejection, and Monogamy

Like many Nordic-inspired international larps, Together at Last normalized queer play, as many of the matches would end up being queer in terms of gender and sexuality. Such a rule is not controversial in this play community, as many players identify as queer and/or polyamorous, or at least identify as allies. However, diegetically polyamory was not permitted in the program and was stigmatized, although the designers explained afterward that the intention was for this stigma to arise from logistical reasons based on the “laws of virology” rather than the “oppressive society.”

As players can sometimes experience discrimination due to physical appearance in such games (van der Heij 2021), we were not allowed to play upon lack of physical desire for the other person, but were instead given an impressive list of other playable reasons to reject them. This list ended up super helpful as a personal steering and mutual calibration tool, to the point that I think an article about “how to reject a character in a mutually beneficial way for players” is warranted. Furthermore, the larp was explicitly framed as not erotic (Grasmo and Stenros 2022), meaning that we were not allowed to be nude or engage in overly physical play during sex scenes. While players could ultimately choose their level of contact, the organizers recommended calibrating different representational modes of physical intimacy, e.g., using stage kissing and exaggerated movements; fading to black; or discussing what happens. Ideally, the scenes would be short and obvious, letting others clearly know what happened so they could react dramatically.

Image of two people posing for a camera

Photo by Lea-Maria Anger.

Diegetically, in-game pregnancy was not possible due to contraceptives in the water supply, although in my run, one character was permitted to join the larp pregnant somehow by another character. Instead, the government would assign a certain number of babies, which would be vat-grown and delivered via drone to the married couple’s home at some point in the future. This conceit allowed play on sexuality to be a bit more free. Instead of traditional conception, the algorithm determined if a character was permitted to have children based upon their behavior in an in-game parenting workshop; they were assessed based upon their care for a pretend baby made of flour over several hours, among other factors. 

Furthermore, during each date, each match was made to fill out a form in which they discussed important topics related to marriage, including how to decorate their small government-provided apartment, how many children to have, what types of sexual kinks they would like to explore, etc. Diegetically, these forms all contributed to the “data” that led to the final “perfect match” selection. Thus, while engagement with childrearing was technically optional in-game, in practice, the theme became pervasive throughout the larp, e.g., topically in the forms, visually with play around the flour babies.

Photo of two people in makeup and black clothing

The larp emphasized consent-based play and consistent calibration. We engaged in bullet-time consent (Koljonen 2016a) for physical play and were encouraged to calibrate liberally off-game with other participants. Workshop time was devoted to calibrating with each of our three matches, which was extremely important, because we spent the better part of an entire day playing closely with each of them in turn. However, once runtime was happening, I would have preferred to have time reserved for calibration with matches before each date off-game rather than relying on ad hoc side discussions. 

While we had other social connections and plots, we were under instruction in-game and off-game to make sure we interacted with our dates the majority of the time (80%). This rule was in place explicitly to avoid an issue that sometimes arises in larp: some players will ignore romantic plotlines that are central to play because they are not attracted off-game to the player, which can lead to a terrible experience for the other person. Furthermore, players should avoid filling up their “dance card” with known relations ahead of time and should be open to playing with unknown players, especially when the larp relies upon it (Tolvanen 2022). This principle was especially important in Together at Last, as we did not sign up in pairs, a recommended practice in other larps featuring dyadic play, see for example Helicon (2024), Daemon (2021-), Baphomet (2015-), etc.

Photo of two people embracing and holding a pretend flour baby

Parenting class.

However, consent becomes a bit tricky in situations like these. Yes, we technically opted-in to playing closely on romance with three people — likely off-game strangers. But chemistry can be a difficult thing to predict even when not considering physical or emotional desire (Nøglebæk 2016, 2023); for example, incompatible playstyles can be a bad fit in such close, mostly-dyadic play (Bowman 2024). We are essentially responsible for another person’s positive experience in ways that can feel a bit like labor (Koulu 2020), which is not an inherently bad thing for me: I often prefer to play characters with a support role (Fido-Fairfax 2024, in press), which is why I played one of the game’s few in-game coach/counselors. 

But that responsibility for another’s play experience is quite heavy especially when engaging with romantic and sexual intimacy. In such games, we expose some of the most vulnerable parts of ourselves to others, even through the alibi of the character. We may think the alibi is strong for many reasons — trust among co-players, a rather light-hearted and sometimes absurd setting, strong distinction between player and character personality, etc. But the emotions we experience are often all-too-familiar, and may have spectres of previous relationship memories attached to them, reemerging unbidden before, during, or after play. From a transformative play perspective, these emergences can be viewed as positive, in that they show us areas that need healing in ourselves (Hugaas and Bowman 2019), but not everyone attends leisure larps interested in or prepared for intensive personal transformation.

Emotions around rejecting others or being rejected are especially potent and are inherent to this setting. Needs for love and belonging and fears of ostracization drive much of human behavior as matters of survival, and are especially sensitive with romantic and sexual relationships. These themes were inherently present in the larp, whether or not each individual player experienced them or not.  

Photo of two people in white sitting on the floor, one with a head on the other's shoulder

Polaroid photo by Karolina Soltys.

The first date was meant to feel like an evening. Then, the chip went into “Turbo mode,” meaning Dates 2 and 3, which were only one day in this run, felt to the character like a several month relationship. This design combined with the enforced monogamy meant that rejection would likely happen in-game on some level. For example, while we could still pine for our last match, diegetically we risked being reported and kicked out of the program if we did not adhere to the rules, such as not talking to our exes without a “chaperone.” While off-game, we were encouraged to bend the rules, in practice, this rule meant that at least some of the time, many of our characters were likely to feel insecure or rejected as we watched our potential “perfect match” playing closely with others.

The angst around these feelings was also tied to the fact we had no actual power to choose who we married in the end or whether we got married at all, leaving our fate up to the “algorithm” and for us to “trust the process.” Interestingly, as players, we had much more influence over the outcome than our characters; we were instructed to fill in calibration forms at the end of each match, sharing our in-game feelings for our current match (and others at the program). We were also permitted to share our personal desires for an ending as an off-game request; some players wanted a happy ending, others wanted a terrible match, and others let the organizers decide the ending. This last option seemed the most risky to me, as unsuspecting players might be sideswiped by emotional (Montola 2010) and romantic bleed (Boss 2007; Waern 2010; Bowman 2015; Hugaas 2022) from past triggers or current desires dashed. 

Person in pink wig and shirt holding a sign that says love next to a red heart shaped balloon

The HelpBot.

Furthermore, the game setting itself was inherently murky consent-wise. While were instructed not to play on sexual violence of any kind, there were in-game consequences for rejecting our current match. Yes, technically we all opted-in to the program, but we had literally no other choice if we wanted to live with another person. We could live alone or with our families, some of which we wrote to be highly dysfunctional and even abusive. We were not required to engage in sexuality with our matches, but we would be forced by the program to live with them for a certain length of time before divorcing, or be alone. And since polyamory was forbidden, we were expected to somehow make it work with this person. Off-game, this rule was here in part to provide angst for the characters, who would likely have feelings for multiple people, but also to try to prevent the players from solving their character’s dilemmas in this not-quite-dystopia by becoming poly. The HelpBot, a non-sentient robot who helped run the program, who played by one of the organizers, would inform us that 97.5% of matches ended up “perfect”… even if it took 10 years for the couples to realize it.

My character Hope was a 45 year-old intimacy coach who made her living by teaching people ways to connect in online environments. She also had the visceral memory of living harmoniously with someone for much of her recent life; indeed, her “perfect match.” However, Hope was also polyamorous, which was highly frowned upon in this setting, meaning she was one of the few people critical of what she viewed to be compulsory monogamy forced upon the program participants. Indeed, one of the reasons her previous husband, Paul, was “perfect” was that he supported her online relationships with other people and provided stability while she was on the turbulent rollercoaster of dating.

The game had an overarching Panopticon feel, as all interactions were fed through our chips to the system as “data.” Our matches were read over a loudspeaker by a robot voice each time they occurred, with dramatic pauses for us to react within our Support Groups, which were set up for us by the program. Almost all of us were matched with one or more exes. For Hope, this practice was initially problematic, as her ex had left because she wanted a monogamous relationship. While we were instructed by our character sheet and the rules to be excited to see these exes at the program, Hope immediately worried if this forced interaction would be unwelcome, which thankfully it was not. 

Furthermore, Hope found out in-game that her ex was almost twenty years younger than her and a virgin (like most characters), while my character had previously been married and had many online relationships. (Note that before the game, I asked the organizers to be paired with players closer to my age to try to avoid these issues, which thankfully was arranged). This fact led to extensive discussion between our characters about the ethics of such a relationship, a conversation also echoed in Hope’s second match, Serena, who Hope believed was her soul mate. Serena had been married before but had never experimented with polyamory. In both cases, my character’s polyamory could be experienced as non-consensual non-monogamy by the other characters, leading to rocky emotional waters in-game and discomfort for me off-game.

Person in wedding dress and veil with arm around another person.

Siblings preparing for the mass wedding. Photo by Linnéa Cecilia.

Another oddity was the inclusion of family members in the setting. As players, we were expressly directed not to engage in incest. Yet, in practice, to engage in group activities such as the sex education, burlesque, and neo-tantra workshops (which I ran), characters were asked to consider sexual themes in close proximity with their parents, siblings, or cousins. On the plus side, this factor also led to deep play around protectiveness and family-building; two of the Dates featured a Meet the Family meal, in which various configurations of participants found themselves testing the waters of each new family constellation. 

Finally, while the setting enforced monogamy, it was also paradoxically a polyamorous — or at least serial monogamist — environment. As an intimacy specialist, Hope found this setup to be irresponsible at best and sadistic at worst. Not only were characters forced into relationships with their previous exes, but they also had new exes after every match all together in the same space. They were forbidden diegetically from openly loving or desiring others, although of course transgressions of these rules were off-game encouraged. No one had any time to process the relationship they just left and were forced into another relationship immediately, a recipe for drama and dysfunction — which, of course, makes for excellent larp fodder. 

Inherent to this design was the “Singles Night” embedded in the program after Date 2, in which characters were temporarily single. While they were discouraged from interacting with their exes, of course this rule was repeatedly broken and new connections were formed, many of which did not align with Date 3 the next day. Hope interpreted this more licentious setup as entirely intentional on the part of the program — any connections that night fed the algorithm more “data” regarding who might actually make a good match and how characters might behave given liberty. 

Photo of two people

Serena and Hope before the wedding.

Thus, the compulsory monogamy of the program was challenged at each stage of the process in fascinating ways. Regardless of how each character felt about their previous matches, they were likely to have strong feelings of some kind that caused complications in the future relationships. Hope viewed these complications as a test of her integrity as an openly polyamorous person: could Hope have compersion and be happy for her soul mate if she fell deeply in love, had incredible intimate experiences, or ended up married to someone else? Wrestling with this inner dilemma was intense enough for me to feel that I had not “solved” the larp through poly as a player.

When the robot voice announced who Hope would marry — thankfully, her second match and “soul mate,” Serena — the joy Hope felt was immediately tempered when she considered the feelings of her two exes in the room, including her third match, who also happened to be in her Support Group watching her reaction. Fortunately, the two had come to a mutual understanding, but still the drama of the moment was high for all characters. Furthermore, Hope had difficulty feeling joy when her other loved ones in the room were visibly distressed by their matches. The Group Wedding final scene was bittersweet, as the matched characters lined up in their fancy wedding clothes for the mass ritual, while the Unmatched watched on in their hazmat suits, preparing for more time physically separated from intimacy with others. Conversely, some  characters were devastated by their pairings, yearning instead to be with someone else.

Again, this complicated ending was engineered for maximum larp drama, and even steered toward by many of the players to get their desires met for their version of good play (Pettersson 2021). 

The Paradoxes of Physicality, Tone, and Genre

A game like Together at Last is difficult to classify in terms of traditional larp genres. While we the genres of romantic comedy and drama are well-known in film, such genres have yet to be established fully in larp. In part, this limitation is due to taboos historically in more traditional play communities around romantic, sexual, and physical play, which often lead play groups to deny  acknowledging that romantic bleed is a natural phenomenon that can happen to anyone (Bowman 2013). Even in the Nordic community, larps focused on oppression dynamics are far more common than settings focused entirely on romance, to the point where the designers had to explicitly signpost on the website to manage player expectations (Koljonen 2016a) that Together at Last: 

is a story about attempting to have romantic relationships with a variety of people, some better suited to you than others, about growing as a person and looking for true love, whatever that means. It is not intended to be ‘misery porn,’ though there may be some difficult themes in the character backstories (e.g. depression, bullying, emotionally abusive parents). (Reflections Larp Studio, 2024)

That is not to say that larps centered upon romance do not exist; notable exceptions are Regency-based larps such as Fortune and Felicity (Harder 2017; Kemper 2017) and many UK freeforms, but rather that they are not nearly as common, and thus the play culture surrounding them is not fully solidified in terms of conventions around physicality and tone. Therefore, I would say that romance-based larp is an emerging genre — one that is developing alongside erotic larp, but is not necessarily synonymous, just as sexual and romantic attraction do not always coexist (Wood and D 2021). I would say JD Lade’s Listen 2 Your Heart (Bowman 2023) also fits the romantic genre, whereas larps like Just a Little Lovin’ (2012-) or Helicon (2024) may or may not depending on the way the characters are written and enacted.

Photo of a person sitting on a couch, with another person on the floor embracing their wig.

Former members of the Banished reintegrating into the main society through the program. Photo by Marlies.

As a developing genre, norms need to be established and made clear by the organizers about what the game is and is not. Otherwise, players tend to rely on their larp muscle memory (Bowman 2017), unconsciously driving play toward genre expectations that are more familiar to them, or inserting genre conventions that were not intended as themes. This tendency is not in itself necessarily a bad thing, but it can lead to wildly different expectations of play, interpretations of content, and spreading of themes that were not necessarily intended by the designers. For example, as I have described with Listen 2 Your Heart (Bowman 2023), the last minute addition of vampires to an otherwise romantic game might lead some to find the content appealing, whereas others might find it troubling (e.g., Edward’s problematic behavior in Twilight). 

As mentioned above, at Together at Last, we were instructed to play along a spectrum of absurd comedy, realism, and melodrama. However, I noticed people bringing in conventions from the gothic horror and noir detective genres, which caused a bit of cognitive dissonance for me. For example, behavior that might be gritty and normative in a noir film (or even in a BDSM context) might be considered abusive in a light romance context without calibration. A normal reaction to psychological terror in a gothic horror book may look like a psychotic break in another context, something my counselor-type character found especially concerning. In both cases, I was able to successfully calibrate with the players in question, which was a relief, but the experiences were jarring. It can also be difficult to tell if such actions were fully calibrated off-game with other players involved, which can lead to concern, especially when role-players are very immersed in the drama and convincing. We were encouraged to break game to check in with other players, but I found myself wishing we had workshopped the Okay Check-In (Brown 2016) or something similar to practice in an embodied fashion.

 I often noted what I could only describe as “hate walking”: characters experiencing something emotionally upsetting and hate walking away up and down the halls, sometimes in packs, with one or more characters hate-walking alongside as emotional support. Of course, larp is a physical activity, and such behavior added to the dynamism of the environment, but it also added a sense of volatility. At the afterparty, the organizers shared that this run was particularly “dark,” with the previous one ending up far more “wholesome.” I suspect part of the shifting dynamics between larp runs has to do with the player-written characters, as different inserting kinds of content can radically impact the game, i.e., the domino effect (Bowman 2017). 

Interestingly, I have noticed that these romantic larps that have been run several times tend to develop a devoted following, especially if the setting allows for a unique experience each time the game is played. Both Listen 2 Your Heart and Together at Last had an active Discord before, during, and after the game. Such channels lead to an intriguing blend of in-game and off-game light-hearted banter and pre-game play (Svanevik and Brind 2016) that often impacts dynamics in-game. The character sheets were all transparent, meaning we could read them before play, leading some players to have a strong in- and off-game familiarity with all of the characters; some even seemed to ship some duos over others coming into the game, meaning they had preferences for who should end up together and not. The Together at Last Discord was active many months before the larp and though I could not participate in it due to time constraints, I found it oddly reassuring to see people connecting so excitedly around larp. The Discord also became a needed lifeline after play, as we emerged from this 3-day experience back into life (see e.g., Bjärstorp and Ragnerstam 2023). Now, in the post-larp transition, it feels good to continue to be connected to my co-players.

Diegetically, the Discord was used in interesting ways as well. We all had our own in-game social media timeline upon which people could post, as well as several channels for special interests our characters would have had online, e.g., simulators for farming or raising AI children. One of the reasons this run was particularly intense was that many of the characters were celebrities, so actions that happened in-game would become news stories on Discord, thus raising the stakes. The organizers also used the Discord to communicate key logistical things that we were expected to do, such as filling out the forms. Many players fluidly switched between the online engagement on their phones and the in-person play, but I found it difficult not to get sucked into my off-game responsibilities, so I used it sparingly until after the game. Ultimately, the larp was a paradoxical hybrid of virtual and physical, especially considering the newness of physicality compared to the relative comfort the characters had with virtual encounters. 

In-game celebrities made for an active Discord with extensive online play.

In-game celebrities made for an active Discord with extensive online play.

Romantic Realism

I appreciated that Together at Last made space for happy endings for players who wanted to have that experience (as I did). I also really enjoy being part of the ongoing online community around these intense romantic larps. I have had some deep and potent scenes, as well as debriefs, with the players. I feel very lucky to have been a part of these experiences. Each larp had moments of brilliance in its design, leading to a feeling of safety when playing with these emotionally fraught themes.

That being said, after each of the larps in this series, I keep wondering what it might look like to play a multi-day romantic larp focused entirely on a realistic exploration of healthy intimacy. I have played several short Nordic freeform scenarios on romantic relationships, although they usually focus on issues of breakups (En kærlighedshistorie, Ellemand and Nilsson 2012), infidelity (Under My Skin, Boss 2010), and other critical issues rather than on trying to develop and maintain a functioning loving relationship. I realize that content might be boring for some players, but in my view, even relatively healthy relationships have plenty of inherent conflict to work through — for example, insecure attachment styles or trauma recovery. 

Photo of two people embracing

Hope and Serena.

If larps help us develop skills in a deeply embodied way, which I believe they are capable of doing, what are we practicing when we return to dysfunction as a source of drama? What lessons are we experiencing in our bodies about love in times of conflict? What catharsis is happening? And what takeaways can we distill from these dynamics that we can infuse with our daily lives afterward, whether as cautionary tales or breakthroughs, our own intimate relationships, or our relationship with our own vulnerable, human hearts?  

Together at Last

Designed and organized by: Karolina Soltys, Patrik Bálint, David Owen, Lu Larpová, Marie-Lucie Genet, and Phil D’Souza

Cost: 300€

Location: Berg en Dal, the Netherlands

Players: 40 


Bjärstorp, Sara, and Petra Ragnerstam. 2023. “Live-action Role Playing and the Affordances of Social Media.” Culture Unbound 15, no. 2: 66-87.

Boss, Emily Care. 2007. “Romance and Gender in Role-playing Games: Too Hot to Handle? Presentation at Ropecon 2007.” Black and Green Games.

Boss, Emily Care. 2009. Under My Skin. Black and Green Games.

Bowman, Sarah Lynne. 2013. “Social Conflict in Role-playing Communities: An Exploratory Qualitative Study.” International Journal of Role-Playing 4: 17-18. 

Bowman, Sarah Lynne. 2018. “The Larp Domino Effect.” In Shuffling the Deck: The Knutpunkt 2018 Color Printed Companion, edited by Annika Waern and Johannes Axner, 161-170. Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Mellon University: ETC Press.

Bowman, Sarah Lynne. 2023. “Listen 2 Your Heart Season 8: An Unexpectedly Bleedy Experiment.”, November 20.

Bowman, Sarah Lynne. 2024. “Helicon: An Epic Larp about Love, Beauty, and Brutality.”, Feb. 25, 2024.

Brown, Maury. 2016. “Creating a Culture of Trust through Safety and Calibration Larp Mechanics.”, September 9.

Fido-Fairfax, Karolina. 2024, in press. “Strings and Rails: NPCs vs. Supporting Characters.”  In Liminal Encounters: Evolving Discourse in Nordic and Nordic Inspired Larp, edited by Kaisa Kangas et al., 38-40. Helsinki, Finland: Ropecon ry.

Harder, Sanne. 2017. “Fortune & Felicity: When Larp Grows Up.”, June 13.

Ellemand, Jonas, and Ida Nilsson. 2012. En kærlighedshistorie.

Grasmo, Hanne, and Jaakko Stenros. 2022. “Nordic Erotic Larp: Designing for Sexual Playfulness.” International Journal of Role-Playing 12: 62-105.

Hugaas, Kjell Hedgard. 2022. “Bleed and Identity: A Conceptual Model of Bleed and How Bleed-out from Role-playing Games Can Affect a Player’s Sense of Self.” Master’s thesis, Uppsala University.

Hugaas, Kjell Hedgard, and Sarah Lynne Bowman. 2019. “The Butterfly Effect Manifesto.”, August 20.

Kemper, Jonaya. 2017. “The Battle of Primrose Park: Playing for Emancipatory Bleed in Fortune & Felicity.”, June 21.

Koljonen, Johanna. 2016a. “Basics of Opt-In, Opt-Out Design Pt 3: What They Need to Know at Signup.” Participation Safety in Larp, July 5.

Koljonen, Johanna. 2016b. “Toolkit: The Tap-Out.” Participation Safety in Larp, September 11.

Koulu, Sanna. 2020. “Emotions as Skilled Work.” In What Do We Do When We Play?, edited by Eleanor Saitta, Johanna Koljonen, Jukka Särkijärvi, Anne Serup Grove, Pauliina Männistö, and Mia Makkonen, 98-106. Helsinki: Solmukohta.

Montola, Markus. 2010. “The Positive Negative Experience in Extreme Role-playing.” In Proceedings of DiGRA Nordic 2010: Experiencing Games: Games, Play, and Players. Stockholm, Sweden, August 16.

Nøglebæk, Oliver. 2016. “The 4 Cs of Larping Love.” Olivers tegninger om rollespil, August 18.

Nøglebæk, Oliver. 2023. “The 4 Cs of Larping Love.”, November 14.

Pettersson, Juhana. 2021. Engines of Desire: Larp as the Art of Experience. Pohjoismaisen roolipelaamisen seura ry.

Reflections Larp Studio. 2024. “Together at Last: Playstyle.”

Svanevik, Martine, and Simon Brind. 2016. “‘Pre-Bleed is Totally a Thing.’” In Larp Realia: Analysis, Design, and Discussions of Nordic Larp, edited by Jukka Särkijärvi, Mika Loponen, and Kaisa Kangas,  108-119. Helsinki: Ropecon ry.

Tolvanen, Anni. 2022. “A Full House Trumps a Dance Card – Anni Tolvanen.” Nordic Larp Talks. YouTube, September 11.

van der Heij, Karijn. 2021. “We Share This Body: Tools to Fight Appearance-Based Prejudice at Larps.”, June 14.

Waern, Annika. 2010. “‘I’m in Love With Someone That Doesn’t Exist!!’ Bleed in the Context of a Computer Game.” In Proceedings of DiGRA Nordic 2010: Experiencing Games: Games, Play, and Players. Stockholm, Sweden, August 16.

Wood, Laura, and Quinn D. 2021. “Sex, Romance and Attraction: Applying the Split Attraction Model to Larps.”, February 22.

Cover photo: Polaroid by Karolina Soltys. Image has been cropped.

Become a patron at Patreon!


Sarah Lynne Bowman is a game scholar, designer, and organizer. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in Game Design at Uppsala University, a founding member of their Transformative Play Initiative, as well as the Program Coordinator for Peace & Conflict Studies at Austin Community College. Bowman also teaches as adjunct faculty in English, Communication, and Humanities. McFarland Press published her dissertation in 2010 as The Functions of Role-playing Games: How Participants Create Community, Solve Problems, and Explore Identity. She helped organize the Living Games Conference (2014, 2016, 2016) and the Role-playing and Simulation in Education Conference (2016, 2018). In addition, Bowman served as an editor for The Wyrd Con Companion Book from 2012-2015. She is currently a Coordinating Editor for the International Journal of Role-Playing and a managing editor at