Tears in the Rain

Tears in the Rain

A version of this article was originally published in the Knudepunkt 2023 underground book ‘larp truths ready to be heard’.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe… Larp forum threads on fire off the shoulder of phpBB… I watched instamatic photos glitter in albums near the Immersionist Gate. All those… moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time… To die.

I’m old, so this might come across as old_man_yelling_at_cloud.gif, but hear me out: we suck at documenting our larps these days. There are no central larp calendars for what larps have been run and which ones are upcoming. Photos end up not in public larp galleries or forums but in personal photo albums on social media sites or closed places like invite-only events on Facebook, Discord servers etc. Discussions take place on personal social media walls or feeds, or in said closed larp events/groups or chatrooms. Amazing larps (and disastrous ones) come and go, and the only traces they leave are scattered on the social media platform breeze.

Don’t believe me? As an exercise, (without doing a shoutout on your Facebook wall) try to come up with a list of 10 larps organized in your country from a couple of years ago, let’s say 2019. Or even 2022. How do you do it? Where do you look for information? How to find out who organized those larps, at what venues were they run? What did they cost? Where are the stories from that larp, or discussions about what happened there, the interesting techniques used or the bad design choices? Try finding photos from those larps. Where are they, and how do you find them?

I’ve done this exercise over and over, trying to piece together clues and compiling the scant information into lists. It’s exhausting work that requires not only extensive research and time, but also for you to reach out (often on social media) to complete strangers – who may or may not even get notified about your message or may even miss it completely in the constant algorithm maze that is social media these days – to get a hold of even the basics: who organized the larp? Did it even happen or was it cancelled? What was the larp about?

Believe it or not, but this task is much easier for larps way back  even from back in the dark 1990s, before everyone had internet, you can still find archived forum threads, cached web pages and paper fanzine articles, that allow you to study larps that few have ever heard of. The larps of 2023? Who knows, it’s all lost in the Facebook fog of war (or even worse, buried deep in an endless stream of text on some Discord server or another). After 2012 it gets progressively harder to find information about larps, and after 2020 it’s basically a black hole. Plot the information available on a graph and you’d think larp basically died out in 2018.

So, who cares, you might ask yourself. What do I care about photos from that Finnish viking larp back around 2018, or about who organized that nordic noir slash fae power struggle larp in Copenhagen last fall? Well, we should care about our history  not only the “old” history from the 1990s or the early 2000s when “everything” happened, we should care about writing our history today for the decades to come  or it will just be a blank spot on the map, a gaping hole in the traditions and evolution of this strange hobby of ours. We should care about where we’ve been, what we’ve tried and experienced, and not only that  we should be proud and celebrate all of our larps  the good, the bad, the ones that pushed the limits or expanded the borders of our hobby, the ones that tried but failed, and the ones that perhaps didn’t leave a mark in the halls of fame but still reside in the collective memory of their participants.

We should care, and we should find a way to not only preserve that history, but to make it publicly available. How do we do this? I don’t exactly know, but since we are a smart and entrepreneurial group of weirdos, we should be able to come up with solutions. Don’t let these tears be washed away in the rain.

Existing initiatives to archive larps

https://alexandria.dk – An extensive archive of (primarily) role-playing scenarios and conventions, but also larps, fanzines etc.

https://lajvhistoria.se – A Swedish larp archive

https://larpovadatabaze.cz/ – An archive of Czech & Slovak larps

https://www.laivgalleriet.no/ – A gallery of Norwegian larps

https://nordiclarp.org/wiki – The wiki of nordic larps

This article has been reprinted with permission from the Solmukohta 2024 book. Please cite as:

Utbult, Sebastian. 2024. “Tears in the Rain.” In Liminal Encounters: Evolving Discourse in Nordic and Nordic Inspired Larp, edited by Kaisa Kangas, Jonne Arjoranta, and Ruska Kevätkoski. Helsinki, Finland: Ropecon ry.

Cover image: Photo by Rafael Cosquiere on Pexels.

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Sebastian is an occasional larp organizer, amateur archivist and science fiction buff. He regularly needs his dose of flashing lights and pounding basslines to feel alive. He has organized larps like Ingenmansland, Lotka-Volterra, Terra Incognita and Simbelmynë, and produced a couple of issues of the larp fanzine Sanningen. If at all possible he wouldn't mind seizing the means of production.