Searching for Meaning in House of Craving

Searching for Meaning in House of Craving

In the past decade there has been an upsurge of sensual content in larps, brought to spotlight by international productions such as Just a Little Lovin’ (Norway 2011), Inside Hamlet (Denmark 2015), Baphomet (Denmark 2018), and others. With this focus, the sensual has at times eclipsed the intellectual, and House of Craving (Denmark 2019) provides an example.

The larp has a trim structure. Twelve characters are friends and family who retire to a newly inherited summer house for a few relaxed days. Unknown to them, the house is self-aware, and evokes twelve ghosts to control the characters. The ghosts vicariously play out carnal desires and delicate disappointments through the humans for a few hours, until their personalities are broken and the house absorbs the humans into itself, remaking them into ghosts.

On the next day, the same human characters freshly arrive into the house again, portrayed by new players. The previous characters continue as ghosts of who they were, locked into repetition, haunted by echoes of life, and driven by regret. Their players now embody the manipulative house, as the ghosts try to make good their lives through the humans, before facing final passage into darkness.

The ghost players are dressed in white, and their characters are wholly invisible to the humans. They can take hold of and move human players and objects. The humans can only initiate interaction with the ghosts by treating them as objects of the house, or as participants in their masturbation fantasies.

With six consecutive runs, the players (first and last set aside) get to experience the same day and the same characters twice: first from the point of view of the victimised humans, then as the shattered ghosts. It is a clever composition that, for me, tapped into the l’esprit de l’escalier of larp: regret born from realising too late what I should have said and remorse over how I should have played. In the House of Craving this self-reflection is sublimated into the emotive mechanism of the ghosts who revisit their lives, hopelessly trying to repair the fragments.

The instrumentalisation of the humans also has a slapdash side to it, as the ghosts exploit them for instinctive ends. In a set-piece scene, the ghosts interject themselves into human affairs for the first time over formal lunch. My run featured a competition of ghosts over which human could eat the fastest when food is stuffed into its unwilling mouth.

The scene highlights how House of Craving used physical play to depict the horror of being manipulated, being violated, the horror of taking actions that are not your own, whether in the course of eating or sex. The small group of characters makes for an intimate game, and the larp earned its place in the self-described genre of erotic horror.

Although the larp sported a surfeit of sex, there was also some gravitas in the proceedings. The human characters were rather shallow in personality and interest, and the ghosts had more substance to highlight very human horrors. The ghosts enter the larp in a fractured state, and there is something frightfully moving in their sterile replay of old scenes, reaching out for closure and meeting only the encroaching dissolution of memory and sense.

Compared to the setup for erotica, the existential horror sadly received little attention in the game materials and the workshop. The designers – Danny Meyer Wilson, Tor Kjetil Edland, and Bjarke Pedersen – instructed the players that the larp is ”mainly designed to be an entertainingly horrible experience. A premise for this, is that we all agree that we are doing this for the fun of it, and that it isn’t more serious than that.”

These words curtail and contextualise the erotic elements in the larp to build a safe environment, but they also speak of an abridgment of ambition. There is no shame in entertainment, but House of Craving had material for a more meaningful enterprise.

Especially when playing as a human, the sexual content often felt like an end unto itself, too unmoored from things of import to have the impact it deserved. Existential horror can enhance erotic elements, providing context and counterpoise and turning them from the default mode of play into meaningful trespasses. More than that, looking not only into the body but also at a wider context could make for a more intellectually satisfying engagement.

For example, if the new family are real people, does that mean that the ghosts’ memories of last night are false, and the ghosts are echoes of people yet alive? Or do the ghosts remember true, and the family are only untamed memories of the recent dead? If the player takes their character down this road, they will soon run into the edge of the narrative set by the organisers. There is a limit to how far players can inject meaning into a larp designed just for fun.

The problem is that the setting has been manufactured as a vehicle for social dynamics and an alibi for physical interaction, not as something to stimulate the intellect or support reflection. The casually instrumental approach to setting may be a counter-reaction to old-fashioned plot-centred writing, but the pendulum swings both ways. Superficiality of story invites the haunting question of meaning: what is it that the designers want to convey?

Building a setting with intellectual depth that players can seriously engage with is hardly a new idea, but it has rarely been artfully mixed with the strong bodily experience design seen in larps like House of Craving. Inside Hamlet attempted this, although, as I have written elsewhere (Räsänen 2016), not with unreserved success.

In contrast, Just a Little Lovin’ provides an example of a robust design in this regard (with quite a different take on physicality). One reason for the effectiveness and lasting impact of that larp is, I would argue, the balance between its physical, social, and intellectual elements. The design approaches the themes of friendship, desire, and fear of death from multiple points of view, and the game facilitates exploration in any direction: not with a set of answers to be discovered, but with a full-bodied setting to interact with and reflect on.

One critic characterised the author Yukio Mishima’s lesser stories as “fine gems roughly polished”, a comparison that also encapsulates my feelings about House of Craving. There is untapped potential for more multi-faceted work, more comprehensive immersion that would not sacrifice meaning on the altar of sensation.


Syksy Räsänen (2016): “These but the trappings and the suits of woe”: tragedy and politics in Inside Hamlet. In Larp Politics: Systems, Theory, and Gender in Action, edited by Kaisa Kangas, Mika Loponen, and Jukka Särkijärvi. Ropecon ry.


Baphomet (2018): Denmark. Linda Udby and Bjarke Pedersen. Participation Design Agency.

House of Craving (2019): Denmark. Danny Meyer Wilson, Tor Kjetil Edland, Frida Sofie Jansen & Bjarke Pedersen. Participation Design Agency.

Danny Meyer Wilson, Tor Kjetil Edland, Frida Sofie Jansen & Bjarke Pedersen.

Inside Hamlet (2015): Denmark. Martin Elricsson, Bjarke Pedersen et al. Odyssé.

Just a Little Lovin’ (2011): Norway. Tor Kjetil Edland and Hanne Grasmo.

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

Räsänen, Syksy. 2024. “Searching for Meaning in House of Craving.” 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 Nick Magwood from Pixabay

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Syksy Räsänen has roleplayed over three and larped over two decades. He has been a production assistant in the larps Halat hisar and Seaside Prison. He is also an activist. His email address is, his home page is and he tweets as @SyksyRasanen.