Open main menu

Alibi includes individual legitimizing strategies which enable players to interact and (re)construct a socially acceptable spectrum of play. A negotiation of what is acceptable to do in a certain larp.

  • Alibi as an (inner) legitimation of what you are playing.
  • Alibi as the individual understanding of the magic circle.
  • Alibi as the interplay between the individual acceptance of and the collective definition of the social framework.

Alibi is what enables players in larps to act in ways, which would not normally be possible. There is an individual or identity aspect to this (the alibi for me to play something that I am not in real life – to re-cast myself so to speak) and a social or societal aspect (the alibi for me to play something that is deemed wrong by contemporary society – violence, oppression, aspects of sexuality and so on)

Alibi is not present if the player is afraid of violating her co-players. Doubt and fear will work against alibi.

Alibi is what makes the player able to do the larp, but also what legitimizes his actions after the larp to the world and himself. (we agreed it was ok to do x so it is ok I did it)

Sources of Alibi

Alibi can be gained from many different sources.

Alibis can be strong or weak.

Tradition-based Legitimizing Strategies

  • The game, playing in itself.
  • Schools and playstyles (“I am a gamist, thus I play to win”)

Authoritarian Legitimizing Strategies

  • Organizers telling players that in this particular larp it is ok (or even expected) to break certain boundaries.
  • Game-master - manipulation

Procedural or Bureaucratic Legitimizing Strategies

  • Written character
  • Meta techniques
  • Representative or functionary (certainly a legitimizing strategy for NPC's)
  • Costumes
  • Uniforms
  • Rituals - masks

Interpersonal Legitimizing Strategies - Off Game Social Role

  • Personal relations
  • Social pressure/group pressure - trust in co-players

Working with Alibi

Players need to legitimize their actions towards themselves, but will to a large extent use external sources to do so. Game Masters and NPC's will to a larger extent use external sources of alibi (the purpose of the game, improving the experience).

As an Organizer

On the Danish scene we see a shift from alibi being distributed (directly through personal contact or indirectly through texts or other information) to alibi understood as something which is created collectively. This is particularly evident in the large emphasis on workshops and co-creative processes.

As a Player

Internalizing the alibi could be understood as full immersion.

Alibi is used differently to legitimize actions before, during and after a larp.

Theory and Other Sources

The sociologist Max Weber identifies three sources of legitimacy at a societal level:

  • Traditional legitimacy, which is based on customs and habits. The way things have always been.
  • Charismatic legitimacy, which derives from the personal charisma and ideas of a leader.
  • Rational-legal legitimacy, which is based on thrust in procedure and institutions.

Erving Goffman worked with the theatrical performance as a metaphor for human interaction. He believed that all participants in social interactions are engaged in certain practices to avoid being embarrassed or embarrassing others. According to Goffman, the social actor has the ability to choose his stage and props, as well as the costume he would wear in front of a specific audience. The actor's main goal is to keep coherent, and adjust to the different settings offered him. This is done mainly through interaction with other actors. To a certain extent, this imagery bridges structure and agency, enabling each, while saying that structure and agency can limit each other.

A major theme that Goffman treats throughout the work is the fundamental importance of having an agreed upon definition of the situation in a given interaction, in order to give the interaction coherency. In interactions, or performances, the involved parties may be audience members and performers simultaneously; the actors usually foster impressions that reflect well upon themselves, and encourage the others, by various means, to accept their preferred definition.

Goffman acknowledges that when the accepted definition of the situation has been discredited, some or all of the actors may pretend that nothing has changed, if they find this strategy profitable to themselves or wish to keep the peace. For example, when a person attending a formal dinner – and who is certainly striving to present himself or herself positively – trips, nearby party-goers may pretend not to have seen the fumble; they assist the person in maintaining face. Goffman avers that this type of artificial, willed credulity happens on every level of social organization, from top to bottom. (stolen from Wikipedia)

Games Mentioned as Examples