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Two of our number attended the 2015 Larpwriter Summer School, creative crucible of international larp and home of the awesome Mixing Desk of Larp. We set up a meeting to hear all about it.

What is it?

The Larpwriter Summer School is an annual event held in Lithuania, organized by a joint Norwegian-Belarussian team. It’s a five-day intensive course, teaching students how to create and run larps, aiming to help build an international network of larp designers and organizers. The ethos is determinedly internationalist, with students and experts (lecturers, tutors and so on) attending from many different countries.

What was it like?

We learnt that the programme is a mix of lectures, workshops and actual larps. (Plus a very active social side, largely organzied by students from previous years – a way of making sure that links build across yearly cohorts as well as within them.)

The lectures provided a general theoretical underpinning to the creative work, and a shared base of terminology and concepts. Being delivered in English – the native language of very few of the participants – helped to make sure that explanations were careful and clear.

Workshops dealt with practical questions such as spatial design, co-creation of culture, creating cahracters by physical means vs verbal means, etc.

During the week a handful of ‘canonical’ short larps were played – The Family Andersson, White Death, New Voices in Art, and so on. These gave exposure to a range of different styles and structures of larp design.

The Mixing Desk of Larp

Perhaps the school’s most important tool is the Mixing Desk of Larp, an aid to visualization and exploration of larp design-space. It consists of 12 faders (more can be added, and the existing ones changed, as required, but this is the standard version) which control different aspects of the design, such as communication style, openness, intrusiveness of game mechanics, and so on. Each can be set to a range of positions, from one extreme to the opposite. The intention is that when creating a larp, the designers can use the Mixing Desk to ask themselves questions: out of the range of options available to me for each of these decisions, which is going to be the best for my particular conception? It helps to free the designer from preconceptions and assumptions about ‘how larps should be’.

The 2015 version of the mixing desk of larp

The 2015 version of the mixing desk of larp (click to enlarge)

This approach is characteristic of the Summer School: rather than teaching ‘the way to design larps’ it aims to help people ask questions of themselves and of their experiences.

Next time

The dates for the 2016 edition aren’t out yet, but their website encourages you to apply for it anyway. They say:

“We are looking for participants with no to medium larp experience and no to little larp organizing experience. The programme will be in english, so a good written and spoken English is a prerequisite. NGO-activists, teachers and others who wish to use larps in their work is encouraged to apply, but we of course also welcome larpers who want to become organizers. The participants are selected in order to create a diverse group in respect of age, gender, geography and motivation.”

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