Thanks to J. Tuomas Harviainen I’ve acquired a copy of this (hardcopy - apparently they don’t do PDF). Since its a dialogue with commentaries, I thought I’d go through the articles (or at least the interesting ones) with my own comments. BTW, if anyone wants to borrow this when I’m done, please let me know.
“How to Convey Ideas through Larps” by Vladimir Molodykh and Alexandra Rybalko
Summary: Larps should be about something. They should have a message or express an idea, ideally one which can be expressed as a single sentence. There are lots of ways players can “get” the idea of a larp, or interact strongly with it, and the authors call these “precedents”. Based on player feedback, they group these precedents into various types, and develop a five-axis model for them. They examine different ways in which game designers can create “precedents” or situations where players engage with the idea, including by conflict, mechanics, setting, and game aesthetics (e.g. props, costumes, set-dressing and language). They then go off on a tangent about how large (500+ player) games are great, before advertising their latest larp, 1905.
Comments: From its title this article seems irrelevant to the New Zealand larping experience: we don’t do a lot of political or heavily thematic larps here, and most of our larps are “about” fun - done for entertainment, not to say anything (and the obvious exception - “The Working Quarter” at Chimera 2012 - was done by a Russian). Except that that’s not entirely true. Because one of the examples they give of something a larp can be “about” is re-creating the fictional environment of a book or movie or computer game so people can immerse in it. And we do a lot of that. “Narnia and the Coming of Winter”, “Shattered Circle”, “Delicious Friends”, “Boffo’s Birthday Bash” - these larps all try and emulate particular fictions, with varying degrees of success. And even if a larp is “about” fun, its still useful to know what sort of fun it is about, so as to ensure good design. You don’t want Wodehousian comedy tropes in your GrimDark meathook future dystopia larp (unless I supposes the aim is to soft-pedal that dystopia by telling amusing stories about feckless members of its inbred elite).
More importantly, their list of “precedents”, ways people interact with the idea of a larp, basicly boils down to a list of “how people have fun in larps”. Making difficult choices, uncovering secrets, seeing that perfect Wodehousian romance or Lovecraftian descent into insanity come off - these are all ways we have fun. Having a list of them so you can think about whether your larp is set up to produce such situations is potentially useful. Unfortunately the discussion about how to produce such situations is necessarily very high-level and sketchy, and I didn’t find the examples particularly illustrative or inspiring.
The commentary by Emma Wieslander includes strong disagreement with the idea that “conflict… is essential in getting any form of idea realised”, though they note that it may be “an issue of language”. Given that the Russian authors made it clear that conflict included internal conflict and difficult choices, and then further elaborated in how mechanics can shape the expression of conflict that its not just about beating people up with rubber swords, I’m puzzled how that could be the case; they’re clearly talking about dramatic conflict, not just combat. And having seen similar views expressed over “Fairweather Manor”, I’m wondering whether (some) Nordic larp has a problem with conflict and how they expect to have drama and stories without it. Guess I’ll just have to track down the articles Wieslander mentions to find out.