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What Larp can Learn from RPG Studies

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Presentation at Living Games 2016 on how research on RPGs can inform larp practice.

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What Larp can Learn from RPG Studies

  1. 1. What Larp can Learn from RPG Studies José P. Zagal (presenter) and Sebas@an Deterding University of Utah & University of York Presented at the Living Games Conference May 20, 2016, Aus>n, TX
  2. 2. Disclaimer “What Larp can Learn from RPG Studies” aka - Reasons for you to roll your eyes and ignore me (Jose) Not an experienced larper (I’m here to learn) But… I’m a game scholar with a reasonable amount of experience I’m an avid game player (videogames, boardgames, tabletop RPGs, etc.)
  3. 3. Back Story Special Interest Group (SIG) for Role-Playing Game Studies Mailing list (roleplaying@digra.org) Lively Discussion (second half of 2012) about: Teaching a class on RPGs…what should I include? What is the “canonical” literature regarding roleplaying? People don’t cite/reference properly and forget/ignore earlier work! Why the hell don’t we have a textbook for all this? (www.digra.org)
  4. 4. One year later…
  5. 5. Workshop: Roleplaying Game Studies – A Handbook Bunch of scholars who wanted to work together to write a book that: Consolidated scholarly work in RPGs Integrated RPGs across their different forms (this would be the textbook!) Slides presented: h_p://www.slideshare.net/dings/digra-2013-rpg-handbook-workshop Further Info: h_p://rpghandbook.tumblr.com/
  6. 6. 2016 •  Past few years… •  S. Bowman, D. Hitchens, J.T. Harviainen, D. Schules, M. Chen, J. Hammer, E. MacCallum-Stewart, E. Torner, D. Simkins , P. Williams, J. Peterson, D. Jara, K. Schrier, I. Knowles, T. Castronova, R. Bienia, S. Björk, W. White, J. Stenros, A. Brown, A. Trammel, and more…. •  Plan, outlining, wri>ng, reviewing, revising the book •  To be published by Routledge in 2017
  7. 7. “What Larp can Learn from RPG Studies” aka What we’ve learned over the years as we’ve worked on this book…
  8. 8. “What Larp can Learn from RPG Studies” aka What we’ve learned over the years as I’ve worked on this project… (that may be of interest to people interested in larp)
  9. 9. RPG Studies? •  Role play •  Role playing •  Role playing games •  Role players •  Communi>es of role players •  The “ar>facts” of role playing •  Role of roleplay in society •  Role of roleplay in culture •  Uses of roleplay •  Meaning of roleplay •  Anything, everything of roleplay Loosely understood as the analysis, cri>que, examina>on, study of…
  10. 10. RPG Studies (in the book’s context) 4 “commonly accepted” forms in popular discourse 1. Tabletop Roleplay •  D&D, Shadowrun, Amber, Call of Cthulhu, etc. 2. Computer Roleplay •  Ul>ma, Wizardry, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Fallout, etc. 3.  Live ac>on Roleplay •  Treasure Trap, Mind’s Eye Theatre, Monitor Celestra, etc. 4. Mul>player Online Roleplay •  Ul>ma Online, World of Warcran, Everquest, EVE Online, etc.
  11. 11. RPG Studies (in context of academia) Role play has been studied in/by many disciplines 1.  Sociology 2.  Educa>on 3.  Economics / Business 4.  Literary Studies 5.  Theatre / Performance Studies 6.  Psychology 7.  Communica>on 8.  Etc.
  12. 12. RPG Studies
  13. 13. RPG Studies
  14. 14. RPG Studies (Tabletop) (CRPG) (MORPG) (Larp) Educa>on Psychology Etc.
  15. 15. RPG Studies (Tabletop) (CRPG) (MORPG) (Larp) Educa>on Psychology Etc.
  16. 16. The Good News
  17. 17. 1. Your problem may have been solved elsewhere Example 1 People do I effec>vely deal with troublemaker players in my larp? Warning: Your problem may have a different name, may be described using different terminology, and the terminology might be used to mean different things. Deviant behavior has been studied for many years in MORPGs. -  Player psychology -  Different kinds of solu>ons (social, technical) -  Study of effec>veness
  18. 18. 1. Your problem may have been solved elsewhere Example 2 How can I be_er design and conduct debriefs for players? Pyschologists have been studying how to manage emo>onally charged situa>ons using roleplay for years.
  19. 19. 1. Your problem may have been solved elsewhere Example 3 The press always talks crap about our games and some>mes parents are scared of lesng their kids par>cipate. Communica>on scholars have studied how and why moral panics happen, what role the media plays, and how they have been neutralized or defused.
  20. 20. 1. Your problem may have been solved elsewhere Example 4 Making commercial larps is complicated, especially because of the volunteer culture we have. Economists have studied economics of fan labor, and possible exploita>on of players in MORPGs. Larger Larps may have to struggle with same issues fair pay, poli>cal economy, when is something fan labor, exploita>on, etc.
  21. 21. 2. Larp is very flexible How? So many different forms, styles, varia>ons. Why? Lack of common/shared mass produced ar>facts (e.g. D&D manuals) Ar>facts onen ground/stabilize evolu>on and change “Messy” origins – “We invented it at the same >me as everybody else” Warning: Flexibility has its own challenges.
  22. 22. 2. Larp is very flexible What does this have to do with the other forms? Easier to innovate Easier to “steal” innova>ons and design solu>ons from other forms Like what? Mechanics, storylines, systems for character crea>on, systems for managing players, for tracking things, etc. This has been happening for years, but shouldn’t it be MORE widespread?
  23. 23. The Bad News
  24. 24. 3. We are our biases Some>mes the same language is a different language -> Harder to share E.g. There are different understandings for “immersion”, “safety”, and “security” across tabletop, computer, mul>player online, and larp. Everyone generalizes about roleplaying (large) from the perspec>ve of their primary "genre" (small) of roleplaying -> Harder to understand When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail Cogni>ve bias is difficult to overcome Warning: Gesng the benefits discussed may be harder than you think.
  25. 25. Summary 1.  Learning from your “cousins” and academics can help you be_er understand what you do a.  Solu>ons to problems b.  Ideas and innova>ons to explore c.  A different perspec>ve can provide insight into your own (subtlety, nuance) 2.  The flexibility of larp (in play and design) is an asset a.  Borrow freely from anything/everything b.  Easier to “stand on the shoulders of giants” 3.  Reflect upon and be aware of your biases a. They might be gesng in your way in ways you haven’t no>ced.
  26. 26. Thank you & Contact Informa@on José P. Zagal University of Utah Jose.Zagal@Utah.edu Images used in this presenta>on are the property of their respec>ve owners. Their use here qualifies as fair use under US copyright law for educa>onal purposes and cri>cal commentary.