Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Wherein Swedish LARPers Get All Political

Perhaps I should be all morally outraged about the game which is the subject of this thread, but I must be mellowing in my old age, because now I mostly find it amusing. I mean, this stuff is so close to a parody it's practically indistinguishable from one: "a short, game masterless jeepform game centred around the idea of using fiat as a means for oppression", "the game mechanics were conceived for the purpose of playing gang rape, but are equally useful for any form of oppression, like for example bullying/mobbing" (woohoo, not only gang rape, which is my favourite form of oppression to explore, but I get bullying and mobbing too? But wait, no, now I'm disappointed - there doesn't seem to be any racist lynching involved), and, best of all, "don't play this game unless you're in a good place mentally, and really think you are up to it. It is not meant to be fun to play."

Ah, Swedish LARPers, where would we be without you?

Anyway, I've written before on the futility of this sort of thing (let's all get together and explore flavour-of-the-month-political-issue-[x] via the medium of role playing games), but this example strikes me as even more redundant than most. I mean, is there anyone out there, and I mean anyone at all, with the possible exception of genetically predetermined sociopaths, who needs to be reminded that gang rape isn't very nice? Least of all who needs to be reminded of it through a LARP? If you do know such a person, it's nothing a sound slap to the chops and a trip to a psychiatrist won't fix.

Now, to play devil's advocate, it appears the game creator isn't only trying to remind us that gang rape is bad, he's also making a political comment - "One thing that has been severely bugging me the last couple of years is that (at least in Sweden), it seems nearly impossible today to get convicted for rape or gang rape." (Well, I'm sure like me you try to get convicted for rape and gang rape in Sweden all the time, so you don't have to tell us twice!) Zounds, the razor-sharp political insight, eh? I mean, whatever next - "One thing that has really been annoying me recently is climate change - what are we going to do about all those nasty emissions?"; "Recently I've been getting really pissed off about all the murder and stuff going on in those African places, colonialism was such a bad thing, I'm really cheesed off about it"; "These days the big issue that really gets my goat is whaling, man, those sea cows are like the most beautiful and intelligent thing that has ever lived, they even discuss the general theory of relativity in those sea songs and the evil Japanese are just committing genocide against them and stuff".

For the record, I don't need game designers telling me what is or isn't bad. I don't need to LARP away my inner demons. I have a moral compass, thanksverymuch. Now let's get back to rolling dice and killing orcs. And kids, remember: don't do gang rape, mobbing, bullying, racist lynching or use fiat as a form of oppression of any kind. (Other uses of fiat are probably okay, but check with your local branch of the Jeepform LARP Society all the same.)


  1. I don't think anybody posting here's gonna disagree with you, though I do want to say "Hey, rock on" simply because I have the rather controversial opinion (in art circles) that your logic applies to all forms of art.

    I have a moral compass, thank you, and even if i didn't, an arrangement of objects in a white room in Chelsea wouldn't change my mind about it. And man do I get static about that at work.

    I wonder if these people who argue with me know that more people play RPGs than look at art?

    And if they did, would they then feel obligated to agree with the Swedish LARPer?

  2. All along I thought LARP was about bad speeches and foam swords. Political statements about gang rape--who knew?

    Some of the comments are equally hilarious. Take no. 21--calling this endeavor bad taste is "a slippery slope," according to some clown named Paul B.

    A slippery slope? Rape? I guess I'll have to save my outrage for LARPs that simulate the abduction and murder of children, then. Or perhaps my footing is not too firm there, either.

  3. It is not meant to be fun to play.

    And yon Swedes (normally such a bundle of depression-having, suicide-committing, black metal-listening, Varangian Guard-joining frolics) fail "how to game" at the first hurdle. Playing a game for something other than fun makes it a didactic tool (*spit*), not a true game.

    So much then for Sweden.

  4. I don't see anything wrong with using games as a vehicle to explore ideas or concepts. A lot of the sciFi & fantasy series that inspire us to game in the first place do this all the time.

    Of course, good movies and novels handle the subject intelligently and not as a thinly veiled opinion peices. The same would be true of game books that address these sorts of concepts.

    Gang Rape: the LARP clearly doesn't fall into the category of a well thought out game, however it shouldn't invalidate a game of Serenity that explores the boundaries of personal freedoms and communal obligations.

  5. Miss! Miss!

    What is it noisms?

    Ive forgotten that thing you said about rape being bad.


    Oh please miss, if I could just rape Susie a little bit, tear her clothes and that, Im sure I would remember.

    OK Susie. Im afraid we have to arrange for you to be raped by noisms on Wednesdays till he learns his lesson.


    In truth I think anything goes on a tabletop where with a wink and a nod you can achieve an effect which LARP can achieve only with grotesque mimicry.

    ZAK S; With the exception of Bach. Listening to Bach can make you a good person for about 15 or 20 minutes.

  6. Zak S: The worst thing about it is that the messages that such art (and such RPGs) tend to convey are usually incredibly banal - stuff like gang rape is bad, don't be racist, etc. etc. Not only are the moral messages ones which anyone viewing the art (or playing the game) is likely to agree with anyway, they're also just really boring.

    Brian Murphy: That's a classic comment, isn't it? Start off being outraged about games which simulate the abduction and murder of children and pretty soon you'll be sliding down a slippery slope to the point where you're being outraged about games which simulate the Holocaust, and imagine where we would be if that were the case!

    Chris: This sort of thing is why I don't visit anymore.

    Reverend Keith: I agree with you absolutely. I have to clarify that what I'm talking about is using an RPG to convey an overt moral or political message, especially one which is a flavour of the month topic.

    The difference between exploring themes of personal freedom and communal obligations through a game, and using a game to remind people that the conviction rate for rape isn't as high as other crimes, is that the former is an unbiased examination and the latter is didacticism. The former is good, the latter not.

    Kent: The fact that it is a LARP does make it extra-creepy, as well as extra-annoying.

    It reminds me of this time a friend in the Drama school at my university when I was an undergrad invited a group of us to a play. It turned out to be this weird piece of performance art where male members of the audience were "encouraged" to simulate rape of one of the actresses, who was tied down on the stage. None of the audience were doing anything other than shuffling their feet and sort of nervously laughing. After about two minutes we left and decided to go and watch "Gladiator" at the cinema instead.

  7. Ahhhh! Run! Noisms is gang-replying to everyone at the same time!

    Oppressive Fiat! Oppressive Fiat!