LARP: Art not worthy?

worldcon75Worldcon 75 in Helsinki has generally been an excellent event with multiple cultures, diverse forms of art and innumerable communities of fandom coming together. However, what left bit of a bad taste to the mouth was the organizers’ decision yesterday to cancel a LARP (live action role-play), dealing with old people and dementia. The decision is highly controversial, and apparently based on some (non-Nordic) participants strongly communicating their upset at such a sensitive topic has been even allowed to be submitted in the form of a “game”, into the con program. On the other hand, same people would apparently be completely fine with Altzheimer and similar conditions being handled in form of a novel, for example.

There will be no doubt multiple reactions coming in to this from experts of this field in the future. My short comment: this is an unfortunate case of censorship, based on cultural perception of play and games as inherently trivializing or “fun-based” form of low culture. It seems that for some people, there still are strict cultural hierarchies even within the popular culture, with games at the very bottom – and that handling something sensitive with the form of role-play, for example, can be an insult. Such position completely ignores the work that has been done for decades in Nordic LARP and in digital indie “art games” (and also within the academic traditions of game studies) to expand the range of games and play for cultural expression, and to remove expectation or stigma of automatic trivialism from the interactive forms of art and culture. The organisers have obviously been pressurised by some vocal individuals, but the outcome in this case was a failure to stand up, explain the value and potential of role-playing games, and Nordic LARP in particular to an international audience, and make a difference. A sad day.

Link: Worldcon 75 cancellation statement (currently in updated and revised form) in Facebook regarding “The Old Home” [edit: should be “A Home for the Old”] LARP:

(There has been multiple exchanges regarding this matter in Twitter, for example, but not linking them here.)

(Edit: the documentation for the said LARP is available for download here:

(Edit2: LARP scholars and experts Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola have published a thorough account of this incident here

(Edit3: Wordcon organisers have now published a more thorough explanation and reasons for their decision here

Author: frans

Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the Tampere University, Finland. Occasional photographer and gardener.

3 thoughts on “LARP: Art not worthy?”

  1. Correction.

    No one objected to the platform. The description is given as follows.

    “The scenario is situated in an old people’s home, and the inhabitants are roleplayers suffering from Alzheimers. They battle each day with a syndrome called Past Character Regression. The players each take the role of their first roleplaying character or the most memorable character they ever played.”

    There is no indication at all that there is any serious intent. I expect a play about this, with this description would also have aroused concern.

    1. Farah, I agree that the desciption in Worldcon program would had profited from a bit more explanation about the character of Nordic LARP, and about the style and intentions of this particular work. However, there were various reactions flying around yesterday, some of them particularly based on this being a “game” on a sensitive topic. The original take-down message has since been edited (multiple times, I think) by the organisers, but if you take a look (and I have a screenshot linked below), they explicitly based the decision on that “this subject is not a suitable one” for roleplaying. Link: .

  2. Well, it is a case of over sensitivity I think. There has been other cases in this Worldcon. Be politically correct is not bad… but if we start to search every corner, finally there will be nothing to say and do. I remember a Southpark chapter about a Xmas play going completely wring because if this…

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: