Introduction to Nordic larp – Johanna Koljonen

Johanna Koljonen introduces Nordic larp by talking about her bodily experience of a fallout shelter outside Tulsa during an alternate past Cuban Missile Crisis. She explains how you can understand what goes in to creating ambitious larps by comparing the process with a birthday party, and goes on to answer the question of wether these games are games at all. Watch this Nordic Larp Talk for a brief introduction to Nordic Larp and why it’s an art form worth knowing more about.

Johanna Koljonen is a writer, Radio and TV host, critic, and a popular lecturer on larp and related topics. Her groundbreaking larp criticism, in essays like “Eye-Witness to the Illusion: The Impossibility of 360° Role-Playing” and “The Dragon Was the Least of it: Larp As Ephemera and Ruin” are widely quoted in the field.  She is a co-founder of the TV, radio and web production company Rundfunk Media AB and has a BA in literature. She has hosted several popular radio shows such as “P3 Kultur – Nördorama med Johanna Koljonen” and “Jättestora frågor med Johanna Koljonen” on Swedish national radio and writes columns for Dagens Nyheter and Fokus. She is the scriptwriter of the Oblivion High series of graphic novels and the co-author of the book-length larp autopsy Dragonbane – The Legacy. Read more: johannakoljonen.com

Further reading

Eye-Witness to the Illusion: An Essay of the Impossibility of 360° Role-Playing
by Johanna Koljonen, in the 2007 Knudepunkt anthology Lifelike.

One of the dominant design ideals in Nordic larp is the 360° illusion, the ambition to create a physically realized virtual reality in which “what you see is what you get” – everything in the game area representing its fictional counterparts exactly. In this essay, Koljonen traces the development of this ideal, charts the experience of interacting with such an environment, compares it with real-life role-playing situations and challenges the assumption that a complete physical illusion will always bolster the experience of being “in character”. The essay includes descriptions of the larps Föreningen Visionära Vetenskapsmäns Årliga Kongress (a conference of mad scientists), Carolus Rex (retro-futuristic space pulp staged on a Russian submarine), Knappnålshuvudet (a combined lunatic asylum and therapy centre watched over by guardian angels).

The Dragon Was the Least of it: Larp As Ephemera and Ruin by Johanna Koljonen, in the 2008 Solmukohta anthology Playground Worlds. 

Dragonbane – The Legacy by Johanna Koljonen, Tiina Kuustie and Tiinaliisa Multamäki

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This book-length post-mortem and the theoretical essay that preceded it describe the design, production and outcome of the fantasy larp Dragonbane, in which an enormous international team of volunteers created a fully-functional fantasy village in the remote forests of Swedish Älvdalen. The game had functional magic, special effects and pyrotechnics and an animatronic dragon the size of a building.

24 Hours in a Bomb Shelter: Player, Character and Immersion in Ground Zero
by Heidi Hopeametsä, in the 2008 Solmukohta anthology Playground Worlds.

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