Knutepunkt, day four: Saturday

April 29, 2009 at 8:14 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I may have forgotten several key details about last night, including a strange improvised midnight quest with one master Daniel Krauklis. Also, I met a man with long fingernails and long blonde hair, whom the Norwegians had dubbed ”The young Mike Pohjola.” Nice fellow, so not exactly like me.

I had signed up for lots of programme Saturday morning, but slept through most of it, only waking up in time to attend the end discussion of Jiituomas Harviainen’s lecture where they talked about the differences and similarities between ritual and larp. A shame I missed it, but fortunately there will be articles coming up on the topic.

I woke Martin up, dragged him to lunch, and we started rigging up for our presentation. I’m not often hungover, but for some unknown reason that curse afflicted me this day. Head aching, nausea, confusion, all that good stuff.

The Knutepunkt practical arrangements were well taken care of, but I often noticed problems with the tech department. Sound cables missing, extension cords nowhere to be found, video projectors not set up in time, and so on. The guys working the tech were doing the best they could, but I think they simply didn’t have enough gear. Later in the evening I ended up borrowing my laptop to Erlend and Katri Lassila so they could show their films, that were apparently unplayable on the equipment at hand.

After everything was set up, we did our hour-and-a-half presentation, starting with Sanningen om Marika, and moving on from there. We created a sort of narrative around the fact that after last year’s Solmukohta we were just getting ready to fly to Cannes for the International Emmy Gala.

When we told the little tale of us sitting there in the gala, applying nail polish and flipping the passive media off, and winning the damn statue… people started applauding. That was  a real nice, warm moment. We, both of us, had spent so many years being the annoying guys in black, making outrageous claims and being accused for destroying the hobby by taking it in all the wrong directions, this was a great sense of community. No bitterness, no envy, just joy. (And rightly so, since we strongly feel this is the Nordic larpdom combining with traditional tv.)

Then we talked in length about Dollplay, and very, very, very briefly about two projects in the pipeline: The Artists and TEVA. To summarize: ”We can’t really say anything about these.” ”But maybe we can say which country it will begin in?” ”Well, it may begin in some individual country, or perhaps not.”

The last programme for me, apart from Erlend’s film, was a jeepform game in the style of talk show. The idea was to do a sort of ”This Is Your Life” kind of show with the audience improvising/roleplaying key points in the person’s life. It’s nice to make these kinds of experiments, but I didn’t really think it worked. It was just over-long impro theatre with no unifying plot, and no point.

After the programme there was plenty of hanging out, and visiting strange parties. The Czechs held a party in their cabin, serving foul tasting alcohol which I countered by bringing them some salmiakki. People sang songs from their native countries, which was surprisingly nationalistic for Knutepunkt, so I introduced myself as coming from the klingon homeworld. I was asked to sing klingon opera, but opted out playing a scene from the tragedy of Khamlet. (Jaakko approved, saying it’s much better in the original Klingon.)

Jukka and Hakkis ran two drinking workshops this year, instead of just the one. One was a secret drinking workshop, so I can’t really talk about that. The other one was a fifteen-minute port wine workshop (porttivartti) where we were joined by a really drunk and young Faroese first-timer, whom I dubbed Junior. He didn’t know who anybody was, which we found hilarious. Had we been less arrogant and drunk, we might’ve told him, but such was not the way of the Knutepunkt Saturday night.

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Short film “Flag Burners” announced

April 24, 2009 at 9:44 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Finnish Film Foundation and the public broadcasting company YLE have announced the results of their third annual 30-minute film competition. (Press release in Finnish.) Amongst them is this film:

FLAG BURNERS

Jaana, Martti and Ville are young activists who oppose imperialism and neoliberalism. It’s difficult to stand up for your ideals in a world of mixed signals. To get their opinion out, they decide to do something that will get them noticed. Something important and visual.

Written and directed by Mike Pohjola
Produced by Misha Jaari / Oy Bufo Ab and Mark Lwoff

Given the name, it’s not too hard to decude what important and visual act they will be committing, but that’s just the first couple of minutes. Turns out burning a flag is more difficult than one might think.

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Knutepunkt, day three: Friday

April 23, 2009 at 3:17 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

I managed to get up before eight in the morning to attend Johanna’s workshop Physical Rituals. It felt more like a theatre workshop combined with a bit of conceptual immersion, which was great in itself, but far from ritual in the Knutepunkt context.

After that I had breakfast and went to hear a lecture on Czech larps. I think I speak for all attendees when I say we went there a bit smug and feeling superior, and came out feeling humbled and in awe. The Czechs have had documented cases of larping since before WWII. Something like it even before WWI! Amazing.

Before lunch I had to take a short nap to regain my full capacities for the afternoon. I didn’t expect much from the meals, but they turned out to be brilliant Norwegian tapas buffets with more varieties than I could fit on my plate. I wonder how well the meat eaters must’ve eaten!

Then it was time for my ritual workshop. Just wanting to run a ritual workshop at a con should be enough to prove I’d finally become completely Norwegian.

I don’t know what else the lavvo was used for, but it was perfect for this. In the middle there was a fire, and we gathered around it. First we sacrificed little wine to the wine god Dionysos by drinking it or pouring it onto the fire, while I took my ritual knife and drew a magic circle around the participants.

We tried out three or four different types of choruses, beginning with a classic Dionysian dithyramb with just the chorus and the priest/chorus master. Then adding one actor, and then one more, moving on towards classic Greek tragedy where chorus is just one part of what’s on stage. Aristotle and Nietzsche have said that the chorus is the ideal audience, and I wanted to test out what that means. I think I get it now, but will run something like this again at Ropecon.

Masks and music and monologues and chanting. I found it pretty cool, although this was still clearly a learning experience for me. Many had expected a mock ritual rather than a workshop on rituals, so they might’ve been slightly disappointed at all the theory and the lack of drums.

After the ritual it was gala time! It was a color themed party for which I’d brought a goth suit I’d bought in Amsterdam just after Christmas. Hakkis and Jukka had chosen to wear pink stetsons and robes, becoming the wizards of love.

The party had a couple of excellent burlesque performances, great people, lots of drinks of varying kinds, people going from small gatherings to large groups and then private discussions, strange drinks, lots of dancing, and so on. This was my mandatory night of staying up ridiculously late and well worth it.

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Knutepunkt, Day two: Thursday

April 21, 2009 at 3:20 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

After sleeping rather long, the four of us join many others at the Oslo Central Station to board the Knutepunkt bus. We were almost on time, but apparently two full busses had already left.

On the bus I read the larp scenario ”School Trip” that I and many others will have to run after the opening ceremonies. Nobody was asked about wanting to do it, I think – film director and Knutepunkt founder Erlend Eidsem Hansen simply picked twenty people with game mastering experience, and gave them the task. Eirik sitting behind me was similarly burdened.

The location turned out to be next to a beautiful mountain-rimmed half-frozen lake. Cabins, a hotel, and a big lavvo by the shore. Lots of old friends came to greet and hug us. I shared a bunk bed with my P co-owner Martin Ericsson, in a cabin with five other people.

The event was about to start with a ritual (Norwegians are crazy about rituals). Erlend told the game masters to help him out with it, as the opening ceremonies would meld seemlessly into the game. Carrying torches and accompanied by drum and flute, we twenty walk slowly to the circle of the two hundred participants. Most of the participants are wielding unlit torches, and we go through them, picking the ones that will play in our runs of the game, and lighting their torches.

For my run of The School Trip, I was joined by Lars, Jeep veteran Tobias Wrigstad, and six other people, some of whom I knew, some not. I had some problems with the game – it was a seemingly realistic game about a class reunion that will be interrupted by the teacher showing off a time machine he’s invented, and giving the class a chance to travel back to a traumatic event in their youth. That is, traumatic for like two or three people in the group. The rest weren’t really interested in the events at all, and just wanted to leave when this opportunity was introduced.

Every game master was to run the game in their own fashion (360 degree illusion, jeepform, tabletop, with theatre-like physicality, or whatever). I wanted to make mine as immersion-friendly as possible, and felt this would require me to somehow explain away the disruptive time machine and create a strong sense of group and place with practically no props, sounds, lights, costumes or anything, or time to prepare.

What I had, though, was a lot of people with slightly strange hair and clothes (them being larpers) and a shared understanding of some geek trivia. So I decided to make it a Harry Potter game with the students having gone to a school for wizards. That explained the time machine (magic) and managed to create a suitably unique atmosphere for the hour and a half. Fortunately the room I was given happened to have lots of books in it, so that helped, too. Many thanked me afterwards, so I think it was a succesful solution.

After this we all rushed into the main hall to hear my good friend Joc Koljonen hosting a live talk show with about a dozen varied Knutepunkt goers talking about the stuff they’ve been doing the year before or will do at the event. This included Martin talking about Dollplay and Marika, researcher Jaakko Stenros talking about their pervasive game studies, and a Finnish British theatre professional from Teatteri Naamio ja höyhen, Johanna MacDonald, who’d never visited Knutepunkts before but realized (quite right) that larp has quite a bit to do with performative arts.

I tried to go to sleep around two to be able to attend Johanna’s programme item at eight in the morning. Unfortunately Martin was under the influence that ours was a party cabin, inviting people there to keep partying when all other rooms had switched off the lights. But that’s just part of the magic of Knutepunkt!

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Knutepunkt: Day one, Wednesday

April 21, 2009 at 9:18 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Arrived in Oslo without a cellphone, or a passport, or company, with nobody knowing I was coming. Not a great start.

I landed on my feet, though, visiting the brilliant Tronsmo bookstore, and then joining a bunch of A Week in Norway attendees for a game of Fat Man Down with the Jeeps.

That was a strange experience, a freeform roleplaying game about bullying an overweight man. One person plays the fat guy, the rest create different scenes where his weight has become a problem. At one point the fifteen or so of us made a circle around him, each playing an unflattering, unrelenting alter ego, criticizing him. Then we moved closer, started speaking faster and louder and on top of each other, until in the end we were almost touching him yelling ”Fat fat fat fat! Ugly ugly ugly!” Not an uplifting experience for anybody, but an interesting experiment nevertheless.

Later that night we went to see a participative theatre play called The Night of the Serpents. They played the film noir style story in a bar, occasionally asking audience to make sounds or movements. The audience being 50 larpers, things soon got out of hand, although we let them move the story in their own direction nevertheless…

After the play, the Knutepunkt journal Larp, Universe and Everything was published. Having now read about five articles, I can tell you it’s got some hooties. I spent the night at my Eirik Fatland and Li Xin’s place, together with the Danish illustrator and storyboard artist Lars Munck. I’ve organized a couple of larps and other art projects with Eirik, and he and Li Xin have even studied in the Taik Medialab for two years.

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I came for the Knutepunkt, I stayed for the rituals

April 14, 2009 at 7:06 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m leaving for Norway tomorrow to take part in the four-day conference Knutepunkt that begins Thursday. I first attended this Nordic festival for roleplaying arts and theory in Denmark, 1999. That means this is my tenth year and eleventh time.

For many years now there’s been a conference journal published, and this year many of the articles are published online beforehand. Go and read them, they seem good! Larp culture in Latvia and Brazil, and articles from Malik Hyltoft, Eirik Fatland, Morgan Jarl, Andrea Castellani, and many important Finnish luminaries.

I’m hosting two programme items at Knutepunkt. On Saturday Martin Elricsson and I will be talking about Dollplay, Sanningen om Marika and a little about the future projects of The Company P.

On Friday I’m trying out something new, and holding a ritual workshop. The Norwegians have long been very interested in ritual use in larps, and the relationship between ritual and roleplaying. I’ve searched for texts on emotional immersion in an art context, and found Nietzsche made interesting points about the worship of Dionysos and Apollon in his early writing. The ritual workshop is part of my larger ten-year aesthetic project dealing with writing and roleplaying – one that will also include my thesis work at Taik. So… I expect the Knutepunkt to be great and am quite exited to still be doing something new after ten years!

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Lies and Seduction gets Special Recognition at Unity Awards

April 7, 2009 at 10:45 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Lies and Seductions, a game we’ve worked on at Taik’s Medialab, earned Special Recognition: Adventure Game Development at Unity Awards 2008. The version we submitted was a very early and buggy one, so hopefully the upcoming version 1.0 will get even more praise. (I was part of the game design team and in charge of writing the massive amounts of interactive dialogue.)

This is how L&S was introduced in the conference:

Lies and Seductions… Very much an adult game. Not for kids at all. Um and umm. I mean, you try to get the right person to sack.

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The Company P now works with Tim Kring

April 5, 2009 at 4:21 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

The Company P is not resting on its laurels after Dollplay with Joss Whedon, but moving forwards. Tim Kring and The Company P are joining up to create the massively participatory experience TEVA. The first part is launching in the UK.

It’s still super secret, but there’s slightly more information on the P blog

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Pohjola-filmi

April 5, 2009 at 4:09 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Finland’s hottest new production company became reality last week: pohjolafilmi.fi

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We make TV Guide

April 5, 2009 at 4:07 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

We got some media time for Dollplay in Finland and Sweden. That is nice, but a bit obvious. For us Nordics it feels much more exciting to be noticed by TV Guide! Yeah 🙂

tvguide_dollplay_400

Did you see that? Right there next to a Galactica phone app and a Lost actor joke video! If this keeps on, we may one day be almost as big as the Youtube videos about guys watching a Youtube video about women throwing up!

tvguide_dollplay_zoom

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