It was published a day before, and I was selling them at a convention. When I gave Mika Loponen a copy, her burned it at the ash tray. Everyone was watching and cheering. ”Get them while they’re hot,” I yelled.
Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Manifesto of the Turku School. It is a roleplaying manifesto promoting character immersion as a player goal, and honest world simulation as a game master goal. It may be the most talked about thing I’ve written so far.
At the time the discussion on roleplaying theory was mostly centered around the question ”should there be roleplaying theory or is it ruining our hobby?” Some of tried to talk about the theory and practice of what we find interesting, and were blamed for ruining the fun for everyone, since you’re not supposed to take it too seriously, it’s supposed to just be fun. But is it good fun? What do you mean by fun? Is it fun to play something horrible happening to your character? Is it fun if the game master pulls everything out of his ass? Aren’t some kinds of fun better experienced if you really try to feel what the character feels, instead of just going through the motions?
In the summer of 1999 Norwegian roleplaying theorists Eirik Fatland and Lars Wingård wrote the Dogma 99, a ”Programme for the Liberation of LARP”. They argued that larp can be a meaningful medium for artistic expression and that you should take it seriously. We agreed on that. Then they went on to treat roleplaying games more as acting than as character immersion, and made the game master a linear storyteller instead of an interactive or multilinear enabler. I couldn’t stand for that, of course, and had to write the first part of the until then speculational manifesto. This became the Larper’s Vow of Chastity, published in the fall of 1999.
Dogma 99, like it’s Danish predecessor Dogme 95, contained rules that a game master could try out to challenge their way of making art. Most people understood the rules as something every game must adhere to according to the writers, and dismissed the whole thing. The Turku Larper’s Vow of Chastity did contain such rules, meant to be be obeyed when playing in a Turku style larp. ”I shall not speak out of character during a game”, and so on. Most people noticed that the player is also expected to follow the game master’s vision, and misinterpreted this completely assuming that this meant the character’s wouldn’t have free will within the game. I probably should’ve written it better.
Nevertheless, the Vow got lots of discussion, and I decided to go ahead with writing the Manifesto itself. The annual Nordic larp conference Knutepunkt was taking place in Helsinki that year, and there was a pre-party at (now celebrity journalist) Johanna Koljonen’s mother’s place. That was Wednesday 23rd of February, 2000. That’s where I first gave and sold copies of the manifesto that I’d written in the preceding couple of days, and picked up at the printers’ that morning. The title had a typo, since I didn’t know ”manifest” and ”manifesto” are two different things.
There was not yet a tradition for conference journals on roleplaying theory, so people were pretty amazed, and also amused. A copy of the manifesto was burned to protest its horrors. There was a panel discussion where Eirik Fatland and I duked it out. Later Eirik Fatland and I became fast friends, organizing many larps together, such as inside:outside and (with Juhana Pettersson) I Regret Nothing.
Next year and the year after that, people started writing their own manifestos in response to the Turku Manifesto and Dogma 99, and there was a Roihuvuori Manifesto, Meilahti Style, Bristol Manifesto, the Manifesto Manifesto, The Manifest Sunday, and dozens of others. Some were about roleplaying theory, some were parodies, most were descriptions of the writers’ own preferred styles without trying to force it upon anybody else. (Although then they’re not really manifestos, if I may say so.)
The manifesto creeps up every now and again in silly online discussions and such, and new people get angry at it. (Check out this one archived from 4chan!) Then somebody points out there’s a nice idea here or there, and the discussion turns into one of roleplaying theory. And occasionally somebody likes the text so much they want to translate it into their own language. So far we have Le Manifeste de l’Ecole de Turku in French, Manifest Školy Turku in Slovak, and Manifest Školy Turku in Czech. Today I’m publishing the Russian translation by Larnir Haigh. Enjoy!
I’ve since written some other articles that I view as part of the Turku School canon, and am working on my BA and MA theses at the Aalto University of Art and Design in Helsinki. They will deal with familiar topics including larps, rituals, Aristotle, Nietzsche and character immersion. The Turku School will live on.
I’m thinking of doing something cool about regarding the Manifesto at this year’s Knutpunkt in Stockholm. Any ideas?
And finally, to celebrate this anniversary, here are some more photos from 2000. Can you recognize all the current game researchers and bigwigs then in their blossoming youth?
Portrait of the author as a young man.