Fastaval, Mark Rein-Hagen, Bona the Robot!

April 14, 2014 at 9:55 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m going to spend Easter at the legendary Danish gaming convention Fastaval. (This is my first time, so forgive me, if I’m off on some details.)

Unelma keltaisesta kuninkaasta.

Fastaval is not your average convention — it specializes in incredibly tight auteur-designed roleplaying scenarios. A bunch of people run each scenario for players, not just the creator. There’s awards for best scenarios in different categories.

The Society for Nordic Roleplaying published a collection of these scenarios translated into Finnish a few years ago, called Unelma keltaisesta kuninkaasta ja muita tanskalaisia roolipelejä (A Dream of a King in Yellow, and other Danish roleplaying games. Edited by Kristoffer Apollo, Juhana Pettersson and Tobias Wrigstad).

Because it’s my first time at Fastaval, I want to get as much out of it as possible. I didn’t have time to offer my own scenario to be run there, but I will be running the scenario Stories from Bona: The Robot by Jesper Bisgaard, René Toft and Ulrik Høyer Kold. It is atmospheric sci-fi, inspired by Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag’s images with automated agricultural machinery, giant satellites and rusty robot wrecks scattered in the Swedish wilderness.

In Stories From Bona: The Robot you play four children living in central Sweden backwater that take a stand against superior forces and lose. The scenario is melancholy rural science fiction for those who go back when they think about the future. It is quiet counterfactual social realism in large landscapes.

Simon Stålenhag: Decoy.

I’ll also be chatting with legendary Vampire: The Masquerade creator Mark Rein-Hagen about role-playing games, crowdfunding, and other interesting stuff. That’s at 16:15 on Saturday!

Special guest talk: Q and A with Mark Rein-Hagen and Mike Pohjola
Crowdfunding your game – How and why?
In the last few years published RPGs, card games and board games have discovered a new form of financing: crowdfunding. It allows designers to bypass the traditional channels of publishers, distributors and retailers and go straight to the gamers who get to vote with their wallets.Fastaval guest of honor Mark Rein-Hagen (Democracy Card Game and I Am Zombie) and Finnish rpg designer Mike Pohjola (Age of the Tempest) discuss their crowdfunded games, the how-tos and no-gos when funding games on Kickstarter, Indiegogo and alike. Audience participation welcome.

I’ll also have some special announcements about my beginner-friendly role-playing game Myrskyn sankarit (Age of the Tempest), and I’ll carry around an ultra-rare copy of the English translation. It’s not for sale yet, but feel free to check it out if you’re around!

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Solmukohta is awesome!

April 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Some thoughts and reminiscences from this year’s Solmukohta (Knutepunkt) in Finland. Solmukohta started as a conference/festival of Nordic larpers and has become a conference/festival of international larpers interested in the tradition of Nordic larp.

I’ve been a regular Knudepunkt goer since the third one in 1999. I haven’t missed a single event before last year’s one in Denmark. Which meant it was amazing to go back there this year when it was held in Helsinki.

This year apart from all the Nordics, I talked to people from Russia, Croatia, Israel, Germany, England, Latvia, Italy and the United States. On top of that I know we had visitors from pretty much all around Europe from Portugal to Latvia, from England to Bulgaria. So it’s really becoming international.

The editor of this year’s Solmukohta book States of Play, Juhana Pettersson, observed that ”Nordic larp” has become a tradition independent of the Nordic countries. So you can have Nordic larp in Mexico or Egypt. But you can also have larps in Finland that belong to some other tradition or remain more or less unaffected by that tradition. And that way you can even have Nordic larp being in dialogue with Finnish larp, and I guess my own Täällä Kirjokannen alla had quite a bit of that going on.

For me the whole experience started with the Nordic Larp Talks on Wednesday in Club PRKL in downtown Helsinki. You can see my talk titled How To Become a God, and all the others here.

Would you buy a used god from this man? Photo by Tuomas Puikkonen.

Next day all three hundred and sixty of us got on buses that drove us to the conference hotel Kiljavanranta next to some lake in the middle of the Finnish forest with some patches of snow left.

I ran two programs this year. One was called the Folk Fantasy Workshop, based on my article in States of Play (PDF). I gave a short presentation on the world in Täällä Kirjokannen alla, and then we started workshoping on taking each participants’ own country/nation/tribe/city/identity and turning that into a folk fantasy world. We had people from Sweden, China, Croatia and Russia present, and we had hardly gotten started when we already had to stop. The workshop might’ve been over ambitious, but I think the participants still made some interesting connections and maybe had some ideas they can later use for whatever they wish.

The other item was originally titled Contacting the Characters Within You, a self-help kind of approach to taking the roles and characters we carry around with us and using them for other things. Since the workshop was scheduled for Sunday morning, I had to rename it Hangover Yoga Workshop (and Contacting the Characters With You).

We started with twenty minutes of simple yoga exercises designed not to feel too bad for the hungover people, and wake everybody up a little bit. Then we started meditating on the characters we’ve played trying to identify five archetypes. The Good One, The Trickster, The Leader, The Shadow and The Brain. Not everybody had experience with all of these, but I think people sort of got the idea. We examined each one a little bit, and then chose two of them. Those two we made our own, trying to develop their physical language and put them on and off faster and faster. The idea was that the participants could learn to call on these characters in tricky situations in their ordinary life. For example a test might be very difficult for the participant in their everyday role, but putting on the role of The Brain might help them deal with it better. Different situations might require taking on different roles, and these sorts of exercises will hopefully help people to identify them better.

I think the workshop was a success since many people came to thank me for it later. I’m not an expert yoga master, either, but I think that went fine, as well.

One of the many highlights was being able to buy an early copy of Leaving Mundania from the author Lizzie Stark. I knew who she was since people had told me she visited last year’s Knudepunkt in Copenhagen. Leaving Mundania is a non-fiction book about larpers and the larp scene. It mostly focuses on larp in the United States, but the last chapter is titled Knudepunkt Blew My Mind. It was thrilling to read an excited outsider’s perspectives on the whole scene and the games we play and the the people we know. Of course, Lizzie’s not an outsider anymore.

She signed my copy ”Turku this!” Ironically, I accidentally left the book in the Turku School room (all the rooms were named after concepts in larp theory). So I really did Turku it. The next day it was gone. If you have it, I want it back!

The Pan-European tv drama / larp / transmedia experience The Spiral (formerly The Artists) is partly built by larpers, specifically Martin Ericsson and Adriana Skarped.  They showed us a sneak preview of the tv show’s trailer, which seemed really cool. Parts of the whole thing are made through a larp, as some sort of mocumentary. Difficult to explain, but you should totally follow it when it airs in September in several European countries including Finland. Or take part in the larp parts – it’s not too late!

Some players of The Spiral with game mistress Adriana Skarped in the middle.

The social aspect is very important in these events. Even though I went to bed quite early on two nights, I had a chance to party it out Saturday. DJ Hakkis’s 90’s gothic hits marathon was well appreciated! Also interesting discussions on commercial larps in Siberia, how Taoism relates to the works of Ursula K. Le Guin, politics in Israeli larps, German film funding, the great roleplaying theories of the day, capitalism and socialism in post-apocalyptic Swedish larps and lots of other great stuff.

There’s an influential indie roleplaying scene mostly in the US, but also internationally, that used to be associated with the forum The Forge. Over the years they’ve sent one or two ambassadors that usually get converted, but this time it seemed like there was a whole faction of these great people. Some came to preach, others to listen, but continuing this dialogue between ambitious clicks is very fruitful. The Swedish/Danish jeepform tradition is, I think, a sort of love/hate child between Nordic larp, US indie and Danish tabletop. The US indie crowd is discussing Solmukohta at the Story Games forum.

Ideas on jobs available for larpers because of their larping skils.

Some random notes  I made during the event:
“We have a special way of playing the post-death game.” -Alexey Fedoseev on Russian larps.
A StPetersburg game had in-game elections. If the conservatives won, the city was taken into history. With liberals, to the future.
Larps are not artificial, they are artifactual.
The Hollow Man Syndrome = there is no character, the player has to use their own experiences.
Read the book The Art of Curating Worship, a guidebook for Christian priests.

Solmukohta 2012 appreciation thread: http://laivforum.net/threads/20275-Solmukohta-2012-appreciation-thread!
Solmukohta talk on Twitter is here: https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23sk2012
My Nordic Larp Talk: http://nordiclarptalks.org/post/20957499776/how-to-become-a-god-mike-pohjola

A Finnish delicacy with an informative sign.

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Nordic Larp Talks and State of Play

April 11, 2012 at 8:48 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

If you’re interested in what’s going on in the fields of participation, interaction or roleplaying, I recommend spending this evening at Club PRKL in Helsinki or online following the webcast. It’s the publishing of the new Solmukohta journal States of Play followed by Nordic Larp Talks.

The doors open at 6pm, the excellent book States of Play is published at 7, and Nordic Larp Talks hosted by Johanna Koljonen starts at 8!

States of Play is edited by Juhana Pettersson and has dozens of really interesting articles on the design, theory, documentation and results of the cutting edge Nordic tradition of live roleplaying. My article Folk Fantasy deals with Täällä Kirjokannen alla and what I think might be the dawn of a new era in the fantasy genre. The book is also published as a free PDF.

Now, here’s some info on Nordic Larp Talks:

We are proud to welcome you to Nordic Larp Talks Helsinki 2012 – an evening of entertaining, thought-provoking and mind-boggling lectures about projects and ideas from the Nordic tradition of live action roleplaying games.

The talks are presented by writer, radio & television host as well as winner of the innovator category of this year’s The Swedish Grand Journalism Prize award, Johanna Koljonen.

You can follow the talks live streamed on nordiclarptalks.org Wednesday April 11th 8pm EEST or at the PRKL club in central Helsinki, Kaisaniemenkatu 4.

Speakers
Mike Pohjola – How to become a god
Johanna Macdonald – From stage to larp
JP Kaljonen – The interplay between player and man in the street
Jesper Bruun – Experimental Larp Design
Lizzie Stark – Playing in Graveyards: Terror collides with larp in New York City

My presentation, How To Become A God, deals with the history of drama from Dionysian rituals to reality television, and beyond, and how all of this relates to roleplaying. While doing that, I’ll also answer a puzzling point in Aristotle’s Poetics that’s been bugging theatre scholars for three thousand years.

See you there!

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Conspiracy For Good nominated for awards

February 23, 2011 at 9:46 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Conspiracy For Good that was played last summer in the streets of London, and before that all around the world online and with mobile phones, is nominated for some of the top prizes in interactive media.

The media festival South By Southwest (SXSW) gives out awards every year for interactive works, and Conspiracy For Good has been nominated in the mobile category. Cool! SXSW takes place in Austin, TX, March 11.-20., and the award gala will be March 15th.

The last time The Company P won an International Interactive Emmy was a few years ago with Sanningen om Marika at MIPTV in Emmy. That award was for Best Interactive Tv Service. Now we’re nominated for the same award again. The name is no the Interactive Digital Emmy, though, and the category Digital Fiction. The lightning-winged Emmy goddess might end up in our hands on April 4th in Cannes.

Exciting! 🙂

PS. If you missed Conspiracy For Good, here’s a great video that explains the whole giant of an experience in a few minutes.

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Infernal Musical will soon premiere…

January 11, 2011 at 11:38 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A short trailer for 1827 – Infernal Musical, the heavy metal musical that will open in a week and a half. There’s still some tickets left, but don’t waste any time if you want to pick your seats. The show only runs from Jan 21 to Feb 5, 2010.

Many people are confused by what a heavy metal musical exactly is. Will it only have songs  or is there a story or what? In form and function it’s much like West Side Story or Producers — a stage play where the story is sometimes told through songs instead of dialogue. In style it will be quite different, combining period action with the classics of heavy metal. The show will mostly feature known songs like Paranoid, Carry On, or Hunting High And Low. There will also be one of our own songs (lyrics by me, music by our band leader Joona Lukala), and one brand new song by Lordi, Devil’s Crashing the Party. So in traditional terms, “the book” is by me, and the lyrics are by Dio and whoever. But yes, there’s one hell of a story there!

If you’re in the UK, I recommend listening to BBC Radio 3’s program Music Matters, and their report on Turku and Tallinn, the European Capitals of Culture. They interview me about 1827, and play some of our songs.

Also, for Finns, Ajankohtainen kakkonen is going to do a big piece on Turku this week, and will feature both the musical and yours truly. (Also check out VR’s paper Matkaan, January issue.)

Rock on!

Lordi with two of our burned ladies, and the single release of Devil's Crashing the Party.

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Nordic Larp is coming out!

December 21, 2010 at 11:10 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My friends Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola have been working for eighteen months on a huge photo book about the most ambitious larps in the Nordic countries. Nordic Larp will be published today Wednesday. I got my copy Tuesday afternoon, and it’s worthy of much praise!

The book has thirty excellent live roleplaying games from Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Some games I’ve been involved in creating (Luminescence, inside:outside, Europa, PanoptiCorp, Dragonbane), in others I’ve been a player (Helsingin Camarilla, Ground Zero, The Executive Game, Hamlet, Zombie, Mellan himmel och hav, Silmäpuoli merirosvo), and all of them I’ve heard lots of good things about.

During the fifteen larp years in the book, the scene has deal with gender roles, society, cancer, Norway’s Nazi occupation, the mafia, nationality, insanity, capitalism, Shakespeare and the homeless, and adventure with vampires, dragons, steampunk spaceships, pirates and dead spirits that communicate through radio. Many of these in the same game.

My article In Prison With Kafka and Beckett is about inside:outside (2001-2002), a larp Eirik Fatland and I designed, and Irene Tanke produced, that was my first larp to be exhibited in an art gallery. The book has eight pages of text an Frode Dybvad’s photos for the game. While the pictures are good, many more articles are much more visual, since the originals were somehow lost in the Faroe Islands in Frode’s bag. (I think this accurately displays what a huge undertaking Stenros and Montola had in getting photos of some of the older games.)

Since a larp is an immediate work that cannot be recorded or reproduced, editing and publishing a book like this is a great deed for the whole culture. Without one the visionary live roleplaying games of old would remain only in the dimming memories of its participants and turn into vague stories told over proverbial campfires, but now they are documented with visual proof. With this book the history of Nordic larp is immortalized.

I obviously haven’t read the whole tome yet, but after browsing it, I can tell it’s full of interesting articles and brilliant photo pages. The book will be available online and in select bookstores, but you can also get it at the publishing party today on Wednesday, Dec 22th.

There will be four or five simultaneous parties held in Helsinki, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, at least. The parties kick off at 19:00 local time. The Stockholm part fill be held in Betahaus (Skeppsholmen 30), and in Helsinki the location is Dubrovnik Lounge (Eerikinkatu 11). Locations for Oslo and Copenhagen will be announced here.

The parties are also connected to each other with a live stream. You can also watch the video online in real time, or take part by Tweeting (#nordiclarp). (I promise not everyone there dubs themselves a Social Media Expert!)

Welcome!

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Awarded at Prix Europa!

November 2, 2010 at 9:30 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

The short film The Forest of Babel by Elina and me (produced by Pohjola-filmi) won at Prix Europa in the category Languages Through Lenses! The award gala was held at Haus des Rundfunks, and televised live in Germany. Present were just about all the European public broadcasting CEOs, Directors of Drama and the coolest creatives. Not bad 🙂

Watch the movie here!

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Prix Europa

October 20, 2010 at 5:07 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m spending this week in Berlin attending the Prix Europa tv conference. This is a meeting of European broadcasters and creators, where they watch or listen to each others tv series, radio shows, documentaries, emerging media productions (websites, mostly), and review them. Then they vote on them, and the ones highest regarded get awarded the Golden Bull.

Elina and I are attending because our short film The Forest of Babel was selected in the Languages Through Lenses category. The fifteen teams from all around Europe arrived on Saturday, and spent the whole of Sunday watching, commenting and voting on each others’ films. Sunday evening we found out that our film was one of the three short-listed ones, and would compete for the student award Golden Calf at the award gala this Saturday. Very exciting!

The film is a 90-second piece, that’s written by me, produced by Elina and directed by us together. It has a Sami girl, a Basque boy, and a Kurdish boy trying to save a reindeed from under a fallen tree in Lapland. It’s a co-production between Pohjola-filmi and Aalto University.

So we’re spending the whole week here at Prix Europa. Every morning begins with a breakfast speech by one luminary or another, and then the day is full of screenings from all over Europe. Sometimes there are special events like Guy Meredith’s lecture on non-linear screenwriting on Tuesday, or a producers’ panel on co-production this evening.

Monday’s breakfast speech was by British documentarist Paul Watson. He was an entertaining speaker and longed for the olden times when tv was apparently not as smitten with celebrities and the lowest common denominator. I don’t know, maybe he’s right. The reason I’m mentioning him is he had a great quote, perhaps the best I’ve heard here so far. ”Film is the opera of arts.” Let that sink in. What’s opera then? I must ask him again if I meet him again here in Berlin, the Frankfurt of Germany!

Today the Emerging Media section begun, and I’ll try and attend most of it. The amount of tweeting with the #PE10 tag immediately went through the roof since the conference is suddenly full of social media specialists. It’s very interesting to compare different European online/interactive/new media/multimedia/extended universe/mobile productions with the participatory stuff The company P is doing.

Now back to the conference to wait for Saturday… In the meanwhile, you can watch The Forest of Babel here! (Or wait for a film festival where you can see it, such as Kettupäivät in Helsinki.)

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The Golden Dragon!

July 25, 2010 at 7:27 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The main event of the roleplaying year, Ropecon, is just behind us. For seven years this is where the lifetime award Golden Dragon has been given to roleplaying luminaries, people whose games I’ve played as a kid, whose stores I’ve frequented and whose magazines I’ve read. In other words, I have quite alot of respect for these Grand Old Men of Finnish roleplaying.

Therefore I was both proud and humbled to receive the same recognition. In my thank you speech I was very touched but managed to speak for the future of the hobby.

A summary of the Finnish press release:

PmWikiMike Pohjola has been influential in the field since the mid 90s. His live roleplaying games have been played in cultural centers and art galleries. His publications include the roleplaying games Myrskyn aika (2003), Star Wreck Roleplaying Game (2006), and Tähti (2007). In addition Pohjola has published Sanaleikkikirja (2008), and the YA novel Kadonneet kyyneleet (2008).

Pohjola is also a founding member in The Company P, that won the International Emmy for Best Interactive Tv Service in 2008 for Sanningen om Marika. Right now he’s working on The Conspiracy For Good mega-project that premiered last Saturday in London. The Nokia-sponsored Conspiracy For Good is a project that combines participatory storytelling and gaming and lets players search clues with new mobile technology to progress in the story and help charities. The creative visionary of the project is Tim Kring, the showrunner of the tv show Heroes.

Thank you so much! It’s a really great feeling to be recognized by your own people in such a way.

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Metal pic

May 26, 2010 at 8:00 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

I’ve written the book for the heavy metal musical 1827 – Infernal Musical. Two weeks ago they had a rehearsal weekend and a promo shoot. Here’s one great picture that really captures the period, the metal and the Turku Fire. Become fans on Facebook!

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