I was interviewed in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung about the Euro Crisis. They chose one writer from each Euro country to comment on the matter. Here’s my part as a PDF. (The three other parts of the series will be published in later issues.)
They made the interview during the Olympic Games so the thoughts on the Baltic Union are not a cry of support for our populist political leader Timo Soini who has since voiced similar thoughts. My German isn’t good enough to tell whether it’s clear that this is an idea for a culturally and historically more connected union, not a demand based on real politics.
Here’s some parts of the interview that was originally conducted in English:
I believe the Lehman Brothers collapse and the current Euro crisis are but symptoms of the wider problems in our economic system. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the 90’s and the 2000’s saw a huge deregulation of banks and markets, undemocratization of governments and market-driven globalization. This allowed for commercial banks and investment banks to fuse into huge banking conglomerates which are too big to fail. When governments base all their decisions on what’s good for the economy, this means that in fact it’s the banks that are in charge, not governments.
One starting point for the crisis was in 2005, when Germany and France pushed the EU to adopt the Basel II recommendations, tying European banks’ and even the European Central Bank’s credit rating systems to the American credit rating cartel of Moody’s and S&P. At least in Finland it seems the question “Will this affect our influence in the EU?” has changed to “Will this affect our credit rating?”. Finnish media and politicians take an unhealthy pride in having AAA rating and look down on the countries who score worse. Having a private credit rating cartel dictate European economic policies is a bit like having a doping manufacturer decide on how to check the Olympic athletes for illegal substances.
The criticism against EU and the Euro has always been vocal, but it seems to gain new momentum now. So far it’s been mostly the conservatives and the nationalists who are against the monetary union, but now there’s also lots of doubts from the left and the right. The current coalition government consists of capitalists, socialists, social democrats, greens, Christians and the Swedish language party, and even though they’re officially for supporting Spain, their ranks seem to be falling apart.
The most common public opinion is that there are great problems with the Euro, because the “southern” countries have wide-spread corruption and even that the southern people are lazy. It’s seen as unfair that the honest, hard-working northerners like Finns and Germans have to carry more than their rightful share. This just goes to show how people in a complex situation are desperately looking for easy answers and guilty parties.
First of all, Germany has a much larger vested interest in the well-being of Spanish banks, since many of those banks are credited by German and French banks. From an economic perspective, it makes perfect sense for Germany to want to bail out their own banks. For Finns, the question is much more complicated, and mostly based on the idea that if the Euro fails, it will probably somehow negatively affect Finns, as well, maybe.
Also, at least according to the newspapers, Merkel’s government hasn’t had such an easy time in getting the Germans or even the Bundestag to approve bailing out banks with tax money, either.
Another factor is Finland’s very complex government coalition. When the government was formed a year ago, the large Social Democrat Party and the mid-sized Left Alliance were needed to make up a majority in the parliament. But they wouldn’t join the right-of-center National Coalition Party -lead government unless everyone agreed they would make the shareholders of the bailed-out banks responsible, as well. I think this was a good idea, since otherwise the shareholders would have made lots of profit without sharing none of the risks. In practice this has been problematic, as it means Finland has to go through special negotiations with each bailed-out country, and after the negotiations all the other countries might feel like they’re been cheated, if they don’t have a chance to get the same benefits as Finland has.
However, our (Social Democrat) Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen has a very strong position at the moment, since she has just successfully negotiated the Spanish bail-out agreement, which seemed very unlikely at the time.
Whenever someone says there is no alternative, I become sceptical. Both Finnish and German governments have been very adamant in this policy of no alternatives, which for means that there is something for someone to gain by saying this. It’s possible they really do believe that one more bankrupt bank would result in a total chaos and a new Great Depression. But it’s equally likely that they are so closely connected to the banks that they have no choice except bail them out over and over again. It’s also possible that the situation is so complex even the politicians have no idea what would happen, and have chosen to avoid all risks, even though the bill seems to be quite high.
One thing I’m certainly glad the Bundestag did, is not allow the money to go to Spanish banks directly. Giving it to either the Spanish governments for them to help the banks, or having ECB control the bank regulation first seems like a step in the right direction.
I don’t know if “the idea of Europe” ever really did exist. I remember in the 90s when the European Community and European Union were advertized as carrying on the great Greek traditions of democracy and equality and so forth. All the brochures and early websites were full of pictures of Athenian temples and Olympian gods. In a way, the idea of Europe was suddenly and artificially created on top of Greek antiquity. And now there’s talk of throwing Greece out of the Union entirely.
So if we’re not building Europe on the traditions of ancient Greece, what are we building it on? There certainly have been movements and empires that have spanned large parts of Europe, but none that would even closely resemble the European Union. We’ve had the Roman Empire, the two Catholic Churches, the Ottoman Empire, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, Napoleon’s Empire, and lots and lots of wars. Previously we were part of the West heroically standing against the Soviet Bloc, and now suddenly that Bloc makes up half of the Union. We’re a continent split apart religiously, politically, ethnically, linguistically, culturally, and don’t really have much in common, apart from the Euro.
If you want to talk about ideas, I think a Mediterranean Union and a Baltic Union would make much more sense, even though they’re tied together by sea instead of land. The Mediterranean Union would carry on the ideas of Greece/Roman classicism, the Catholic Churches, the Ottoman Empire and the Roman Empire. The Mediterranean Union could consist of Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and possibly Northern African and Middle Eastern democracies. Austria, former Yugoslavia, the Ukraine, Bulgaria, and such countries might also be members. The Roman languages and Arabic would be the common languages.
The Baltic Union would be based around the tradition of the Hanseatic League, Protestantism, Norse and Slavic paganism, Secularism and the German, Danish, Russian and Swedish Empires. The member states of the Baltic Union would be all the Nordic, Baltic and Benelux countries, Poland, Germany, Czech, Russia and the UK. The common languages would be German, English and Russian.
Central European states would be welcome to join in, possibly some would want to split two ways.
The birth of the EU was in preventing yet another great war in Europe. I agree this is a lofty goal, and these two unions might easily fall into feuding. Strong economic and political ties would ensure this doesn’t happen.
I’m making an entry-level tabletop roleplaying game for kids. I started playing the D&D Red Box when I was 9, and so did pretty much everyone else in my generation. There hasn’t really been anything like that available in Finland, and from what I can tell, not really anywhere. (If there is, please correct me, but definitely nothing over here.)
Therefore I hope to publish a tabletop roleplaying game for kids 9-13 years old, and I’m raising money for it. Myrskyn sankarit (“Heroes of Storm”) is based on my earlier tabletop RPG, Myrskyn aika (“Age of Storm”) that was also the setting for the larp Dragonbane. Here’s the crowdfunding site: http://www.indiegogo.com/myrskynsankarit
The story is about a group of brave rebels who live in the forest and fight against an evil witch emperor, in the vein of Robin Hood, Star Wars and Knights of the Round Table. And yes, it will have lots of strong female characters, as well!
The initial version will be published in Finnish, but while I’m at it, why not aim for a bigger thing.
If I raise enough cash (and I think I will), I can publish this in Finnish. Hopefully we’ll get some supermarket distribution, but at least it’ll be available in all the gaming stores and the like. Now, after that, the translation into English won’t be too big a hassle. (I already have people to do that.)
But for all this to work, I need money NOW to pay for the printing, storage, postage, marketing and so on. I’ve just added a special international friendly “Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen” Perk for $75 that will get you a copy of the Finnish language box, a PDF of the English translation (if we get to that), and eventually a boxed copy in English or whatever your chosen language is (if we get to that). If the project doesn’t reach its funding, you won’t pay anything,
Here are the other Perks in English, in case you want to invest more!
We’ve already raised almost half of the money (in less than a third of the time), have 350 Facebook supporters, and yesterday the crowdfunding site IndieGoGo.com decided to honor us by having Myrskyn sankarit as one of the featured projects on their homepage! Please participate, and help spread the word!
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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!
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!)
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:
Mike 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.
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.
We love the website, and are really excited because this Thursday we’re having a showing for media and friends (welcome), and on Nov 4th at the Kettupäivät festival we have the first public viewing of the film in Finland.
The website is at www.pohjolafilmi.fi
I got married this Saturday to my bride Elina Lindroos, and made her my wife Elina Pohjola. In a couple of hours we’ll be on our honeymoon in Denmark and Greenland, and can’t be reached via e-mail until September 10th.
Our wedding had a Kalevala theme, and was appropriately called The Pohjola Wedding. The color was purple. The amount (and quality) of congratulatory speeches surprised all the guests, not to mention ourselves. The ceremony itself happened on top of a hillfort by a judge and a shaman. We are really happy 🙂
Here’s a couple of photos (by Claus Raasted and Saara Malmila), more through these links: