Four years ago we published the “Nørwegian Style” book. It was an anthology of Norwegian games translated into English. We wanted to show the world what we were doing, and how cool it was; how vibrant and fresh our scene was, how much fun we had in designing games and trying them on each other.
Today it seems that scene is dead.
How is it dead? Let me count the ways.
1. We’re not writing games and putting them online anymore. Most of the activity on this blog is about our games being translated, re-released or hacked; the games are alive, but we’re not making new ones.
2. The R.I.S.K. competition, which was a major source of new ideas and material, has had less and less activity. This year nobody bothered to run it.
3. Other attempts at game design competitions have failed. Most get no submissions at all. I won one nearly two years ago, with A Thousand Years Under the Sun. I was the only participant. When a few of us talked about maybe setting up a Norwegian Game Chef 2013, it… just didn’t happen.
4. The roleplaying forums at n4f.no (rollespill.net) have almost zero activity. New forums at rollespill.info have about five participants. The Facebook group for Norwegian roleplayers never had much buzz. There’s hardly anything on G+ or Twitter, either.
5. HolmCon, the tiny con at my house where people would come to try out new and strange stuff, had no newcomers this year (and was almost entirely made up of guys over 30).
6. The Arcon festival is struggling to get new roleplaying scenarios, and people to run them.
7. Playground Magazine came and went (although an international effort, it was based in Norway).
8. We’re not publishing game books anymore. (Itras By is a translation of a book published several years ago).
Why is it dead?
1. We’re not recruiting new people. As people grow older and get families and jobs or just grow plain bored with their hobby, there aren’t new people ready to take over. We’ve known about this problem for a decade, and never managed to muster a collective effort to fight it. There’s one light in the darkness: Tomas Mørkrid, who targets young players specifically with his workshops and campaigns.
2. As a result, all our potential designers, theorists, players are picked up by other scenes with more initiative. Through Fantasiforbundet, Laivfabrikken, Grenselandet etc etc etc, the Nordic larp scene is thriving and growing and getting all the fresh young minds. They’re doing amazing work. I just wish we did the same.
3. A few of us have been conspicuously absent the last years. Some have been sick for prolonged periods. I have been making hard priorities in order to get some major projects up and running (Playground, my novel), and am no longer trying to join in on everything. (I miss being part of everything).
4. Although we tried as hard as we could, some of us in the “hard core” of the scene were never able to shake off a reputation as elitists, snobs etc. This alienated people.
What would it take to build it up again?
I’m not sure we can, by now. I think it might just be too late. However, if we want to, we need to look at what the larpers are doing: We need to recruit, recruit, recruit. Teach. Reach new people. Not just go to the same old cons and hope some new faces show up, but do things like:
- Grab young people who are interested and fan their flames. It’s easy to think that “this is just one obnoxious person with zits”, but that person might be running their own con in five or ten years, IF you just get them up and running and welcome them into your crowd. (I’ve done it, and seen it happen). No matter if it’s just one person you manage to recruit – that’s a billion times better than none, and this person might recruit a dozen more in a short time.
- Devote your time at cons to playing with young new people, and get them excited. Make them love the game.
- Go to new places. New cities and new cons and even non-gaming places. Play with strangers, talk to strangers about gaming and game design.
- Take care how you use visibility! Keep some discussions for smaller circles – like your most theory-heavy or meta-advanced or weird and provocative stuff. Try to be welcoming and open, not authoritative and proselytizing.