These days I am playing this game with my friends regularly on Saturday nights. I would like to analyze the game and my play experience because most of the game play is based on an imaginary narrative game space. We have four players and one mediator in total.
In the very beginning of Jenkins' article, the relationship between narrative and interactivity are discussed. With the assumption that narratives are created by the author of the game instead of players, there seems to have a conflict between narrative and interactivity at that time. Jenkins points out that “stories are not empty content that can be ported from one media pipeline to another”, thus games tell stories in a different way than other media do. In the LARP game that I play, I found this statement to be true especially under "productive play" scenarios. The soul of the game comes into the realm by the creativity of individuals, coordination with other players’ decisions and imagination, the improvised and relevant performance with certain plot etc. Compared to computer-based RPG games, we also has the similar constraint that the major branches of story are predefined (that’s why we have rule books and a mediator who knows everything ahead of all the others). However, on a more “localized” level of each of the narrative space (a chunk of story that happens in a limited space), the possibilities of play is technically infinite. That’s why there is one game mechanics called “stun dice”, meaning that when you do something creative in the game, you are getting extra dices for your next quest. The fundamental difference is, in LARP, the players are narrators at the same time. They need to come up with attractive plots and embed it within the larger story, while comprehending new stories by other players. When a player takes part of the role of narrator, they are more engaged with the whole process of comprehending and telling the stories actively, tied with the commitment to the group.
In his article, Henkins focuses on the role of game designers as narrative architect, building the spatial environment for evoking, enacting, embedding stories and making them emerge. However, in LARP, players cannot easily perceive the space. In Celia’s paper, she discussed how the commonness and difference of narrative environments between disneyland and world of warcraft. Following alone the same line, due to the difference of the affordance of media and scale of play, LARP creates different narrative space. While it seems that players in LARP has full freedom of human-scale embodied action, the feedback from the game is limited. Exploring the game space is like walking in a think fog, blind. We do not have visual feedback from the game system, all the feedback players receive comes from the narratives of the mediator. She is not directly telling you what to do, instead, a player always need to ask questions, make decisions out of multiple choice, and negotiate with other players to make a consensus about where the story goes. It is amazing that with all the constraints of perceiving space, players still figure out what they should do once they get comfortable with relying on narratives and also after getting updated with other players. The evoking, enacting, embedding and emerging stories all happen in the game as the major resource of fun. One important moment for me is to see the world map of the entire game space. I view it as a common ground, an anchor indicating that I am working in the same space with other players, although the representations of that space is different in each of the player’s mind. With the help of the environmental change, the story can develop itself through collaborative and productive play.
In the LARP game that I played with my friends, there are two female and two male characters. One of the female character is played by a male player. With the typical theme of heroes saving the world from evil dark powers in ancient times and challenges that is based on quests, it’s a typical scenario that “girls play in boyland”. (A more specific example here is that, a player may choose to have higher “socializing” skills, however, whether persuasion is successful is not decided by the speech that she gives, but by rolling the dice.) One easy change here is to introduce the domestic space into the game play. As suggested by Ludica, girls have more connection and impact on the domestic space. Since the game is placed in a friend’s house anyway, it would be interesting to map the actions in the game world to the real world, and vice versa. One example is hosting the mystery party, the house was decorated in a way that will evoke the atmosphere for “make-believe”. Compared to other 3D model based video game space, one advantage in LARP is that it is easy to change. It would be interesting to see how to use it as a platform to test how the change of narrative architecture can lead the experience towards a more girl-friendly direction, including many of the changes mentioned by Ludica, such as encouraging constructing other than deconstructing, more cooperative and community-based play, having fun surrounding the domestic space etc..
Yan Xu, email@example.com