Playground – New mag on roleplaying

There is a new magazine on indie roleplaying and experimental live roleplaying. The first issue was released at the Knudepunkt conference and the editorial team is pan-nordic. They aim for to publish it on a quarterly basis and are interested in new, strange and obscure stuff related to role-playing in any form. If you are interested in supporting this project please subscribe! Here is an interview made by Juhana with the editor in chief Matthijs Holter, previously known for the Norwegian style blog and The Society of Dreamers:

I had a contribution about what performance can learn from live roleplaying, a kind of rewrite on this review (in swedish), but directed to a roleplaying reader:

Bumping into the walls

When performance and role-playing mix in an intimate site-specific piece, the role of the audience is challenged. Do we lean back and enjoy the piece, or try to respond to the situation as participants?

Visiting the duo Heine Avdal & Yukiko Shinozaki’s latest piece Field Works Office at the Gothenburg dance and theater festival was a pleasure. During the festival several performances approached participatory aesthetics that resembled live role-playing. The invitation to the piece evoked a scenario set in a corporate world of generic office architecture. Only two spectators were admitted at a time, and the program folder offered ”an intimate performance where every spectator will have a different experience”.

The performance takes place in the business district close to the Gothenburg train station. An elevator takes us to a ”virtual office” maintained by Regus, a facility where companies can rent a fancy address or a short term lease. The company is happy to admit that they have similar locations all over the world which makes it possible to ”Think differently about your workplace.” With Regus, you can surf the waves of the volatile global market, set up business anywhere in the world, but still feel comfortable in a workspace which is always the same.

The setting reminds me of a 2003 larp in Drammen, Norway, where Fatland/Tanke invited us to play PR-agents in Panopticorp – ”a post-geographical networked corporation”. But this time, the corporate line is real. Panopticorp turned out to have anticipated the evolution of a business culture where demands for flexibility and team work place people employed in the ”creative industries” in a precarious position.

We are welcomed by a receptionist, and after some time in the lobby she takes us to an office room, where we are seated. The program states that ”Every location generates a certain kind of expectation and preconception of how we act in that specific space.” This is a situation where two different preconceptions meet. The first one is the context of a performance art piece, where we are expected to stay seated and silent most of the time. The second one is the office, with its inherent social implications.

As roleplayers, we are trained to relate to, adapt and affirm a social setting, which predisposes us to interact.

The room is empty. An electric kettle is boiling water and ding! it has finished. I approach the kettle and find two notes in two empty cups next to it. I give one note to my audience friend and take the other one for myself. There are illustrations of the room on the papers. ”Ah, this is how it starts”, I think to myself.

There are four desks and windows in three directions. The phone is ringing. I pick it up, but it keeps ringing and no one answers. At this point I feel a little bit uncertain. Maybe I should just sit down and wait. A woman in suit enters the room. I ask her if she works here. She does not respond, closing her eyes, thinking. I realize too late that I have overstepped my bounds. ”Yes”, she says. She gives me a form to fill in.

During the performance I see so many calls for action and possibilities for interaction going to waste. The performers are struggling. They want to invite us to participate and fully experience the strange world of the office, but they don’t have the tools to do that, because their piece is composed as a dance with phrases and ques, not as a larp, where we use characters, roles, scenarios, and explicit interaction patterns.

The illustrated notes were left in the cups by chance, and I was not expected to say anything to the people working in the office. But the signals remained mixed throughout the performance – why could I speak freely to the receptionist, but not to the suit? Although I never intended to transgress the structure of their piece in any way, I kept bumping into its walls.

In a world of precarious immaterial workers, where artists try to merge art with life – artists spending most of the time in offices these days – the art world could make good use of role-playing consultants who knows how to handle participatory situations.

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