Landing after an intense larp

So you’ve had an intense larp experience, you’re feeling a bundle of emotion (positive, negative or both). What do you do to land? I asked this question on facebook, and received some 40 brilliant, and diverse, responses. Here they are:

Note: Most responders mention more than one landing strategy, but I’ve tried to sort them under the categories they best exemplify. I’ve edited for spelling, and removed meta-talk.

Writing it down

Jaakko S: “Attempt to write about it. Fail. Lie awake at night thinking about it. Repeat until able to write.”

Susanne G: “I either hang out with people who were also there and talk talk talk. Or I write the story of my character, usually with an in-perspective. Sometimes both.”

Karete M : “I usually write stuff. It can be a mixture of my own, personal thoughts, the in-game story of my character and things other players have said that I want to bring with me. Also, if available, I watch tons of documentaries/movies etc that revolves around the themes I feel have touched me. I also like to curl into a foetus position and lie down on the floor for a couple of hours, contemplating what I’ve been through :)”

Malik H : “Work creatively – (personally I write lyrics for songs) and keep physically active.”

Reading up

Anders H : “I usually spend a lot of time listening to and reading about other participants stories, emotions and experiences from the game. It helps me remember and “file away” parts of my own memories and feelings.”

Thomas B : “Spending hours looking for/at pics of the game, reading people’s feedback and writing about it on my blog. Which I have not been able to do this year due to too many larps and it pisses me off to no end, because that “digesting” part is part of larping too.”

Talking it through

Johanna M : “Talking to a friend who was there. Several times. Posting a few braindumps in a private FB thread or over chat.”

“Also talking about it a week / month / year later has proved for me to be useful, and brings into focus how I felt in the larp – gives some perspective.”

Elin N : “This is how I’m coping with the larp Just a Little Lovin’ at the moment: Just being with the people I played with a lot, preferably several days in a row, broken up by dedicated alone-time where I prefer passive entertainment. I make sure I feel safe with the people I choose to socialize with, and I express my needs in the moment, whether that is a hug, some space, some confirmation. I like processing the game through discussions over time. Time and having people who understand is what heals my postlarpweirdness.”

Veronika F : “I find it fascinating how some of the people need to dive deeper into the experience while the others get away as far as possible and get in touch with reality. 🙂

For me, with the most intense emotions that trouble me, it’s somewhere in-between I guess – talking to someone who either didn’t play the game or if they did, they can listen to me and look at it from some other perspective, which rarely happens if they were deep in their own role.”

Symbolic actions

Jeanita H : “Writing a letter for my character really helped for my after Just a Little Lovin´ Also saying goodbye to the character or even killing him/her has helped me before.”

Shoshana K : “I usually use items to help me bring myself out of game. So I don’t carry my phone at most games, and it has my connections to the rest of the world. I grab it after game, plug in headphones, and listen to music that first I consider associated with my character (if it’s a long running campaign) or with the game itself or with LARPing. Then I listen to stuff that is just mine. It helps me get back into things. And then I go onto social media or answer some work emails and such? Brings me back into the real world.”

Lars W : “I was once stuck in feelings from one larp. So I wrote it down on a piece of paper, put the paper in a bottle, filled it with stones and threw it to the ocean. Worked for me.”

Kjersti L : “ [ … ] try to identify one thing about yourself that you’d like to leave behind with the character; one thing about the character that you’d like to bring with you into real life; and one thing about the character that you’re happy that you don’t have to deal with in real life.

Apart from that, writing and talking to other players, including having one or more debug-buddies, work really well for me, both during and after the game.”

Kjersti mentions the source of this technique: Johanna Koljonens excellent 2012 talk on larp safety.

Petter K : “While they often end up in the debrief on location, I still love the two questions:
1) What did me and my character have in common and I want to leave behind
2) What did my character have, that I don’t, that I want to keep with me.”

Dancing and music

Morgain H : “For me blues dancing works. It melts everything inside me and let it flow away.”

Josefin W : “Hanging out with the people I bleed with. This weekend i discovered that sometimes it works to dance the worst of the bleed away with that person. Otherwise I just need to hang out a lot with the person in question. I need to feel important and seen. I get kind of needy.”

Anna-Karin L : “If there is theme music to the larp I listen to that a lot.”

Anne Marie S : “Music! Listening to, and singing, songs that are connected to the larp and the emotions. It really helps me to sing (it’s physical and honest and helps me to connect with my own voice and body again). Listening to songs that were used at the larp (or songs that relate to the emotions brought on by the larp) lets me re-experience those feelings in a different setting and helps me to process them. And then moving on to songs that have nothing to do with the larp, but that mean something to me personally (like old favorites,the songs and hymns of my religion that reminds me what I believe and who I am, etc.)

And writing. Because I know this feeling will pass, and I don’t always want to forget all the thoughts I’m having right now.

Of course, most of the time, all of this isn’t needed. And mostly it works to just hang out with the right people and hug a lot.”

Rasmus T : “Music. Doing music that fits your mood :D”

Introspection

Sanna K: “One thing I would like to add is that for me, one of the functions of processing a larp is to hone and polish my memory of the game — so as to determine what I want to carry out of the game and to intensify that. For me, it works to dwell on a scene or memory that really highlights the feelings and themes of the game, and to listen (possibly on repeat) a song that somehow encapsulates that feeling. I don’t want to land fast, I want to land carefully and deliberately ;)”

Dagmar W: “Unlike most people here, I need to be alone. I go for a run or a walk while talking to myself, trying to analyze my feelings and put them into words, searching for what I’ve learned…and then I can talk about it with others. And yes, concentrating the “normal” stuff helps a lot as well.

So if you ever meet me in the middle of a deep forest, engaged in a conversation with an imaginary friend, no, I’m not a psycho.”

Daniel K: “I rarely experience that sort of afterglow, but when I do I tend to need some alone time: playing games, watching movies and listening to music that touches on the genre or emotional theme of the experience. I also have a strong need for contact with the couple of players I’ve had the most intense interaction with, usually by mailing or texting. The written word works best for me – meeting up and talking can actually be offputting, though at times I do that too (usually after a really profound journey).”

Martine S : “I play through the scenes over and over in my head, thinking, writing, talking to myself about them. I try to see how I could have reacted differently and play out alternative versions of the same events. All this is introspective, so I need to be alone.

Then, I need to find the people I had the most intense experiences with and talk through the scenes. Hugging, drinking, eating, talking. Over and over until it’s finely honed as memories.

Only after I’ve danced, sung, talked and written through the scenes do I approach my normal life. I have to be back in my own head, processed and ready, before I want to talk to people who weren’t there.”

Leo N : “I take long walks in urban areas at night.”

Kaia A : “For me: Long walk in the park/forest/nature or drawing pictures. Sometimes talking to someone who was not there, but still is interested enough to listen. And talking to one of the organizers if something happened that needs to be talked to one the organizers about.”

Joanna Ö: “I’m one of those who it takes ages for to process a larp and to put it into words that does the experience any justice. I try to avoid responding to smalltalk about the larp that would give away my experience as something less than it actually could be… as if trying to hang onto the utopia for a little bit longer, wary of losing the profound that could be put into words later on.”

Engaging in fiction

Bjarke P : “I usually consume a lot of other fictional worlds. Cinema, computer games, TV series, books, comics and such. It seems to be put in the same ‘fiction’ part in my memory as the larp.”

Reality Check

Annika W : “After debrief, I need a reality check. Meeting with friends who were not at the larp, choir practice, going to the gym, playing games with my kids, makes love to my S.O. Those kinds of everyday things.”

Troels S : “Sleep well. Eat healthy. Exercise. Fill out your time with something significant and fun that isn’t related to the game. Having kids is a great boon in times like that”.

Even T : “I tend to be less interested in talking about the game than I was before. I used to do that, hanging out with the people I had been playing with, clinging to the experience as long as possible. Now, I want to seek out the individuals I had a particularly intense play experience with and talk through things with them, but then just get away from all those people and do something else.”

Sonja E : “Earlier I felt the need to talk to the other players, now I don’t. Somehow I have found a way to distance myself just enough to get on with my real life, while at the same time carrying on the parts of the LARP I wanna keep with me without having such a difficult time to land anymore. Don’t ask me how, I don’t know, it just happened over the years. And believe me: I had often a hard time to land. The only thing I know: it is so much better for me to land this way.”

Landing as an organizer

Grethe S : “Here’s how I prefer to debrief myself when I’ve organized a larp. Be focused and listen to the players in the formal debrief. Cleaning up the area with a ritualistic approach in my mind, letting this temporary place of magic disappear. After a longer larp I prefer having an afterparty onsite, starting the transition to everyday life gradually. Lots of hugging and happy smiles with the other organizers. Music, looking up what people have shared online and sometimes taking part in interesting discussions a long time after the larp ended. I also really recommend having larp-discussions with a player during a midnight bath.“

Beverages

Ståle J: “Beer”

Katri L: “Just rant about your experience to any of your friends in a bar as long as you feel like regardless if they want to listen to you or not. When all of them leave, continue ranting alone with your beer and get wasted. Very old and working Finnish method.”

“Everybody else’s experience but your own sounds always so frustratingly boring… You just wait the moment when you can start with yours and then – when you’ve barely reached the prologue after half an hour – again that annoying guy next to you interrupts your experience and starts to share his! The beer or vodka doesn’t interrupt. It just shares its blessing and listens so quietly and sweetly…”

In conclusion

I was a bit uncertain about what to call this – we have a lot of words already, “Personal debriefing”, “De-immersion”, “De-rolling”, “Processing” – even “De-fucking”. But ended up on “landing” as the most neutral and self-explanatory term.

I am fascinated that such a simple question got so many responses, and so many different responses. Kristoffer T’s answer, from the end of the thread, is perhaps the one that combines most of them:

“Being honest with the people I have created fictional relations with. Telling them how I feel, so that we as players can talk about what we created together instead of ending up feeling ashamed of being in love og feeling anger towards someone.

  • Battle myself between the two needs of being alone or disappearing in a big crowd and the need to connect with the people I have experienced the larp with.
  • Anchor emotions with music.
  • Telling the story of the game and my character to someone who was not at the larp, but who understands the medium. Get it out in arms reach and get some perspective. Turn it into something outside myself that I am connected to.”

Together, I think these responses paint a picture of a our community as one characterized by caring, sharing, reflection and intense creativity. I am also struck by the diversity of experiences and responses. As they say in academia: “further research is needed”.

But for now: can I summarize these responses into some universal advice? Nope. You are probably better off figuring out what works for you. The list above should be a good place to start. A big thank you to all who contributed!

Moar readings and lookings

Oliver Nøglebek has gathered all his de-immersion strategies in a blog post you should read.
Johanna Koljonens 2012 summer school talk on larp safety should be seen, at least twice, by everyone. (there’s also an even better 2013 talk, which should hopefully be on the intertubes soon)
I’ve blogged about the organizer side of things in “Debriefing Intense Larps 101”.

One thought on “Landing after an intense larp

  1. I end up scouting around, choosing and booking the next larp during the emotional comedown, so I have the next one planned to look forward it.

    It varies a lot if it a one-off event or a campaign – if I’m going to get to play the character again, then I can keep churning over his thoughts in my head, making plans, thinking about new costume, etc.

    With one-offs, I sometimes end up dwelling on what might have been, had things turns out differently (or if I had tried harder to squeeze them into precious playtime). Life and Larp is full of if-onlys. I don’t consider this a bad thing, since such reflection is part of the learning process. It can also be at a meta-level of design.

    One of the benefits of international larping is the process of going through the airport (and through the national border!) becomes a ritual magic circle barrier itself. Crossing back through that is part of the exit ritual.

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