A larp is not a work of art.

It is a series of works, a cascade, each work inspiring the next.

There is the concept as it lives in the minds, conversations, whiteboards, and notepads of the larpwrights. The idea of the larp-to-be. But it is not the larp.

There might be a larpscript, neatly written to enable anyone to run the larp. A particular expression of the idea of the larp-to-be. But this, also, is not the larp.

There is the concept as it is communicated to players, through rules and workshops and background information and the website and so on. This too is an autunomous work of art – intended to express the concept or execute the larpscript, but not identical to either. Nor is it identical to the larp.

There is the larp as it is played. So much could be, and has been, said about this. Is it one work, or is it a multitude, a river delta of creative works that come into being as each and every player creates the larp from their own vantage point? Or is each single moment of play a work in its own right, a swarm of interacting and intersecting works?

Yes. All of these.

The visible and invisible interaction or non-interaction of players, as they play. This is what we most often mean when we say “the larp” and are forced to narrow it down. And it is an object that cannot be studied. Emergent and ephemeral. We’ve already lost it. But that was always the point.

After it’s gone, new works are created in order to make sense of what we lost. Player stories, reviews, photographs (carefully shot, selected, edited), analysis articles. The Movie of the Larp. The Presentation About The Larp. Each one an attempt to capture The Larp. There have been poems derived from larps, plays and novels derived from larps, books published about larps. The larpscript that did not exist before the larp might be written after it, to enable new larps to be played, similar to the one that was lost. The larpwrights might write articles about the concept, the idea of the larp-to-be, contrasting it with the larp that actually was (& was lost).

Each one of these is an autonomous work of art. You can analyse and appreciate and critique the Movie About The Larp even if it had very little to do with The Larp. The photos are forever, but they are photos. They are not the larp. The Larp was messy, dirty, sweaty, with weird pauses and times you did not look your best. There were probably players there who happened to never walk in front of the camera. The pretty pictures with all the players present were staged post-larp.

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We each carry our memory of the larp. We try to share them, compare notes, thereby changing our memories of the larp. We create reputation, legacy, and the more we try to agree on the Truth about The Larp the more we erode of the actual memories.

We started loosing the larp as we played it, as each moment of improvisation collapsed many potential events into a single actual one. And when we finished playing it, it was gone. Because we never played it for the camera, or the story, or the article. We did not play it to be viewed, analysed, critiqued. We did not try to carve into stone any truths about the world and our place in it. We allowed ourselves to live, for some minutes or hours or days, entirely free of all that.

And that’s the point.

And so after the larp we yearn for “documentation”, trying to bring that wondrous feeling with us into the future, to brag about it, trying to fit all the pieces together as if the larp was a puzzle and the pieces could actually be put together. And we’ll never succeed, of course, but we’ll make many new things along the way.

And that, also, is the point.

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