The Book

The Call for Papers

Click above for the call for papers. The first round closes September 15th.

The Team

Every year a new team takes up the mantle of producing a book for the Solmukohta/KP conferences.  The year, the editorial team is Eleanor Saitta, Johanna Koljonen, Jukka Särkijärvi, Pauliina Männistö, and Anne Serup Grove.

The TL;DR

  • A physical book for everyone
  • Tight focus on what we do when we play; meaning, among other things, player and community skills
  • Call for discussion and collaboration starting now, in this Facebook group
  • It’s fine if this is your first book text  — we’ll have high-touch editors to help you out and will matchmake with co-writers if you find writing challenging

The Focus

The focus of the Solmukohta 2020 book will be on what we do when we play. In part, this means looking at the skills players bring to a larp, but also everything else we do at and around larps that isn’t designing, producing, and analyzing them, including the skills we perform as a community — thanks to Simo Järvelä for this frame.

Over the past couple of years, folks on the book team and across the Nordic community have seen something new in our conversations about larp.  As we’ve worked to make what we know about larp design more rigorous and started teaching it more formally, we realized we still don’t understand what people do when they play.  We know how to play, both individually and as a community, but we aren’t good at talking about it.

Our intent is to describe what we see, rather than prescribing what should happen in play.  We can’t (and wouldn’t try to) say what makes a “good player”, or to set a normative bar for “you must know these nineteen things to play well”.  Rather, we’d like to help our community find more words to describe things that some players do, and ways for people who also want to do those things to learn.  We believe it’s likely we’ll see different players playing in different ways, from some combination of personal inclination, play culture, identity, and aesthetic desire, and that their ways of playing may shift in different circumstances.  In particular, we may find that not all modes of play are accessible to all players or in all games, or that some modes of play sometimes need specific work to enable them.

Larp in the Nordic style is a collaborative medium, at its best when players, producers, designers, and community organizers all divide responsibilities in flexible ways.  Even during runtime, the work we do in play is rarely done alone. Runtime does not define the boundary of the larp, however. The social and organizational environment of the larp, of its  player community and surrounding communities, are also places where skilled work matters and where we can become better at what we all do, together.

Every Solmukohta conference ticket will come with a copy of the book, which will also be available online, both as a PDF and in individual articles, and hopefully via print-on-demand.  While we love theory, what we really love is seeing it put to work, and we want to share this year’s book with folks who might not otherwise read it. To this end, we’re already thinking about how to use layout, visual elements and alternative formats to make the content more accessible:

The Process

We’re pushing into new territory with this book in a very different way.  Last year’s book was an amazing compendium of 20 years of work, and this year, we’re hoping to write a book about things we don’t yet understand.  Doing this means working together to identify and think deeply about what we already know how to do, but not how to talk about.

The first step in this process was an open call for attendees to a theory retreat in Helsinki.  On May 9th-12th, the book team and everyone who had applied (25 people in total) spent four days exploring in a broad-strokes way the range of what we don’t currently understand about how we play.

We barely scratched the surface, so if you would have wanted to be at the retreat but couldn’t, you can still join the conversation on the ground floor.  Next, we’ll be sharing documentation, half-finished thoughts, open questions, and our general excited confusion from the retreat with the community. We’re hoping to spend much of the summer thinking, and possibly testing ideas about what we all actually do when we play.  From this, we’ll eventually figure out ways where what we discover may be turned into something we might call a “skill” that we might learn, and also about how those skills fit into the larger world. In doing this, we’ll also be drawing on theory from elsewhere (theater, cognitive psychology, dance, you name it) and seeing what fits in well with our medium and our way of thinking.  Documentation will be made available, and discussion will be centered in this Facebook group.

On September 1st, we’ll put out a call for papers . We’re not expecting that the book will speak with a single, unified voice — it’s too early in the process of understanding player skills for that — but we do hope that we can align on terminology as much as possible, to make the work more accessible.  To that end, we’ll have a crack team of editors working with writers to help polish things up. If you think you have something useful to say about player and community skills but you’re not comfortable writing on your own, we’ll try to pair you up with people who can co-write.  We will, however, insist that every article comes with at least one meme.