3. Using larp to simulate futures and pasts

Larp is a fascinating form of expression. We can use it to gain insight into the past. We can use it as a form of extremely powerful escapism that lets our fantasy worlds come alive. We can use it to learn about ourselves. We can also use it to simulate the future.

The elephant is hard to predict, and the rider lies

Simulating the future is extremely hard. We can create models and reduce the world to numbers, and that makes it possible to extrapolate future numbers from our already existing numbers. If we’re comfortable with those numbers, or at least with the way we’ve gotten them, we call that a simulation of the future. This is how we calculate unemployment in 2030, population growth in 2050 and changes to the Big Mac index in two years.

Example: College of Wizardry in Poland

On a personal level, I experienced this first hand when we did the first College of Wizardry larp in Poland. The tickets cost 180€, which is about half of what a CoW ticket costs as of this writing. The reason was simple. We were all volunteers, we did fundraiser larps in Denmark to help bring in money, and we also lost quite a bit on doing the project.

Larp as the elephant in the room

When companies launch products, they often use focus groups. Bringing in people to test out the product and to talk about it, while being observers by a team of developers, can be very useful. It’s also a completely artificial environment, and everyone knows it. There’s a huge difference in the conversation between a focus group for a new Playstation, and the conversation of a group of friends who gather for the first time around one that’s just been bought by one of them.

Oh, wait, doesn’t the US military already do this?

Well, yeah. The National Training Center at Fort Irwin, has been using roleplaying to train its soldiers since 2004. One might argue that this isn’t true roleplaying, since the soldiers don’t play characters. Everyone else does, though, and as a young American G.I Joe this kind of training is invaluable.

How larp sparked the rediscovery historical war archery

I met Lars in 2002, when I was hired at a Danish after-school institution that ran weekly larps for kids. We’d usually have between 50 and 100 kids larping each week, and we also built a lot of equipment along with the kids. Costumes, weapons, props, and so on were all constructed in our workshop.

Hollywood archery myths debunked by larp archery

One of the first things they figured out through their larping was that the back quiver, which is popular in movies, was more or less useless for an actual skirmish archer operating in a forest. Their arrows were constantly falling out and were impractical to draw.

We can test out reality in a way few others can

Sadly, I’m not the living god-emperor of anything, but if I was, I’d use larps to simulate some of the ideas I had on a small scale. Larps have the advantage of being incredibly scalable and of giving people alibis for doing things they’d normally avoid.

Director at The College of Extraordinary Experiences, Coach at McKinsey & Founding Partner at The Global Institute For Thought Leadership. Author of 31 books.

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