Last week we held the first Larp Studies Seminar, an academic event on live action role-playing, associated with the Pyrkon Convention in Poznań, Poland. It was organised by the Games Research Association of Poland; Klub Fantastyki Druga Era (i.e. the organisers of Pyrkon); Institute of Modern Languages at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań; and Institute of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics at Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz. Check the timetable: four invited international speakers (Harviainen, Waern, Bienia, Kot), four speakers from Poland (Milewski, Chmielewski, Surdyk, Szeja), and then one panel debate (chair: Mochocki) to conclude the day.
Chairing the debate on “Academic Larp Studies: Methods & Approaches”, I tried to search for the methodological identity and scope of larp studies. The panel was asked two major questions, or in fact one question in two variations.
1. "Do we need academic larp studies as a separate field", distinguished from studies on tabletop and online roleplaying? There seems to be universal agreement that:
- larp deserves its own subfield of academic enquiry,
- larp studies should be informed by game studies and play studies,
- larp studies is open for various methodologies, depending on the needs of specific research
2. "Do we need academic larp studies as a separate field", distinguished from the non-academic theory and practical considerations developed in the community?
- non-academic larp criticism is highly valuable for academic researchers,
- scholars may also develop valuable larp theory without first-hand practical experience,
- larp studies as a field benefits from constant exchange of ideas between scholars and practitioners,
- actually, it is typical for larp scholars to be both academics and practitioners (players, designers, educators),
- the academic is often inseparable from the practical, especially in the discussion of design
Another set of questions concern the future of Larp Studies Seminar as an event, if it is to be continued. Should it keep its focus on larp, or broaden its scope to include tabletop and online role-playing? Should it stay strictly academic, or start inviting non-academic speakers? Should it stay associated with the Pyrkon Convention, become part of the annual GRAP conference, or seek an independent life of its own?