On Sunday, March 21st, Second Life will play host to SLarp Fest, a one-day celebration of live action role-play (LARP). The event is a co-production by IndieCade International Festival of Independent Games and the Playable Theatre Project, and is the latest in a series of events traditionally held in the physical world to leverage the potential of Second Life as a means to provide attendees with a unique digital experience.
For those unfamiliar with it, IndieCade is the only standalone festival for independent games in the United States. It was founded in 2005, and held its first showcase event at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in 2007, with its first festival following in 2008. Between 2009 and 2015 the festival took place in Culver City, California, moving to Santa Monica City College in 2018. A “sister” event, IndieCade Europe was held in the UK between 2007 and 2009, before being rebooted in 2016 as the IndieCade Conference and Expo, held France.
Regarded as “the video game industry’s Sundance“, IndieCade gives invited independent video game developers the opportunity to showcase their work alongside of a conference track featuring classes, panels, workshops and keynotes related to games development. In doing so, it has become a major attraction for independent game developers and others in the industry.
As with so many events the world over, the SARS-CoV-2 situation forced the IndieCade organisers to “go digital” in 2020, hosting events and activities through various on-line mediums. As a part of this IndieCade 2020 Anywhere and Everywhere festival, a presence was established in Second Life: IndieCade Oasis, which for 2021 will play host to SLarp Fest.
Conceived by IndieCade and the Playable Theatre Project, SLarp Fest is an experiment in adapting live action role-playing games – a long-standing part of IndieCade’s repertoire – to a digital format, the idea being to allow experienced and novice role-players alike to join is a series of specially-adapted live action role-play scenarios, and to participate in a number of other activities.
A live action role-playing game (LARP) is a form of role-playing game where the participants physically portray their characters and enact a plot of the game. The players pursue goals within a fictional setting represented by the real world environments while interacting with each other in character. The outcome of player actions may be mediated by game rules or determined by consensus among players. Event arrangers called gamemasters decide the setting and rules to be used and facilitate play.
– Live action role-play definition, via Wikipedia
SLarp Fest is curated by Celia Pearce (Artemesia Sandgrain in Second Life), one of the co-founders of both IndieCade and the Playable Theatre Project. She is also the author of a number of books and papers on viral worlds, including Communities of Play (MIT Press 2009). Working with IndieCade Oasis region designer Jenn Frank (Nova Conundrum in Second Life) – herself a long-term Second Life resident through her main account and a writer focused on games and technology – Celia has sought to provide an environment that is more interactive and immersive than can be achieved through the more “traditional” approaches to digital engagement, such as Zoom.
I was growing increasingly frustrated by the limitations of the Zoom proscenium, so I invited some of my favourite LARP designers to experiment with avatar embodiment to see if we could adapt their work for a virtual world. Jenn and I worked with the creators to take advantage of the capabilities of the Second Life, along with the massive amount user-created content, to build something truly unique and immersive. Our play testing thus far has indicated that the experiment is working!
– Celia Pierce (SL: Artemesia Sandgrain) on the origins of SLarp Fest
Commencing at 09:00 SLT on Sunday, March 21st, SLarp Fest is open to anyone who wishes to attend. Throughout the day the festival will present a range of activities for attendees, including card games, a carnival, pirate ships, the chance to play MadPea’s Escape Room and, of course, the opportunity to participate any of the four live action role-play scenarios that are the focus of the festival. These are:
- 09:00-11:00 – First Impressions (aka D&D Speed Dating): find your fantasy character their own adventuring group in a speed-dating-style event! A fast, zany take on conventional fantasy tropes. Game by Marc Majcher, Adapted for Second Life by Evan Torner (UC Game Lab).
- 11:00-13:00 – Angel Falls: players attend a funeral as conflicted humans and comforting but flawed angels in a scenario about seeking resolutions when it is already too late to resolve anything. Developed specifically for Second Life and SLarp Fest by Celia Pearce, Jenn Frank and Annika Waern, and inspired by the film Wings of Desire.
- 13:30-15:30 – Romancing Jan: a racial, orientation and gender inclusive take on a Regency era matchmaking game, played in full costume at a fancy outdoor tea dance in a period pavilion. Game by Athena Peters, who also adapted it for Second Life.
- 16:00-19:00 – The Sleepover: play as adolescents learning and sharing knowledge about sex, sexuality, and gender identity at a sleepover party during summer camp” From the IndieCade 2021 Finalist anthology Honey & Hot Wax by Julia B. Ellingboe and Kat Jones (Candyland Games), and adapted for Second Life by the authors.
Those wishing to attend the event should register their intent to allow the organisers to get a feel for the potential number of attendees. In addition, registration will provide access to the sign-up forms for the LARP scenarios. Note that registrations will close at 23:59 SLT on Thursday, March 18th.
Further details on SLarp Fest and IndieCade can be found via the links below, and I’ll have more on the event, including the SLurl, ahead for the opening.