Thinking about LARP in Schools

As part of the NOW PLAY THIS festival, I attended my second ever LARP experience. LARP stands for Live Action Role Play and is all about having an immersive experience of the game. My previous exploration of Live Action Role Play had been a traditional fantasy LARP. I was dressed up as an Orc and was being chased around the woods by adventurer players wielding big foam swords. I had a great time and as much as I’d like to try fantasy LARP again some day, I haven’t rushed back.

However, my second go at LARP was a very different and far more inspiring experience.
It was called the Summit for Intergalactic Knowledge (or S.I.K for short). The game was run through Zoom by its designers: Alen Ksoll, Margherita Huntley and Natalia Skoczylas. Whilst playing, I felt incredibly inspired by the educational impact that this game could have and I immediately started thinking about how it could be adapted for use in schools.

The idea of S.I.K was that aliens from across many galaxies were meeting to discuss how they could help humans deviate from their destructive path. Many topics were discussed but ultimately this was an attempt at taking a removed look at how to fix some of the many human caused problems on Earth.

Here is some more information from the creators of S.I.K:

Summit for Intergalactic Knowledge is a digital LARP (Live-Action Role Play), a non-competitive game and an experimental educational tool for co-creating and playing in a speculative fiction world. It allows us to embody different non-human agents, form interspecies relations, learn from each other and re-shape how we think of ourselves as beings.

The game seeks to problematise human exceptionalism and speculate about alternative positions from which we can question, destabilise, and decenter humans. Through the ability to inhabit and experience those other than ourselves, we can start addressing the challenges of the anthropocentric climate crisis, which privileges human and culture over non-humans and nature.

Through our characters engaging in different creative exercises, we will explore various forms of non-extractive relationships and ways of being and relating to each other otherwise.

I played as Sploose, an ambassador of Splootopia and messenger for the Great Woobleflarb, a giant gelatinous cube of impressive knowledge and wisdom.

Here I am in my cobbled together costume with Woobleflarb close behind me enjoying the heat of the sixteen suns of Splootopia:

The game lasted around 3 hours and started with an alien mediation and a finger/tendril/tentacle wave before each alien had a chance to introduce themselves, their planet and their culture.

After the introductions, we had time to ask each other questions about the information we’d shared. This led to lots of great discussion centred on sustainability, consumption and risk to other living beings.

After this discussion, we had a small art project. We looked at the Pioneer Plaques that were sent into space by humans as a message for other life forms. We thought about receiving this message and how we would respond. The aliens created their own artworks to send as a message back to the humans – some individually, some collaboratively.

Here is one collaborative example, expressing connectivity:

The aliens were then invited to take part in a collective writing task. We could only use popular culture quotes to communicate with the humans and so answered questions using Spice Girls lyrics and quotes from A Muppet’s Christmas Carol.

There was then a collective read through of our messages to Earth. This was a surreal but powerful experience as a group of 12 relative strangers read out these quotes and lyrics together in disjointed harmony.

After our messages had been sent we all took part in a landing ritual involving pouring wax through a key hole into a bowl of cold water. Each alien then interpreted the cooled, dry shapes of the wax as a message about the Summit or of what the future may hold.

The Summit came to an end.

We had a post game chat after everyone had cleaned off their face paint and popped off their cybernetic enhancements. This is where the ideas for use in an education setting really started to come together.

Many schools are looking at exploring the climate crisis in a way that doesn’t put the weight of the world on the children’s shoulders. It is a difficult and anxiety causing topic but through meaningful play, it can be approached in a freer way. By taking on the role of aliens, we removed ourselves (for a few hours) from the guilt of our role in the climate crisis. We discussed solutions rather than problems and felt free to question new ways forward. The creative elements, such as the performance, art and writing collaborations, added further exploration to the topic that I know many young learners would engage with deeply. Schools are striving to look at new and engaging ways to approach climate change. There are achievements such as the Eco School green award that schools are striving to receive:

Using a LARP experience such as S.I.K would immerse learners in deep discussions about saving the planet whilst enjoying a day dressed up as an alien. The whole school could get involved with cross Key stage interactions. Even the school dinners could be served up as space food.

I had started to picture the whole day in my head and I am hoping to work with the S.I.K game designers to bring the game to my school soon. I’m incredibly exited about the potential impact that LARP events such as this could have in an education setting.

Woobleflarb is most impressed.

You can find out more about S.I.K here:
They are hoping to run more games in the future and Sploose is very much looking forward to attending the Summit for Intergalactic Knowledge again soon.

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