Live-Action Role-Playing Games: Theorizing a New Art Form

Project: Research

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This project will develop a theoretical framework that facilitates the discussion, analysis, and creation of live-action role-playing games (LARPs). Since the 1970s, role-playing games (RPGs) have evolved into a major artistic medium, with many potential applications in education and entertainment. Although computerbased RPGS like Ultima, World of Warcraft and the Final Fantasy series have proved extremely popular, this art form is not specifically tied to the computer. It originated in the mid 1970s as a form of collective story creation. A classical RPG brings a group of players together to improvise stories collaboratively. One player, often called the "game master", functions as a referee, director, storyteller, and manager. The game master usually retains final authority over the proceedings. Every other player takes on the role of one or more fictional characters, creating the character's personality and background in collaboration with the game master. In playing the game, the game master describes the setting and the actions of the inhabitants and each player describes what her/his character would do and says what her/his character would say. In a table-top RPG, participants enact their roles around a table, and keep a score using pencil and paper. In a live-action game, participants actively act many aspects of their characters' behavior, sometimes in costume.The present project aims to foster creative innovation in RPG design through an investigation of experimental game design techniques in recent LARPs. This research will describe and analyze existing ways of designing and playing LARPs, and identify new possibilities that may not have been implemented in existing games. The core methodology will involve participatory action design. Members of various local communities, particularly students, educators, artists, and designers, will be invited to participate in gaming sessions. The participants themselves will play an active part in the design and evaluation of the games. They will describe their own experiences and motivations, analyze the impact of different design decisions , and search for new directions through the creation of experimental games. Certain factors will be explored in detail, including the flow of authority in each game, the relationship between game worlds and the surrounding environment, the process of generating new game ideas, the diverse styles of playing adopted by different players, and the possibility of recreating local Hong Kong history. This research will provide material for conceptual reflection on the form, structure, and potentials of the LARP.


Project number9041413
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/08/0821/10/11