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Live Action Role Play: Transmediality, Narrativity and Markers of Subjectivity

Michał Mochocki


This work frames larp as a multimodal medium: based on live-action role-playing but also open for inclusions of other media and technologies. It is approached as a narrative medium, used for performative and participatory cocreation of dynamic storyworlds. The emergent story is experienced by the full sensorium
of the players’ bodies and simultaneously uses the bodies as a medium of
representation. Players combine the roles of authors, actors, characters, and audience. In its prototypical model, larp strives for a high degree of perceptual unity between player and character and prefers iconic representation via live action and live acting, with lesser importance of indexical and symbolic signification. This study reaches for J.-N. Thon’s (2014, 2016) typology of forms of representation of character’s subjective perception in film, graphic novels, and video games, and applies it to live-action role-playing. The fundamental difference lies in the ‘firstperson audience’ (Sandberg 2004; Stenros & Montola 2010) mode of participation in larp. Unlike the audiovisual media discussed by Thon, in which it is intersubjective perception that comes unmarked, larp by default is experienced from a subjective spatial point of view. The first-person audience mode makes it hardly possible to switch to (quasi-)perceptual overlay, and to ever leave subjective spatial point of view, unless some of the prototypical principles of larp are broken. By contrast, representations of (quasi-)perceptual point of view and of imagined internal worlds are possible, although with some danger of unwanted metaleptic contact with another character’s delusions. For this and other reasons, larp has limitations in the use of simultaneous content markers and representational markers of subjectivity, whereas contextual content markers and all narratorial markers present no difficulty. The paper adds one category to Thon’s framework: symbolic markers, which are based on a pre-established code of arbitrary signs and are used to regulate the active agency or perception of the audience, e.g. a player’s gesture marking off-game status of the character, or movement from the main game area into a metaroom used for role-playing internal worlds. The overall discussion compares medium-specific affordances of live-action role-playing, which are fairly limited in representing subjectivity, to the affordances of larp as a multimodal genre, able  to include many other forms of live, recorded and digitally mediated representation.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/ijtl-2018-004-moch

International Journal of Transmedia Literacy (IJTL)
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (22/10/2014 n. 328)
Online ISSN 2465-2261 - Print ISSN 2465-227X

Editor in Chief: Matteo Ciastellardi
Managing Editor: Giovanna Di Rosario
Managing Committee: Matteo Andreozzi, Stefano Calzati, Ugo Eccli, Cristina Miranda de Almeida.
Board Committee: Alan Albarran (University of North Texas, United States), Rogério Barbosa Da Silva (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil), Giovanni Baule (Politecnico di Milano, Italy), Laura Borràs Castanyer (Universitat de Barcelona, Spain), Derrick de Kerckhove (Politecnico di Milano, Italy), Henry Jenkins (University of Southern California, United States), Marsha Kinder (University of Southern California, United States), Raine Koskimaa (University of Jyväskylä, Finland), George Landow (Brown University, United States), Paul Levinson (Fordham University, United States), Asún López-Varela (Universidad Complutense, Spain), Lev Manovich (City University of New York, United States), Nick Montfort (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States), Marcos Novak (UCLA - University of California, Los Angeles, United States), Massimo Parodi (Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy), Bruce W. Powe (York University, Canada), Kate Pullinger (Bath Spa University, United Kingdom), Marie-Laure Ryan (Indipendent Scholar), Alexandra Saemmer (Université Paris 8, France), Carlos Scolari (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain), Susana Tosca (IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark), Alessandro Zinna (Université Toulouse II, France)