19 Responses

  1. New in Larp: American Freeform and more » Lizzie Stark

    […] at the UKG blog, Mo attempts to describe UK Freeform, and how it differs from other […]

  2. Sam Flintlock
    Sam Flintlock February 15, 2014 at 10:18 am |

    There’s quite a big danger of self-selection bias here. Those of us that have found our way to the UK Freeforms Yahoo and/or Facebook groups are not necessarily representative of wider trends. It’s possible, at least, that there are more people calling a different type of game “freeform” in the UK.

    I’ll also repeat the criticism I’ve previously made of “American Freeform” as a concept. For something to justify a geographical descriptor, I think it may need to have certain concepts that can be pointed at as being specific to that country. There’s an argument that existed with Nordic LARP for a time (although the term does exclude a large amount of LARP also played in the Nordic country). I’m not sure that the UK has that. What we do seems pretty near to what I know of freeforms in both New Zealand and Australia. And I can’t see any real difference between us and the Irish freeforms I’ve seen.

    Those caveats aside, here’s some of the other things I see being the case with the freeforms we play.

    The purpose of UK freeform is primarily or exclusively to entertain. Games are written about serious issues sometimes, but they’re still played for enjoyment. The idea of writing a game to explore the human condition isn’t big here. We see entertainment as a worthwhile goal in its own right.

    If ‘bleed’ takes place, it’s a byproduct, not a design goal. It’s generally resolved informally (with a pint and a casual chat) as opposed to via formal debriefings etc.

    There simply isn’t a need to be taken seriously for a lot of us. Nor do we seem to care much about being seen as ‘childish’ because of our choice of hobby. That’s a noticeable difference with the American Freeform crowd, some of whom are pretty explicit about that being one of their goals in taking up the concept. Some of that is cultural. We fit pretty well into a tradition of English eccentricity to non-freeformers. Certainly, what we do is no stranger then morris dancing or trainspotting.

    1. Mo
      Mo February 15, 2014 at 12:37 pm |

      Mm – I tried to avoid ‘tonal’ description, because I saw that as potentially opening up an even bigger can of worms 🙂 But I think you’re right about the general tone of the UK Freeforms group.

      (Personally I am quite interested in writing (and playing) games to explore the human condition, in between doing so for fun: but I’ve met quite a bit of surprise/revulsion from UK gamers when expressing that.)

      Of course you’re quite right that there may be larger groups out there who use the term ‘freeform’ for something else, but without it gaining any searchable online presence. If so, maybe this post will help flush ’em out. It’ll be interesting to see!

      (It’s interesting that you say you find UK games quite similar to Irish ones. I once asked a long-term freeform writer in the Irish scene about this, and they felt they were quite different, to the extent that they wouldn’t try running their own UK-intended games at an Irish convention. I guess perceptions are bound to vary depending on where you’re standing.)

      But I should make clear, I’m not attempting here to use UK as a geographical descriptor – I agree with you that that’s not really helpful – other than in the very practical sense that if you come to a game advertised as ‘a freeform’ in the UK, this is what it’ll probably be like.

  3. Piotr
    Piotr February 15, 2014 at 11:35 am |

    That’s a very detailed description of games which we call “chamber larp”… 🙂

    1. Mo
      Mo February 15, 2014 at 12:21 pm |

      Thank you, that’s interesting to hear! Where are you based?

  4. Steve Hatherley
    Steve Hatherley February 16, 2014 at 4:56 pm |

    I’m still working out in my head what I think about all this…

    But to repeat what I posted on Facebook:

    I think I’m responsible for “UK freeforms”. Back in the early 90s when we were playing and writing these wonderful games, we called them freeforms because, if I remember rightly, it’s what they were called at Convivium (which is where I played my first freeform).

    I think they were named after the Australian “The Freeform Book”, and the name stuck. I created the uk-freeforms mailing list (and subsequently this group) for geographical reasons. There was no attempt to define as style, purely that the list was to discuss the writing running and playing of the games here in the UK.

    (It may be worth noting that when this was happening, in the early 90s, larp here in the UK was very defined: fantasy, foam weapons, mandatory costuming, player-generated characters, very simulationist. I’ve never really enjoyed that sort of larp, so it made sense to me to give these new games a different name, to differentiate them from larp.)

    I later discovered that they were known as theatre style larps in the USA, but by that point it was too late.

    So there’s no real difference (in my head at least) between theatre style and freeform. Same game, different terminology.

    For me, though, the fun aspect is critical in playing freeforms. I don’t really want my games to explore the human condition – I want to have some diverting fun for a few hours. (Often extremely stressful, frantic diverting fun.) I’d be prepared to try a more serious game (probably given a few caveats, such as who the other players are), but I’m unlikely to seek one out.

    Anyway, all this discussion has prompted me to get a bit reflective and look back on those early days. I’ll try and get it down in words at some point.

    1. Mo
      Mo February 17, 2014 at 10:05 am |

      Please do, that’d be great! Capturing the ‘how we got to here’ perspective, before too long has passed, is really important I think.

      1. Steve Hatherley
        Steve Hatherley February 28, 2014 at 9:56 pm |

        Some thoughts on the origins of “UK Freeforms” here http://uk-freeforms.wikidot.com/being-responsible-for-uk-freeforms

    2. Morgana
      Morgana March 15, 2014 at 9:54 pm |

      I was pretty chuffed to find a reference to my book in relation to UK freeforms. Do you have a copy of “The Freeform Book”? If not, I’d be happy to send you one. Cheers Morgana 🙂

      1. Mo
        Mo March 16, 2014 at 2:12 pm |

        Hi Morgana, how lovely to hear from you! Yes, your book was pretty influential over here — I guess it hit us at just the right time. There’s a lot of fantastic creativity that’s been directly and indirectly inspired by your words, over the last 25 years!

        And thank you very much for your kind offer — I’ve never actually seen a copy of the book myself, so I’d love to take you up on that. I’ll drop you an email.

  5. Being responsible for UK Freeforms - uk-freeforms

    […] Mo has listed the characteristics of the types of games that we usually end up writing and playing here, but there are often […]

  6. UK Larp Awards : Games! All sorts of different ones.

    […] people running the UK Larp Awards event evidently either don’t know about the sort of larp (uk-freeform-style) that we’re doing, or don’t care about it, or don’t consider it to be […]

  7. The Mixing Desk of Larp : Games! All sorts of different ones.

    […] More secrets; no real attempt at illusion; characters mostly created by the GMs; and so on. A quite different playing experience, closer to the UK-freeform standard model. […]

  8. Small Town Folks published : Games! All sorts of different ones.

    […] a UK-freeform style of game, like most of the things that have come out of Peaky (although that has been changing […]

  9. Consequences - Games! All sorts of different ones.

    […] UK freeform set at the court of Queen Cleopatra, which Nickey Barnard and I wrote for the con. A blast from the […]

  10. Scene but not herd: spotlight scenes in freeform - Games! All sorts of different ones.

    […] be given NPCs to play. But this is a lot more likely in some FIASCO playsets than in others. 5 Not the UK meaning of this word, but the meaning that’s used in the US and continental Europe. Lizzie Stark has a good […]

  11. Mermaids and bottles - Games! All sorts of different ones.

    […] Non-UK meaning. ↩ […]

  12. Judicious Consequences - Games! All sorts of different ones.

    […] the UK chamber larp convention. When it started it focused very strongly on the style known here as freeform, but in recent years it’s broadened out considerably, and you can find a real mix of styles […]

  13. Living Embers – keeping the home fires burning - Games! All sorts of different ones.

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