We learn and build understanding through playing. This is nicely captured in a quote by Astrid Lindgren:
“I wish the children of today would play more than they do. The children who play build up a rich universe inside them that can be a resource throughout life. A warm and cosy world is generated. A world that can give you strength in difficult times. A place you can depend on in adversity and sorrow.”
Live-action role-playing games (LARPs) have turned out to be an increasingly popular and easy way of engaging university staff and students, and LARPs are used both in teaching and in social contexts. Wikipedia provides a simple definition of what a LARP is, suitable for our purposes:
A live action role-playing game (LARP) is a form of role-playing game where the participants physically act out their characters’ actions. The players pursue goals within a fictional setting represented by the real world 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. (see Wikipedia article Live action role-playing game for more information).
In a LARP, play, immersion and learning is combined in a way that is easy and intuitive to understand. I have played many LARPs with colleagues and friends during the last 15 years, and this has yielded many interesting, hilarious, and also thought-provoking experiences. Most LARPs are written for fun and entertainment, but there is increasing awareness around the fact that LARPs can be very suitable in contexts where learning or simulation is the main objective; as indicated by the success of the EcoFishMan LARP which we wrote and ran in Tromsø and in Rome in 2012. In general, LARPs develop the individual on cognitive, affective, and behavioral levels and are therefore very suitable also for educational purposes.
Figure: Here colleagues and students from UiT play “Death on the rocks” in Tromsø on Easter Sunday 2017.