(Im) Possibilities of Remote Fieldwork

Presentation on fieldwork and research about larp during a pandemic, at the CGJS-EAJS Japan Conference (@Nichibunken), December 11-13, 2020.

Methodological Concerns of Researching Larp and Educational Roleplay in Japan

Date & Time: December 13 (Sun), 17:00-20:15
Location: Zoom (cf. conference website)

My research engages live-action role-play, larp, in two different ways: From a transcultural studies and Japanese studies perspective, I am studying how related practices evolve and change in Japan, how communities emerge around these practices, and how people adapt larp to their own environment. As an educator, I am exploring larp from a methodological perspective for the purpose of translating research findings into an experienceable form. For the latter endeavor, I am currently working on a project that seeks to translate the challenges and worldviews of people diagnosed with autism into a larp so that others may gain a first-hand glimpse into their life-worlds.

Larps are a combination of gaming, improv-theater-like character improvisation, and shared storytelling. A facilitator creates a scenario and the players explore this through their characters. Most larps are for entertainment purposes but if they are used in education, they usually have long pre- and post-play workshops to offer time for reflection.

Both avenues of my research, larp as a hobby in Japan and larp as a research tool, have been severely impacted by the effects of the corona virus on travel and face-to-face interaction. Design workshops with colleagues in Germany for the larp about autism had to be cancelled or postponed. We are now exploring online alternatives. This matches the approach of larp practitioners who try out various forms of remote gaming – however, in both cases these approaches have limits. In this presentation, I will discuss these possibilities and limits of remote fieldwork and research when it comes to larp practices in Japan.

Kamm, Björn-Ole. 2019. Experience Design for Understanding Social Withdrawal: Employing a Live-Action Role-Play (LARP) to Learn About and Empathize with Hikikomori in Japan. In Neo-Simulation and Gaming toward Active Learning, edited by Hamada et al., 387–396. Singapore: Springer.
——. 2019. Adapting Live-Action Role-Play in Japan—How German ‘Roots’ Do Not Destine Japanese ‘Routes.’ Replaying Japan, no. 1: 64–78.
——. 2020. Role-Playing Games of Japan: Transcultural Dynamics and Orderings. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.