Pervasive play, metagaming and the boundaries of play


I’m interested in your experiences of and thoughts on playing/running/designing games that expand the boundaries of play.

In tabletop RPGs we can see the appeal of playing different games within a shared narrative world (as discussed by @jasoncordova in this thread. There have been other discussions about carrying over characters between different games, secrecy in games, collaborative worldbuilding etc.

In LARPs, I guess that there is a lot of discussion about pervasive play through use of technology/augmented reality or by playing characters in a ‘city larp’ for example.

I’m at my parents house in the countryside at the moment and I’m looking through old drawings, stories I wrote, toys and books. And then when I walk around the fields and hills and woods I recognise places in the landscape that were central to the games my friends and I played. All of these elements seemed to feed back into each other into a continuous feedback loop of play (during Summer holidays at least!)

The Masquerade book was a big deal when I was very young and I’m still pretty fascinated by the story surrounding it.

I read The Dungeon Master book about James Dallas Egbert III (it was lurid and trashy) and saw Mazes and Monsters (terrible) but I was pretty gripped when they teased some of those themes in True Detective (season 3)

Last year I listened eagerly to the podcast about Polybius.

These are all pretty extreme examples of the boundaries of play being expanded but they highlight the thrilling temptation of finding real buried treasure or, uh, exploring steam tunnels as well as the real possibilities of manipulation, abuse and lack of safety/consent in play.

Sorry if this is a bit rambling and incoherent but yeah, I’m curious about your thoughts and experiences of play beyond the tabletop!


I’m all about pushing boundaries and learning from adjacent or even unrelated disciplines. I just gave a talk about the intersection of gaming and performance at a college where they were presenting Qui Nguyen’s play She Kills Monsters.

Places where play intersects with non-play in interesting ways that interest me include Fluxus, high fidelity simulation with human elements (like the US Marine Corps’ Combat Towns), and “extreme experience” haunted houses. This stuff is all a little beyond the obvious intersections with immersive theater, improvisation, and other forms of performance.

I think its informative and worthwhile to note that these are all embodied, kinesthetic experiences much closer to larp than tabletop.



I think that, as much as I enjoy playing tabletop RPGs, I have never felt the level of engagement/embodiment/immersion that I have in LARP and I guess that the majority of ttrpgs are not designed for that experience. I think that it’s fair to say that some of your own designs have been instrumental in bridging that gap and introducing elements of LARP to a broader roleplaying community.

I am very interested in that intersection between play and non-play and I suppose that this leads back to some of the stuff discussed in the everything is a designable surface thread.

I think that I often forget how powerful utilising the spaces we inhabit (geographical/physical/digital/cultural) can be in play.


There’s a ton of valuable stuff in tabletop that can inspire and inform other modalities! And vice versa, even more. In my opinion, though, tabletop has a really limited set of affordances and a very intense focus that makes innovation and stealing form other disciplines pretty hard.


Was this in New Jersey? A friend of mine just directed the play there.

I directed here a few years ago and ran a game as people came into the theatre.


That’s such a good idea! No, I was in Toledo, Ohio. She Kills Monsters is really popular!


It’s a show that would be easy to do wrong and ignore the emotional content but I had people sobbing. (Used Aerith’s theme, an orchestral version, and was told I cheated by a few gamers.) :slight_smile:
We did Blades in the Dark so people could see what a game looked like.


I’m also fascinated by this stuff. I think you might be interested in the Playable Theatre Project at Northeastern, which I manage along with two tenured faculty (one in game design and one in theater). @Jmstar was at our kickoff workshop over the summer and we are actively holding workshops and drafting publications to investigate these ideas.

The goal is to draw from experimental theater, LARP, and ttrpg storytelling disciplines to develop a set of ideas and values around player/audience agency in these kinds of works.


Ah! That sounds amazing!


I probably couldn’t have afforded them anyway, but my heart sank when I saw m I had missed all of the workshops for this spring. :frowning: Sounds like such a wonderful program!


They were all free, @Pearl_Zare


shakes fist at sky in an angry and mournful fashion