#kp2018 liveblog: learning from experience design.

Experience design is born from commercial interests extending commodities (coffee beans), through goods (coffee grounds), to services (McCoffee), to experiences (….artisan coffee shops) to increase profits.

How does that cross to larp?

eg: build-a-bear is an experience – you pay to make your own product. The build-a-bear experience is *memorable*.

eg The Secret Cinema as a movie experience.

eg …healthcare? Huh? Ah, yes – the MRI machine story. Turning an MRI into a story-thing, with a narrative to persuade a small child not to be so scared of a real odd experience. MRI the “tool of terror” into a ride on a pirate ship. Quote from kid: “Can we come back tomorrow?”

Disneyland is the definitive experience offering.


The theme of an experience is a set of cues that suggest a different time, place or set of circumstances.

  • Harmonise positive cues (dress the medical staff as pirates)
  • Eliminate negative cues (use pirate language, dress the trash can as a barrel.)

Interesting notions from the crowd…

  • Make the end of a larp coherent with the experience.
  • Make the pre-larp workshops coherent with the experience. (…but handle the changeover clearly, is my advice.)
  • Question where the experience begins, build cues into the journey (…but consider the possible weaknesses of blurring the boundaries of the larp.)
  • Playlists of music
  • Make your “gamemasters” visible to the setting, but by signifying their presence within theme (Yup, done that one.)

Mixing in memorabilia.

Memorabilia fixes memories of experiences. Purchasing it is all very well, but…

Unanticipated memorabilia is even better; perhaps as a reward for extended loyalty. How this memorabilia bestowed? Make that unexpected; use a bit of memorabilia to do some other function, then make it known they can be taken.

Interesting notions from the crowd…

  • Unit insignia at a war-larp
  • “Survivor”/”Zombie” badges that you can wear elsewhere
  • Make sure people can take home artefacts that were created in game
  • Like medals for runners?
  • Parts of the scenary
  • Radiation brackets in a post-apocalyptic larp
  • A symbol you *won’t* take – the cathartic value of destroying a symbol of IC oppression
  • Use artefacts to show evidence of service – like towel folding, shows the towels are clean.
  • Useless stuff – name tags become memorabilia when handed out.

Engaging the five senses

Do something which isn’t inherent to the experience – like, restaurants deal with taste and smell, you’d expect that. Augment that with sight, sounds, touch… Larp is great at this.

From the audience…

  • Use imagination to fake it… (Take out the visual, let someone’s imagination of what they can hear but can’t see do the work.)
  • All five senses (cf: haunting in God rest ye merry gentlemen.)

Surprise and unanticipated value

Free meals, water from an Uber driver, a blank agenda at a conference…

A theory of structured experience

  • Absorption – relaxation
  • Engagement – narrative and heightened emotion.
  • Immersion – behavioural action and reaction, synonymous with flow.

Design with objectives in mind

Use these theories with the stages of an experience in mind…

  • Arrival – eg. arrive by bus
  • Decompression – eg, walk to orientation
  • Reception – eg received by counselors
  • Orientation – eg. welcome ceremony
  • Involvement – eg. camp activities
  • Exit – eg – closing ceremony.

We concentrate on Involvement, but there’s a lot of time which could be made awesome.

Emphasize peak moments

Book recommendation – “The power of moments” – downside moments are *expected*, how can we intentionally design peak experiences which will outweigh the neatives

  • Elevation – boost sensory appeal, raise the stakes, break the script.
  • Pride – recognise others, multiply meaningful milestones, practice courage
  • Insight – reveal clear insight, compress time, discoverable by the audience
  • Connection – struggle toward a goal, synchronised moment, responsiveness (cf. Acts in larp, and breaks for tweaking the pace.)


There’s a threshold of service quality that has to be met before it can be augmented with experience design.

(I wish he’d nerded out more – I’d love to know more about the research that backs all this stuff…)

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