A Tale of Two Cities: Symbolic Capital and Larp Community Formation in Canada and Sweden


  • Mikael Hellström




Larp events are not isolated, but happen in a larger context of a community of larping
participants. Like all communities, members will share ideas about good and bad practices and behaviour and develop norms that tie the members together. Organizers can then use language to communicate which practices they emphasize as important, and what they consider good or bad practices for their event. Such norms can invoked for the purpose of legitimizing the larp in the community and can then be transformed into attributes of symbolic capital with a power of their own. In this way, the events build on, and generate, such symbolic attributes, which take on significance for community homogenization. Larp
events can thus be seen as an expression of established community practices.

The purpose of this article is to locate common attributes of symbolic capital in the presentations of eight larps from two cities, Edmonton, Canada, and Stockholm, Sweden. The documents of the larps are analysed using Pierre Bourdieu’s theory, which discusses how symbolic capital can structure social space, to identify common denominators and reveal central community values.

The inquiry concludes that different symbols for proper larp have been adopted in the two cities, where the Edmonton community has a strong emphasis on rule-books and mechanics, while the Stockholm community is focusing more on the exploration of dramatic themes and authenticity. This indicates that the two communities can be thought of as different social spaces, distinctly separate from each other. The article also includes a discussion about the potential implications of authoritative symbols and their role as a homogenizing force within a larp community.




How to Cite

Hellström, M. (2012). A Tale of Two Cities: Symbolic Capital and Larp Community Formation in Canada and Sweden. International Journal of Role-Playing, (3), 33–48. https://doi.org/10.33063/ijrp.vi3.223