The Reality Code: Interpreting Aggregate LARP Rules as Code that Runs on Humans




larp, rules, competition, cooperation, code


Aggregate larp rules are a type of code that runs on humans. Code can be thought of as a linguistic form that is both declarative and imperative; it is both truth and command (Buswell 2009). In aggregate larp, elements of the game’s diegesis are rendered codic, or playable, allowing players a degree of autonomy from game staff. Through the methodologies of Critical Code Studies (Marino 2006)—the reading of code (code as text) and the annotation of code (code as manuscript)—the interpretation of larp rules as “code that runs on humans” takes form, allowing us to read game encounters as programs, players and staff as programmers, rulebooks as programming languages, and rule structures as platforms. In larp code, a DBMS-style relational model lends the code depth and specificity. Aggregate larp rules descend from tabletop RPGs, which emerged in tandem with the workplace proliferation of DBMS in the 1970s. With larp code and computer code, the social practice of standardization plays a role in shaping the code. With both types of code we also see the emergence of proprietary code. Social apparatuses (Althusser 1970) ensure that larp code maintains its integrity as truth-command. The repeated reinforcement of social apparatuses lead players to experience a process of rules reification, leading the larp code to eventually take on a type of psychological reality. This phenomenon may have a neurological origin. The study of larp code provides a framework to approach “real world” reified power structures such as “gender,” “race,” and “capital.”




How to Cite

Steele, S. H. (2016). The Reality Code: Interpreting Aggregate LARP Rules as Code that Runs on Humans. International Journal of Role-Playing, (7), 30–35.