Posted by: Montola | September 5, 2009

Review #4: Holter

While we recover from DiGRA, here’s another review, by Matthijs Holter. He is a Norwegian tabletop role-playing game designer. Among other things, he has created two pervasive larps Agabadan and Agabadan II, and he’s an editor of two anthologies on Nordic role-playing: Larp, The Universe and Everything and Nørwegian Style.

This is what he says in “Wide subject, many voices”:

[…] I’ve attacked the book from several angles. Jumping into one chapter, checking out a reference to another, occasionally googling interesting games or reading up on the book’s official blog. And, luckily for me, the book lends itself well to this form of reading. The text is full of interesting tidbits, fun and strange ideas that provide inspiration and matter for reflection. Jumping back and forth through the chapters also highlights a specific feature of the book: There are many voices, many situated authors, many discernibly different agendas*. These multiple frames of reference make for a multifaceted view of the pervasive games phenomenon.

While creators of pervasive games are often good at hyping their own games, making it sound like they’ve changed the lives of everyone involved and are on the verge of creating a social revolution, the editors let the projects speak for themselves; they describe the games objectively, cite research and questionnaire responses, and let the reader make up his/her own mind as to the quality and effects of the game. This is refreshing and relaxing after reading so many hyped-up articles about different pervasive projects. It also makes reading chapters like “Art and Politics of Pervasive Games” more rewarding; having facts** contrasted with vision and opinion make both parts stand out more clearly.

All in all, this is a brilliant book both for laymen, designers and researchers. I recommend it heartily, and remain a fan-boy.

* The weakest part, in my opinion, is the case study on “Mystery on Fifth Avenue”, written by Eric Clough; Clough is the founder of 212box, the creators of the aforementioned mystery. While the project is interesting, the author is clearly in love with his own project, and describes it in such sickeningly-sweet syrupy language that the whole thing sounds like a Disney X-mas special.

** I’m not using the term “dry facts”, because the book is too interesting.

He values the book at 5/5 stars.

Earlier reviews: Noyons, Pettersson, Harviainen.


  1. […] reviews: Holter, Noyons, Pettersson, […]

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