Rhythmic steps of youngsters marching with millimeter precision approaching. As they pass me they raise their fists in a salute before continuing out of sight. Less than an hour ago, they were excited young boys and girls who came to a disused civil defense camp. Now they are all an integral part of the role-playing game “For the Nation”, which is part of the curriculum for the humanist confirmation in Stavanger and several other local teams in the Norwegian Humanist Association.
For the next 24 hours, the humanist confirmands experience living closer to the situation of many people around the world where human rights are not a matter of course. Where predictability is taken away. Where the freedom of action we take for granted in our own secure society does not exist.
In the role-playing game set in a fictional dictatorship in the present or near future, Our Great Leader rules the Nation with absolute authority. After primary school, all citizens in this society are sent to sorting camps where it is determined what value they have in society. This in turn has an impact on which job you will be assigned to. The individuality is gone. Something that many who live in small or larger communities in other parts of the world know firsthand, as do many of those who are refugees in the world.
From idea to implementation
The Norwegian Humanist Association in Stavanger’s humanist confirmands had for many years participated in another role-play in connection with humanist confirmation. A role-playing game that was good, but where finances and travel time became challenging factors. Local team leader, Kjetil Nordbø, and confirmation officer, Harald Tesaker, formed the idea of having their own role-playing game made after looking through what was available on the market, but none quite fit. And the local team board supported getting started with this ground-breaking work.
In order to succeed, it was essential to get a partner with expertise in the area. After a lot of searching, they found three enthusiastic people with 25 years of experience in the production and organization of live role-playing games. Nina L. Sund, Geir Harald Helgeid and Aleksander Gjøen created the company Rekkevidde AS in the process.
There is a solid dose of calculated playfulness and madness that is needed to take on the challenge of choosing to create a completely new role-playing game for almost 400 humanist confirmands in a local team,” says Kjetil Nordbø, who is a former board chairman. “But with the expertise of Nina, Geir Harald and Aleksander, the knowledge of good shop stewards and volunteers in the local team and a positive board, it went very well,” he continues.
The local team is experiencing a steady increase in the number of humanist confirmands. In 2017, there were close to 400 young people who had made that choice, and in the years ahead there will in all likelihood be more and more. It was therefore important that the role-playing game that was developed followed up on some of the goals that were set. That the finances were within an acceptable framework, that it was designed so that the local team had as little as possible to work on it and that it contained as many learning objectives as possible from the humanist confirmation course so that the learning was reinforced were some. Other goals were that it was designed so that young people who had not played role-playing games before could easily get into the roles, that the role-playing game was quality tested both in relation to safety, educational content and the psychological aspects and so on.
Inspired by 1984 and Leo Ajkic
Many ideas were considered before the result was “For the Nation”. A role-playing game that draws inspiration from, among other things, the book “1984” by George Orwell, the film “V for Vendetta” and the reality series “The Dictatorship” which was shown on NRK with Leo Ajkic. When using roles that are easy to get used to by playing a person of the same age as yourself and with simple role-playing personalities, a far higher proportion is engaged in the role-playing itself. A number of measures have been taken for immersion through extras, props, uniform uniforms (which are borrowed on site) and so on. The same has been done through a series of subtle moves that provide positive encouragement for play.
The humanist confirmands are divided into groups early on, which they remain in for the duration of the game. Something that gives a good social and friendship-enhancing meaning, even if you have to go through a number of activities that follow a hectic schedule. In all the activities, the graduates meet participating adults who build up the role-play vision, and reinforce the impression by keeping the role and contributing to stronger empathy. The goal is for the confirmands to more easily accept the role alibi, which in turn makes the experience of the role play stronger.
All adult participants thoroughly go through the role play some time beforehand. The humanist confirmands also get an approach to the role play in advance. In the final phase of the role-play, a thorough evaluation is made together with the humanist confirmands, where the adult participants step out of their role. The strong experience during the role play means that the learning objectives are more easily taken up in the follow-up work that follows in the regular course evenings.
Tired, but proud
She stands straight in the back with her feet together in a black overall. The blonde hair is in a ponytail and the gaze is directed forward with a small veil over the eyes. The tiredness has been upon her for several hours, her stomach rumbles noticeably with hunger, but there is also pride to trace in her appearance. Because here she stands with several hundred other confirmands who have been through an experience they will certainly never forget. Something they have experienced together.
They are waiting for the future. Defined by their utility as determined by a calculated system. In the society where human rights first came under pressure, before they disappeared completely. A reality that for them was just a role-playing game that left its mark. Luckily. For the rest of the world, it is an ongoing reality. Where their rights are pulverized and where they are on the run towards an unknown fate.
One of the young people looks at one of his new friends when the role-play is finished and says in a low voice that “this is the toughest, but also the best thing I have experienced”. An experience out of the ordinary in our safe part of the world when the role play was held for the first time for the humanist confirmands in Stavanger and Dalane.
“For the Nation” will be held in 2018 for the humanist confirmands in Stavanger, Dalane, Sandnes and Gjesdal, Ytre-Ryfylke, Vest-Agder and Aust-Agder.
Source: Article on Human.no on 18 October 2016
Written by and photo credit: Sean Kjetil Nordbo