It’s a Trap! – Museum Exhibition About RPGs, and a Convention, too!

As I’ve previously mentioned on the blog, we have in my town the Finnish Museum of Games, a large permanent exhibition about games and gaming in Finland, from Skolt Sámi games played with reindeer bones to political larp about the situation in Palestine.

The most recent cool thing to occur there is It’s a Trap!, an exhibition about role-playing games. It’s in a separate exhibition space, 100 m2 in size, and has nearly every role-playing game product released in the country on display.

The exhibition contains the original D&D booklets donated to Ropecon by Frank Mentzer in 2011. The game designer Jukka Sorsa (right) was on temporary loan for opening night only.

I say “nearly” because every time we thought we had a full list, we turned up another booklet that someone self-published out of their garage in 1994 with a print run of 26 copies that was only sold by a dark stranger at the crossroads on a moonless night. In the beginning we figured there’d probably be around 100 titles – this including not only games but also supplements as well as translations. We ended up with around 350, and counting. Yes, this means we do have more RPG releases per capita than most other European countries, more RPG releases in absolute terms than a quite a few rather larger European countries, and yeah, Lamentations of the Flame Princess is the biggest publisher in the country.

We did a book, too.

“We” in this case mostly means Jaakko Stenros, games scholar and my partner in crime on the book project attached to the exhibition. My contribution to the show was the English translation of the exhibition texts – meaning that none of y’all have any excuse not to come and take a look – and co-editing Seikkailuja ja sankareita: Katsauksia suomalaisen roolipelaamisen historiaan ja nykyhetkeen, or as it would be in English: “Adventures and Heroes: An exploration of the past and present of Finnish role-playing”. It’s an article collection of a slim 128 pages, kinda in the vein of Knutebooks, with texts covering topics such as the history of the Fantasiapelit game store chain (a key player in the Finnish scene), the exploits of the gaming club in the city of Pori in the 1990s, Juhana Pettersson’s study of his character-driven playstyle, and an overview of academic games research. I am very satisfied with how the book turned out.

The exhibition itself is a marvel. It contains rarities even I had never before seen in the wild or even heard about, such as Nousius, the third-ever Finnish RPG, or Verald, the first and to our knowledge only Fennoswedish RPG. There’s outré stuff like Steissin yö (“Night at the Station”), which is a mid-90s youth education game about the dangers of the Helsinki Railway Station at night, or Syvä uni (“Deep Sleep”), a farcical work about nonmilitary service. And there’s a table you can game at, with character sheets and rulebooks available for a bunch of games. Interactivity at its best. It’s there until January 6th, 2019.

We’re also doing an event day called Museocon on the 4th of November, and we’re in the home stretch for hammering out the program. I will reveal that there will be opportunities to play games that few have played before, and hear talks about RPGs from game designers who haven’t taken the stage at Ropecon since the 90s, or ever. I am excited!

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My Play History, at the Finnish Museum of Games

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The Finnish Museum of Games opened at the Vapriikki museum complex last week. It was a crowdfunded project, and its mission statement is to showcase the history of Finnish games in all their forms. The core exhibit consists of 100 different games deemed relevant in one way or another. A surprisingly big portion of them are role-playing games or larps, and many of them are playable at the museum.

I will write up a larger report of the museum from a role-players point of view next week. I should have a pretty good feel for it then, since I will be spending my entire Thursday there, the complete opening hours.

This is because I got involved with a university course on the game studies side where we created the first temporary exhibit of the museum. The course was run by Annakaisa Kultima and Jaakko Stenros, who also blogged about it. It opened today and runs until February 10th, and it showcases the experience of playerhood through our personal histories as players and gamers. It’s called Minun pelihistoriani, or My Play History. There are thirteen of us from various backgrounds, and in addition to the texts narrating our histories and the objects that contextualize them, we’re present in the flesh. Each of us has a couple of days in the calendar when we’re sitting in a chair and chatting with visitors, perhaps even playing a game with them.

My dates are Thursdays January 19th and February 2nd, and Friday, February 10th.

It’s an interesting concept, and I feel we’ve made a hell of an exhibit for one hell of a museum. The folk at Vapriikki grok how to run a museum and make it interesting in a way I’ve rarely seen, and I go to a lot of museums. They use space in interesting ways, and the experience goes beyond just walking around and reading plaques. There are things to touch and try out for yourself. It’s how a museum should be done.

I will report on how things went once the month is over and done with. If you’re out and about on the dates above, come and say hi.

All the texts in the museum are available in both Finnish and English. Entry is 12€, 10€ for the unemployed or 6€ for students and kids. Children under 7 get in free.