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.
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” 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!