The Prison

Jan 10th 2015 Mikael Andersson facilitated the game The Prison wrote by Aleksandra Danilenko, Mariya Grubaya, and Sergey Kolesnikov.

“It’s the middle of the 21st century.

The governments of the world have united against the terrorist menace, and established a new social order, where the people are divided into classes.

You are one of several criminals, guilty of capital crimes under the new laws. One by one, you or your fellow prisoners will be removed from the cell, taken away to be executed.

How much is your life worth fighting for? And who will survive?

The Prison is an emotionally intense and immersive Russian freeform focusing on class and identity in the not-so-distant yet plausible future.

Unlike other games, players will decide who among their fellow ‘prisoners’ will be executed. Those selected for ‘execution’ will leave the game space until game wrap.”

The Prison is a larp about convicted people of capital crimes in some sort of a reality tv show. In the fictional world of this game society is divided in different classes:  Alpha, Beta, Gama, and Omega. The population distribution follows the classes system, so the alphas are the minority and omegas the majority. This fact reflects at the game by the number of players in each class. There were only 2 alphas, but on the other hand, there were at least 6 omegas.

The characters were cast by the facilitator on the spot, but the players could change them if they were not comfortable with. The characters have no name, only class and number, and the characters sheets described only the crime the character committed. Since there is no information about characters personal lives other than their crimes, players were responsible to bring their characters to life in the sense of create a life story to them.

Some of the characters available for the game are:

  • A street fighter.
  • A scientist who killed people trying to cure cancer.
  • A drunk driver.
  • A sexual worker who got caught “commercializing” minors.
  • A man who kidnap his own daughter to save her from abuse.
  • An office worker who were involved with money laundry.
  • A teenager who were in prison since his childhood because he killed his siblings, and now he is legally an adult.
  • A drug dealer.
  • A hitman from the mafia.

The game started with a mental exercise where the facilitator described several situations for players to imagine; most of them were to make characters thing about their reaction when they meet people from different classes.

Every 10 minutes the warden, facilitator’s character, entered the room and chose  two characters to be the next judges who were responsible to decide whom is going to be executed next. Both judges must come up with the same decision or one of them will be executed instead. When the warden came back, s/he take the person away to be executed.

During the game when someone was chosen, they went to another room where through cameras they could watch the rest of the game. Although the person were not part of the game as character anymore, they had a chance to help the facilitator to choose the next two judges. One of the strategy the dead characters used to mess up with the alive characters was to pick the same judge few times in a row to make them responsible for multiple deaths.

The characters tried to connect to the audience by showing them messages like: “You are killing us, we are you”. Also, when the game came to three players, they went to cameras and gave testimonies to try to save their lives.

The game works with secrecy, so players don’t know about other characters. I played very openly and told all my secrets, but most of players hid their secrets as best they could and actually created different stories for their characters to try to protecting

One of the characters had been in prison since he was a kid. He killed his siblings, and at the day was his birthday to become a legally adult, so no he was allowed to be punished with death now. The player did such an amazing role-playing; he was restless, with strange motions with his mouth; clearly not psychological “normal”.

My character was the sexual worker, and I was the third one eliminated. Unfortunately I didn’t had the chance to be a judge.  My character’s view of classes was very open because people from all classes came to him seeking for pleasure. He was saved by an alpha, and he learned that people are just people no matter what place in society they were. The best moment for me was with an alpha who accidentally killed around 10 people doing tests to try to cure cancer. The alpha was the first one to be executed, and during the time he was alive he was sitting apart from the group and only interacted with people who came to him. Somehow he accepted his destiny; for him he killed people, so he was a bad person. My interaction with him was about his regret of not being more cautious. For my character, despite the real fact that he killed people, the alpha was a good person because he cared about what happened. I remember saying to him: “You are not a bad person”. When was his time to walk alway, I looked at him and I said one more time. For the alpha happened that my character was the only one he sympathized with.

The game ended when the psycho kid was the last one receiving amnesty.

You can listen a podcast about the game at: http://podcast.howweplay.com

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