Monday, 11 August 2014

Astropia - RPG Advocacy in movies

Last night caught me flicking through the free movie content on my WD TV Live, where I stumbled across a Norwegian language film called Astropia.  Also known as Dorks & Damsels it was an indie film released in 2007. Given the subject matter, it was surprising that I'd never heard of it, but I've had good experiences with Norwegian films in the past so thought I'd give it a go.    

aka Dorks & Damsels
In a plot borrowed heavily from the classics such as "Oliver" and "Pygmalion", socialite Hildur (), is living the life of a minor celebrity when her wealthy boyfriend Jolli, a shady car dealer, is suddenly arrested and jailed.  The confused society girl is thrown out of her home and hounded by the paparazzi, so goes to live with her sister Bjort and 10 year old Nephew Snorri.

She struggles to complete even the most basic tasks and come to terms with her new station in life when, by chance, she lands a job at "Astropia" the local "Nerd Store" as their RPG salesperson.  She knows nothing about roleplaying and her colleagues and customers are initially hostile until she joins her first game session run by store owner Goggi.  

RPG portrayals in mainstream media fall squarely into two camps for me, you're either condescendingly laughing at the nerds (Big Bang Theory) or knowingly laughing with the nerds (Robot Chicken) and this one falls squarely into the latter.  In fact the only condescending character in the movie is the villain Jolli and although Hildur is treated with a bit of suspicion and sexism by her co-workers, she wins them over quite quickly.

The movie does a good job of parodying some of the stereotypical nerd subdivisions and there are some great little moments like DVD salesman Floki trying to sending young Norri off home with copies of "The Exorcist" and "The Shining" as educational movies.

Importantly this movie has has an engaging convential plot centered around Hilda's and Jolli's abusive relationship.  It does a great job of portraying the members of the games group as odd, but likeable and fully functioning adults and the "normal" people as monsters.  The use of LARP costume action is sparing, but serves as an effective mind's eye view inside a game session and is sympathetic.  It explains the core functions of characters and GM well and demonstrates how RPGs have the power to unlock imaginations and how people can often have surprising hidden talents or skills and the determined Hildur also manages to knock some of the sexism for six in her first session.

If you don't mind watching subtitled movies this is definitely well worth a look and I'd definitelty recommend it to anyone trying to explain RPGs to a non playing partner or friend.

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