Did the Disney corporation just patent larp?

A few weeks ago, veteran larp designer Stephen Tihor posted this link to Stitch Kingdom on Facebook. The headline is “Disney Seeks to Patent Live Action Role Play for Theme Parks.” There are some illustrations of their process at Stitch Kingdom, and the actual text of the patent is here. The patent definitions are interesting to read:

[0004] A long-form role-play experience is a simulation of an experience in which participants are assigned particular roles in the simulation. As an example, an amusement park may provide a long-form role-play experience that includes performers interacting with guests throughout different geographical locations in the amusement park. As an example, a performer may be an actor. The performers may act out particular actions and lines, and the participants have the opportunity to be active within the role-play experience rather than passive audience members. Other types of performers that do not act may also be utilized in a role-play environment. For example, an amusement park guest may have the opportunity to dress up in a costume and take on the role of a character such as a protagonist in a narrative. Many amusement park guests have exhibited satisfaction with the long-form role-play experience.

But don’t think the Mouse is going to contain their “long-form role-play experience” to just Disneyland:

[0006] The example of an amusement park is provided only as an example. Long-form role-play experiences may be provided in a variety of other geographic locations and contexts other than amusement parks. The large scale implementation of a long-form role-play experience is a difficult operational challenge irrespective of the location and the context.

The application goes on to explain a method, a process, of directing the participants in the larp via computer through both software and hardware. This is similar to a GM releasing crunchy NPCs out of monster camp or Combat Trainers controlling operations at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center (larp) for the military. Nowhere in the patent is the word “larp” or “live action role-playing” used.

[0007] In one aspect of the disclosure, a system includes a coordination processor that receives data from a simulated role-play environment and composes an instruction to a performer to perform an action in the simulated role-play environment. Further, the system includes an interface that receives the instruction from the coordination processor and provides the instruction to the performer.

To some, this means Disney is trying to patent the happy version of Westworld. To others, Disney is making a play to own larp, and if you are coordinating PCs and NPCs via a central processor–even if it’s a human one–you’re in violation of their process. Let’s remind everyone that Disney sues daycare centers.

The Mouse has been talking to people versed in interactive role-play, such as Accomplice: The Show creator Tom Salomon, now under contract with them, and Swede Teresa Axner, an instructor at the Larpwriter Summer School, a Nordic Larp creation. Teresa had lunch at Disney days before Stitch Kingdom posted their article. When the patent was brought up to her, she commented “I’ll be over here in a corner hoping I haven’t spent a day coaching Sauron. ;-)

But according to Asa K. Kalama, the first name on the application, “it is a technical patent.” When told about larpers fear and anger that Disney was trying to own the process of controlling NPCs and even PCs, he added “Ack, Oh No…what an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

Another group of larpers are excited to hear this news and are anticipating an amazing theme park experience. They are also overjoyed that corporate America is taking an interest in larping, even if the suits don’t call it that. They hope Disney’s role-playing experience will introduce  live action role-playing to a new generation, increasing the larper population as the years go by. There might even be business opportunities for larp designers.

What do you think? Are you thrilled to hear that Disney will be bringing an interactive experience to their theme parks and beyond, or are you terrified that a Cease and Desist letter will be making its way to your larp’s mailbox in a few years?

13 thoughts on “Did the Disney corporation just patent larp?

  1. Alabast

    LARPs suddenly becoming an underground, outlawed activity hunted by major corporations? Sounds like an exciting storyline to me! Though I doubt that will happen, I’m glad to see that live action roleplay is being brought more into the light. If more people become comfortable with acting a fictional role in a fictional environment the result can only be more people that discover LARPs. :-)

    - Alabast

  2. andy rimmer

    Larry Niven explored this in his novel Dreampark-it was inevitable that Disney would attempt to use LRP in it’s theme parks. If they try to sue hobbyists-or any of the companies delivering LRP here in the UK or Europe it should be amusing, and the capital from their settlements will be very much appreciated I’m sure.

      1. Aaron V

        Dream Park, by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes, started the IFGS, International Fantasy Gaming Society, back in the early 80′s. that was the name of the organization in the book. It is a series. I am a bad larper and haven’t read any of them. :-(

        Niven and Barnes were guests of honor at the first Wyrd Con. While there Niven joined a Live Game Labs larp, M. Beauregard’s Speakeasy, and I made him the best absinthe cocktail he ever had, he said–a real one, of course, because of course we serve alcohol at our larps. I was the NPC bartender.

        There’s a picture of it somewhere, IIRC. The only one I found is this one of the larp (not with Niven in view), from a college newspaper that was doing an article on larping: http://thebullmag.com/monsieur-beauregards-1920s-speakeasy/

  3. Dakkagor

    I may be a sell out, but if Disney want someone to write a Larp System, I’d jump at the chance and have their arms of in the process.

  4. Pingback: Disney just pateneted LARPing. | Nerditis

  5. Roy Blewitt

    Andy I know you have some legal training, and have been involved in some cases in the past however Disney will use costs to kill opposition in court cases, Monsanto does the same, though in America costs just keep running. They wont need to win the case they just need to cripple the respondent by running the case so long it goes into the hundreds of thousands in costs. If they do finally loose its nothing to them. But the respondent is more likely to run out of money to fight the case before that happens.

  6. Nat


    1. AaronLarp Post author

      Lol. That made my day, Nat. As an update (I won’t put it in the text), a friend of mine was at a conference for theme park people, and Asa was one of the presenters. Apparently, their testing didn’t work well at all: there are too many variables with a group of people for the computer software to predict every decision. Seems like GMs still have a job. ;-)


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