By Margherita Di Cicco
New Atlantis is the dystopian representation of a global crisis, caused by the contamination of almost every water sources and the collapse of social organisation which follows the disaster. After having witnessed the growth of chaos in the cities and the deceptive behavior of the institutions, people react in many different ways. Some individuals choose to take advantage of the situation by using violence, whereas others believe that the principles of capitalist society are the very cause of the crisis and are wishful to create a new society, based on more positive values.
The community of survivors which settles near the last source of safe water, owned by a powerful corporation named LifeDrop, is the concrete expression of this dream of rebuilding humanity. The territory around the dam, which is the least source of safe water, is constantly surveilled by the corporation and also inhabited by ruthless bandits. Despite facing daily dangers, many people from all over Europe work together to create a community based on equality and solidarity. Nonetheless, not everybody fits with such idealism and a widespread disagreement divides the community. In facing both practical and moral issues, people express themselves in very different ways. There’s who is willing to do virtually everything in order to make the community safe, whereas other survivors refuse violence at all cost and would rather die than act immorally. Because of the precariousness of life and the difficulty to know whether you can trust others or not, every day the community has to cope on with profound dilemmas. What is the real difference between surviving and living? Are we as humans capable to learn from experience, or are we destinated to make the same mistakes of who has failed before? After all, what is that makes us actually human? Optimistically, we would imagine that the only possible reaction to the collapse of contemporary society is to radically changing one’s behavior and exploring different relations with other people and nature. But perhaps humans are structurally inclined to subjugate others to ensure their own wellbeing. There’s no only one truth, as the reaction to a crisis is essentially subjective. The very nature of the enemy initially divides the group even more, because nobody knows the corporation’s purposes and the actual extension of it’s power. Nobody knows what to do because Life Drop seems just almighty, so the community is split by confusion and fear. The final confrontation with the enemy will be crucial to make the community of Atlanteans finally close.
What I most enjoyed of the larp New Atlantis were the were the environmental topic, the stunning realism of the setting and the the dynamism of the plot. I found the whole experience very amusing and engaging. The limitations of water and food supplies were an effective mean to identify with the narrative setting. Also, the fact of having tasks to accomplish frequently made you experience all the main events of the plot with suprise and tension; I personally really enjoy doing practical things during a larp, because it gives you the opportunity to express your character in many various way and to not just waiting things to happen. Moreover, it was exciting to play in an international event and observe the attitudes of player from different social contexts. The only aspect which I found a bit out of context was that some moments of the larp were filmed; it is certainly interesting for further analysis, but perhaps hiding the camera could be a good way for for keeping play behaviors as much spontaneous as possible.
However, New Atlantis has been a wonderful experience, which gave me the unique opportunity of participating in a shared narrative and exploring unusual ways of being. Also, experiencing such an extreme scenario made me more aware about global changes and determined to do my best to protect the environment. The post-apocaliptyc setting, which has always been a great ispiration for philosophers, narrators and movie directors, forces you to radically question every aspects of your identity and to express yourself in unxepected ways. Dystopian narratives lead you to face the ethernal, unresolvable dychotomies regarding human nature: are we truly selfish or supportive? cooperative or competitive? After all, you realize that such contradictions are not real but it’s just a self fulfilling prophecy. In fact, it’s the expectation about human nature which influences it’s actual shape. Hence, it’s best to believe that the human nature is inherently worthy and the good people will win!