Live action role play is big business. Are you in? CBS is
“I will never hire someone from CBS,” said Claus Raasted, CEO at the live action role play and experience design company, Dziobak. Troels Jørgensen, special consultant at CBS Business, proved him wrong. Now, the two have entered into a collaboration which is quite an adventure for them and the students.
From an office at Esromgade 15, you have the possibility to enter into another dimension. You can dress up as an old wizard with a pointy hat, grab an ornamented staff and become a powerful sorceress, or you can put on a vile mask and become a demon, ready to smite anyone standing in your way.
This is the office of Dziobak Larp Studios a Danish company, which has made it their business to create the settings for extraordinary live action role play games, also known as LARPs. For example, they rent a castle in Poland and up to 10 times a year, they welcome about 160 people from all around the world to spend a weekend at the College of Wizardry. A Harry Potter-like universe where each participant has their own role to play.
“Our business is built on co-creation. We give the participants the tools to go play together. If someone wants to fight a demon in the basement at 7 PM, we will summon a demon in the basement at 7 PM,” says Charles Bo Nielsen, who is one of the event coordinators at Dziobak.
I have set up an interview with Charles Bo Nielsen from Dziobak, as they recently have entered into a growth partnership with CBS. Something, which was not exactly in the manuscript of either Dziobak or CBS.
Charles Bo Nielsen explains that Dziobak’s CEO, Claus Raasted, participated in a network meeting at Christiansborg, where he, among others, met representatives from CBS, who were interested in creating internships for CBS students.
“I will never hire someone from CBS,” was Claus Raasted’s immediate response, and that triggered something in Troels Jørgensen, special consultant at CBS Business. In order to change Claus Raasted’s mind, he invited Dziobak over for a meeting.
“Troels was very enthusiastic about making us a growth partner, and he was very flexible towards our needs too. So, yeah. We ended up entering the collaboration. I guess we didn’t see that coming,” says Charles Bo Nielsen.
Troels Jørgensen is happy that Dziobak said yes to collaborating with CBS, as they can give the students a more nuanced idea of what they can do after graduation.
“Students need to be exposed to a wide range of career opportunities in order to make the most informed decisions about what they want to do with their career. That’s why it makes perfect sense for CBS to engage more small and medium sized companies, like Dziobak,” says Troels Jørgensen.
In one room, two dress-rails are packed with clothes. Capes, embroidered gowns, peasant’s coats, and plus fours. The dress-rails are flanked by shelfs, on which you can find replica weapons, Roman galea helmets, pointy hats, and scary skeleton masks. From a small bucket on the shelf, I pick up a huge, yellow fake diamond. It sparkles in the light.
Dziobak shares the office space with another live action role play company, Rollespilsakademiet, whom they borrow costumes and props from when they set up their live action role play campaigns. Over the course of four years, the business has grown rapidly from an annual event in 2014 to a commercial business.
“Back in 2014, I was in London attending a conference, when a friend of mine called me. He asked me to google College of Wizardry. It was all over the place. BBC, the New York Times, you name it. It had gone viral,” says Charles Bo Nielsen and continues:
“That was when we thought to ourselves that we should turn it into a business. Our focus has, however, largely been on the live action role play part, and not so much on the business part. But as we have started to engage with other businesses, it makes sense to look to CBS for inspiration as well.”
As a part of the partnership, Dziobak gets to, for example, take part in different career related events at CBS. They can do guest lectures or be a case company for the students and the researchers. And Dziobak is, in particular, an interesting company to show the students, points out Troels Jørgensen.
It’s easy to sell Mærsk, but can you brand live action role play as the new oil?Charles Bo Nielsen, Dziobak
“Dziobak represents a very interesting new trend; the experience economy. As more and more discretionary income in the western world and China moves towards experiences, it makes perfect sense for CBS to engage Dziobak as a partner who is firmly rooted in this new economy,” says Troels Jørgensen.
Bridging the gap
Charles Bo Nielsen is wearing colorful sneakers and a shirt which says: ‘The Orcs are coming’. He is the one who gives me a tour of the office.
Apart from the huge walk-in-closet, there is a whole section for weapons, made of foam, of course. Swords, spears, and war hammers are stacked in huge boxes along with shields and other props for enacting a proper war.
Wars are laborious, however, so one of the rooms has been made into a repair workshop. A bucket of ruined swords is waiting to be mended before they are ready for another battle.
“A lot of people in the more alternative business sector have their thoughts about what the students from CBS are like, and I think it goes both ways. However, we would like to tear down whatever misconceptions there may be,” says Charles Bo Nielsen.
He wants to show the students that there are more, and other, possibilities after graduating than looking for a job at one of the bigger companies.
“If you join us or another start-up, you will experience having more responsibility and that you have as much to say as others in the company. In a big company with 100 employees it’s easier to disappear in the crowd. That is not the case here,” he says and adds:
“It is important that the students know this. We can’t all want to become astronauts, or we get disappointed and unhappy.”
Troels Jørgensen explains that out of over 800,000 companies in Denmark, a majority of them are smaller companies, like Dziobak, and they are adding the most growth to Danish export. He also believes that they can provide a different experience for the students.
“The level of responsibility you are given as a student can be much higher than at a regular c25* company. The assignments are typically more diverse and students can be on track for a promotion more rapidly. Students become a very important part of a 50-man enterprise, and can stand out more while gaining valuable knowledge more quickly,” he says and adds:
“This in turn can lead to students founding their own companies or landing a good job in a bigger business.”
Live action role play as the new oil
At the back of the kitchen, a bookshelf is having a hard time. The shelfs are almost arching from the weight of books.
“All of those books are about live action role play. Every single one of them. Just a few years back, you could hardly find any serious literature about live role play, and here we are,” says Charles Bo Nielsen proudly.
At Dziobak, Charles Bo Nielsen is part of managing the many events during the year, but he also travels to all corners of the world to talk about live role play as a business and how it can be incorporated at companies. As an example, he just returned from Belarus, and has done lectures in the United States too.
I ask what an intern from CBS could do at Dziobak.
“I think I would twist it around and ask; what do you want to do? There is always something you can do. But to give an example, it would be awesome to get some input on marketing. I mean, it’s easy to sell Mærsk, but can you brand live action role play as the new oil?” asks Charles Bo Nielsen and smiles.
He points out that interns at Dziobak, and at start-ups in general, have to be ready to fail as they try out a lot of new initiatives and strategies. That is a part of the game, and he therefore ask the students to put away the eternal hunt for perfectionism.
“There will be assignments you succeed with and ones that fail, that’s how it is, but I think that is a lot easier to handle, if you put away your 12 grade mentality,” he says.
However, this trial and error environment is something that the students like and ask for, explains Troels Jørgensen.
“Many small and medium sized companies are run by a passionate owner, and with the whole startup-experience taking off these years, students are naturally curious about what it takes to start and run a business.”