Thermophiles in Love (2016)

Thermophiles in Love (2016) is a multimedia collaboration between Mark Marino, Rob Wittig, Samara Hayley Steele, and Cathy Podezwa.  The larpscript was written by Samara Hayley Steele.

A beta-version of the larp was run at the Berkeley Center for New Media at UC Berkeley on October 14th, 2016.  The first two official runs occurred as part of the gallery exhibit at the 30th Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA) in Atlanta, GA, November 3rd-6th, 2016.

TiL also includes a stand-alone netprov, which ran from October 30th-November 6th, 2016 and was produced by Meanwhile Netprov Studio.

Larpwrite’s Statement
The Larpscript
The Genderator

Larpwrite’s Statement

As a piece of experiential art, Termophiles in Love, the Larp allows players to interact with the mechanics of gender, centering play around activities such as the formation of the gendered subject, gendered foreclosures, and performative gender, with participants playfully inventing social apparatuses, rituals, and acts of normalizing judgment to facilitate the formation, achievement, and maintenance of a fictionalized gender schema.

As a larp, this piece merges aggregate and authorial play.  Players are granted autonomy in generating their character’s names, backstories, and outcomes and also receive creative restraints that guide their play, such as a pre-written five-gendered schema, a set of game-specific relationship norms, and their gender assignment.  Facilitators guide players into the game’s diegesis by establishing the setting and organizing a series of mini-games that allow participants to create and develop their characters and organize themselves into quadruoples.

The Larpscript

Below you will find the latest version of the Thermophiles in Love larpscript and requisite player handout.  It is a work in progress, evolving with each run of the game.

TiL Larpscript v.1.2 (download PDF)
Player Handout (download PDF)

If you run the larp, or write a new module for it, let us know at  We’d love to hear your feedback!

The Genderator

Designed by Mark Marino, The Genderator assigns thermophile genders to players through a simple mechanism.  The genders are Acido, Hype, Fac, Meso, and Obli.

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The Genderator, screenshots

Samara Hayley Steele designed the initial gender schema for Thermophiles in Love based on her research into 5-gendered and non-binary societies worldwide, while also incorporating her research into gender playability in game design.  Collaborators Rob Wittig, Mark Marino, and Cathy Podeswa worked to distill the gender descriptions, adding their own voices and touches of humor.

The gender descriptions were also inspired by Barnum Statements: general enough to apply to almost anyone, but specific enough to evoke a sense of personal identification with one’s game gender.

The Genderator is still live!  To learn your thermophile gender, visit The Official Thermophiles in Love Genderator.


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Thermophiles in Love at the Gallery Exhibit of the 2016 SLSA Conference

In November of 2016, Mark Marino and Samara Hayley Steele held two runs of the Thermophiles in Love larp as part of the gallery exhibit at the 30th Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA).   This included a recruitment ritual which occured in the gallery prior to the larp in which passersby received their thermophile gender.

A beta-version of the Thermophiles in Love larp was also run as part of the presentation Lessons in Netprov: Collaborative Writing in the Digital Age by Rob Wittig, Mark Marino, and Samara Hayley Steele at the Berkeley Center for New Media at UC Berkeley on October 14th, 2016.

The Netprov

A standalone Thermophiles in Love netprov ran from October 30th-November 6th, 2016 and was produced by Meanwhile Netprov Studio.

The netprov took the form of a 5-gender dating website, as well as discussion boards for thermophiles to work through relationship issues.

replicateA discussion board featured in the Thermophiles in Love netprov

Hundreds of players participated, including college classrooms.

Participating faculty included:
Patrick Jagoda (U Chicago)
Lee Skallerup Bessette (U of Mary Washington)
Kris Shaffer (U of Mary Washington)
Anastasia Salter (U of Central Florida)
Jason Farman (U of Maryland)
Mia Zamora (Kean University)
Anne Cong-Huyen (Whittier College)
Kiki Benzon (USC)
Mark Marino (USC)


“Game Design Methodologies for Gender Playability: A Case Study of Thermophiles in Love,” presented as part of the Social Studies of Live Action Role-Playing Games at the European University at St. Petersburg, December 8th-9th, 2016.