Is he going to go there? Will he at last cross the final frontier and lose your respect forever?
In a word: Yes.
In more words: I LARP. Or more accurately I have LARPed. I am one who LARPs. You might call me a LARPist or, if we must be vulgar, a LARPer. How many ways can I use the word LARP? Far more than you have any interest in.
This post really doesn’t have much to do with anything aside from musing on the subject of LARP (Live Action Roleplay) and my experiences with said activity. I am writing this from my phone, sitting out next to one of the campus buildings about which I used to ply my pretentions with 30-odd other individuals. This was in late high school through early undergrad mostly, and in the intervening years the “scene” as it were has pretty much sputtered out of existence. Still, I sit here on a muggy summer night and everything comes flooding back (including the omnipresent smell of clove cigarettes, cause yeah, some stereotypes are true).
On that subject of stereotypes though, why do we have them? Why is it that I feel the kneejerk reaction to hide my enjoyment of LARP even from other nerds? Why does it have this reputation as the gutters of the roleplaying hobby? In seven or so years I’ve never heard a good answer. I don’t even really get how it’s that “weird.” Vampires (which is really the main type of LARP I’m talking about here) are such a huge part of our popular culture. I’d argue that vampires are more prevalent and recognizable in “American” mythology than they are in Eastern European, where the original legends began. It shouldn’t be any stranger to pretend to be a vampire than it is to pretend to be a soldier or a secret agent, which at this point I’d say a broad section of Americans have done in mediums like video games. As for the walking around and fopping about part, I can understand there’s maybe a leap there from a mainstream audience perspective, but what I don’t get is the way other roleplayers and tabletop gamers will look down their nose at you. You do all the same things you do at a game table, except you know, not sitting down. That’s really what it comes down to. Do something so brazen as to stand up while you’re talking and suddenly you’re on a fast train to Crazytown (which honestly also gets kind of a bum rap; they have some lovely bed and breakfasts).
In any case, I digress. Digression is basically the whole point of what I’m writing here, really. I’m not here to convince anybody that LARPing is “cool.” What I will say openly and without shame however is that LARPing is “fun.” Wanna fight about it? I bid Potent and win on ties…
Could we have all found something better to do with our Saturday nights? Probably. With thirty people though this thing was undeniably a party. Socializing was always the name of the game. Sure, you could skulk around with your cape in the corner, brooding about your tortured soul, but you kind of missed the point. Sure half the people there were always plotting the demise of the other half, but it made you want to bring some popcorn. In the game I played in characters tended to drop like flies, meaning you never knew who the new situation was going to force you into association with. The notion that LARPers had no social skills just failed to hold water under those circumstances. The players came from a wide spectrum too. You had your goths and punks and your pimply dorks, but you had country boys and clean cut jocks too. Everybody had fun with it, and if you’re having fun isn’t that what matters at the end of the night?
I know I’m coloring things with nostalgia a bit. The personalities that are attracted to LARP sometimes foment out-of-game dramatics that aren’t fun for anybody, and there will always be those lowest common denominators to act as spoilers in even the best situations. I stopped LARPing primarily because somewhere it lost that spark that kept me coming back week to week. What was it? Hard to say, but I keep coming back to the old stomping grounds looking for it. Maybe I just need some active imaginations and a little rock, paper, scissors…