LARPing around

I was at the library looking at DVDs that were in (all the good ones are usually out because they’ve been put on hold) just because I felt like possibly watching something. I like horror movies, and there were two copies of a movie called “Darkon,” so I pulled one out to see what it was about. First I was disappointed because it wasn’t a horror movie at all, but then I read the back and it started to seem a little more interesting.

I didn’t really know what a Live Action Role Playing game was until my SO, his daughter and I were walking across the University campus and all of a sudden a few guys in costumes sort of burst out of the cemetery and onto the lawn, brandishing swords and yelling things at each other. It was curious, and a little odd, but it is Eugene, and strange things are pretty much the status quo. We watched them for a while and then went on our merry way.

“Darkon” is LARP on a much, much larger scale. It’s a documentary focusing on a few people from the two opposing sides (countries). There was a carefully worked out history, backgrounds of the characters, everything. This probably sounds funny to people who already knew what LARPs were. I feel too self-conscious to play paper and pencil games, much less immersing myself in a character.

These people are committed (note for the record I didn’t say ‘should be’ committed) to their alter-ego’s identity. That may be redundant. At first, I was just thinking, these people are really crazy, but as the documentary progressed, there were themes that kept coming up, and the main one I identified with was the fact that, for the most part, our normal, everyday lives are pretty damn boring. Being whimsical is frowned upon. You have to go along with the status quo or people think _you_ are the one who’s crazy.

Through playing this game, some people’s lives were actually effected in a positive way. One man had been very, very shy. He hardly ever went out, didn’t have any friends, didn’t have any self-confidence, but in the game he was the leader of the conquering lands, giving speeches and encouraging his men. His team did win in the end. In his real life, he was in management. His parents and his girlfriend said he had much more confidence than he’d had before he’d started playing the game.

The leader of the opposing side, in real life, said that there aren’t heros anymore. You can’t do something great and be recognized for it, or at least very few of us will be. There is no imagination, no fantasy, no creativity in our lives, and we just go on doing the same thing day after day. Another, younger man echoed that sentiment, saying we live in a world of McDonald’s and Burger King’s and Walmart’s and everything is the same. The first man played because he wanted recognition and glory, he felt he could be king someday. The younger man used it as an escape from everyday life, somewhere he could be someone exactly the opposite as himself.

Sometimes the people playing this game pack up and go for a week at a time into a wildlife refuge or some other remote place, fighting for hexes on a map. That seemed a little over the edge to me. Maybe because I didn’t do very well in Geometry, but that’s neither here nor there.

But then I started thinking about it more. I write in the hopes that someday maybe I’ll be published, but also to entertain myself, to escape into the world I’ve created. Sometimes it’s for hours at a time–I’ve had days where I wrote for probably a good 12-14 hours. That’s a lot of escaping. And escaping is exactly what it is–to get away from the ‘real’ world, my problems here–they all disappear for that time. It’s really not that different than playing a game. The rules aren’t as complicated and I don’t have to lie down and pretend I’m dead for six minutes after I’ve been stabbed with a black sword, or wait 24 hours if I’ve been assassinated (that would just suck). A big difference is that I’m controlling everyone, and I’m determining the outcomes for everyone. I have power in my world, whereas in real life, I’m less than even a pawn. More like a stickpin on a map. (The map does not have hexes on it–I am not sure what the map looks like, that could be part of the problem).

It’s liberating, a kind of release, to get away from everyday life, where my characters are my friends who are always pleased to see me, unless I’ve just done something horrible to them. In that case they like to make things difficult by refusing to talk. Mimes don’t come across well in books, and there’s only one character I can think of who would even try to do that. He’s actually gone from being one of my least liked characters to one of my favorites over the whole course of time I’ve been working on this book/series. Unfortunately, anyone who’s read the book only knows him from that, where he’s somewhat reformed and just in the very beginning stages of developing a real character of his own at the end.

I’ve completely lost my topic, which I suppose emphasizes my point. I can get caught up in just talking about a character, where people who play LARP get caught up in being the character. I might not look as silly to onlookers, just sitting behind my computer, but I’m off somewhere else (if I’m writing and not distracting myself on the internet)–I may be physically in the same room, but not always mentally. People who play LARPs not only build their characters (and their character’s clothes, armor, shields, etc., but they have the conviction and courage to go do it in public.

As long as we don’t end up with armless and legless knights, everything will be just fine.


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