LARP and Journalism

Hi Nerology! Long time no see. I’ve been working on a ton of stuff for NERO National, as well as a few cool side projects that I’ll share more about if people are interested. One involves a 24/7 adventure system that I’m working on. Another involves putting together a consulting group to support LARPwrights and people making films about live games.

Today’s post, however, is thanks to Zoe, who writes the excellent blog CollabNarration: A Collective Narrative. Between CollabNarration, LARP Ohio (with Bill Tobin) and Rob Ciccolini’s new blog Gamesthetic, a nice little LARPwright blogging community is popping up, no? (As a quick aside, what I love about all of those blogs is that they serve the LARP community as a whole.  There’s some really juicy stuff on those blogs no matter what game you play or run.)

Yesterday, Zoe posted her initial reactions to Lizzie Stark’s new book, Leaving Mundania, and invited we blaggerz to continue the discussion. So here’s my response to Zoe’s points

First, I don’t think our hobby is terribly opaque. After a year and a half of LARPing, you’ll gotten a pretty big taste of what it is. Your third year of LARPing isn’t going to be packed with new surprises. Maybe a few. But at that point, you already have concrete expectations for the games you’re playing. While there is a deep rabbit hole of LARP theory and dramaturgy which you could spend years studying, all that stuff is not necessary to appreciate the medium as a player. So I don’t think that you need a long LARPing career behind you before you should feel comfortable writing about it.

If anything, isn’t our hobby better served by having “outsiders” advocate it? I think a voice which says “This is what it looks like through a newcomer’s eyes” highlights the genre’s accessibility, makes it easier to take the plunge and attend your first game. If her target audience is LARP outsiders, that’s the frame through which she should present her observations.

On the taxonomy of games: as to what is a LARP or what is not a LARP… These categorization exercises are (IMHO) the least important/interesting parts of LARP academia. It reminds me of my metal-head friends arguing about whether a particular song is “post-rock” or “post-metal”. It has little bearing on anything except people who think those categories are real.

Moreover, I have to speak up against the characterization of LARPers are a “stigmatized culture”. I think that’s a tad melodramatic. It’s not like we’re trans-gendered or handicapped or systematically oppressed. We have an unusual hobby, which we do in private. Some people laugh at pictures of it on the net, but so what? People on the net laugh at everything. I certainly don’t feel stigmatized.

There were some kids at the last Madrigal event who drove by the campsite honking their horn. That’s is the most push back I’ve felt in over 5 years. And those were a bunch of stupid teenagers, I didn’t lose any sleep over it. After that, they probably went home, played pokemon, and shouted racial profanities at XBox live.

But more to Zoe’s point – do I think broadening the definition of LARP threatens the integrity of existing games? I don’t think so. There’s already a wide spectrum of subgenres of LARP – we happen to play a “light-touch boffer fantasy weekend” style game, and I don’t see how our integrity would be lessened if “full contact historical reenactment” was in the same tent.

Our hobby needs no protection against diffusion – it’s not a cultural heirloom we have to preserve. All of us – narrativists, simulationists, gamists, social butterflies, full contact jocks, RP hams, reenactors, Jugger players – our hobbies are remarkably similar. We like getting outside, seeing our friends, being in a imaginary place, surrounding ourselves with quirky like minded friends, and cooperating and competing towards some imaginary end. The more styles of LARP I play, the more I’m struck by the similarities across genres. Dagohir players and SCAdians may not identify with the label “LARP”, but there’s no question in my mind that in the big scheme of things, we share a tent.

Anyway, I still have yet to read Lizzie Stark’s book, but I’m ordering it right now. I want to thank Zoe for drawing our attention to it and kicking off a very interesting discussion.

  1. #1 by mummerscat on May 4, 2012 - 7:00 pm

    Hooray, you’re blogging again! Nothing brilliant to add, but I generally agree with you.

  2. #2 by zoeaeddy on May 7, 2012 - 7:18 pm

    Thanks Dan! I’m interested in conversations about what is/isn’t stigma– you’re point, with which I think I disagree, lead me to consider *how* I perceive LARPing as stigmatized. To keep the conversation going:

  3. #3 by Istamira on May 8, 2012 - 12:40 am

    Hooray! More Larp blogs in the blogsphere! 😀 ooo now I’m gonna have to write a post about it too and trackback ye both ^_^ It’s like a discussion torch moving from place to place! *cue Olympics music*

  4. #4 by George on May 10, 2012 - 4:09 pm

    I’ll quibble slightly here on one point. To me an 18 month LARPing career is good enough to let you speak with a fair amount of authority about the LARP you play, and allow you a lot of insights into the hobby as a whole to the point where you probably have some interesting ideas to share and stories to tell. But even if you have spent time researching the field as a whole that is still just a bit too lean of a resume to be claiming any sort of mastery of the subject.

    I see this a lot in blogs and commentaries on LARPing. At about the one to two year mark of being a player people start to feel they’ve got it figured out, and they begin to speak in terms of “This is how LARPs work” and “This is the way people do things in LARPs”. I know I went through this phase myself. I can be an insufferable know-it-all if given half the chance. But I think a lot of that is a bit of the Dunning–Kruger effect (see, that is me being a know-it-all using a fancy term). I think that you need to push through that to get to the other side where you start to realize you know your own LARP or maybe even a few local LARPs really well, but that is very parochial. The world of LARP and LARP players is huge, and the variety is astounding, and general principle learned locally will only take you so far.

    I have played and staffed NERO for about 7 years now up and down the east coast. I’ve played and staffed various New England Accelerant games that are part of the Madrigal diaspora for about five. A couple of years ago I would have written about LARPs with a lot more definitive tone. Today I would tend to bit a bit more specific, and use a lot more qualifiers. It seems like every new game or every new community I get exposed to shows me new things about LARP subjects I thought I already mastered, even if it is just a case of visiting a new NERO chapter a few miles down the road.

    I know a lot about LARPs, and I know a few LARPs and LARP communities really well. But I am very careful about making general statements about LARPing which suggest the subject is easy to categorize or that I understand it completely.

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