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.)
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.