Going Legit: A Prediction of Growing Pains

Cosmonaut into new frontiers of make believe. Either that, or we replaced his normal morning coffee with a vat of LSD.

Cosmonaut into new frontiers of make believe. Either that, or we replaced his normal morning coffee with a vat of LSD.

Right now US LARP is just starting to grow into what I believe will be considered, in the future, a renaissance of LARPing. What was originally a hobby that either involved hitting your friends with plumbing supplies, or playing rock paper scissors at your favorite goth club, is evolving and being introduced into more and more aspects of public consumption. With the introduction of GPS based app games which create an augmented gaming reality, to academic consideration and analyzation of techniques and care, we are thinking and doing more with LARP now than we ever have in the past.

Even major entertainment corporations are trying to start to learn techniques and information that we have developed over the past twenty years.

However, in this time of new growth and advancement, there is also going to be a period of time where we go through some community sized growing pains. There are some things that we have done, as a community that will either need to be adjusted or just outright cut from what we do as a culture. So, without further ado, I will provide my Growing Pain Predictions for the LARP community as a whole. Understand that the following are predictions I am making based on experience and from what I am seeing in the tarot cards, not from the place as a lawyer or accountant. I am neither of these. I hire lawyers and accountants to handle that sort of things.

TOP 5 PREDICTIONS:

1. Much like in most music scenes, we will have to fight a culture of “real LARPers” verses “hobbyist LARPers”. As corporations start to introduce more and more LARP techniques into entertainment, and as IPs are developed into the realm of augmented games, we will see the “Real Gamer/ Fake Gamer” or “Real Goth/ Fake Goff” argument expand further into our culture. While we already deal with the entire “nerd cred” and “nerd card” bullshit, I anticipate with a larger influx of division.

2. Death of the Micro Game. I used to play in a few LARPs in the early 90s that were effectively table top games that we walked around and talked as our characters when we played. It took place in one of our friend’s parents’ house, and, there was zero of the way of production value. The occasional costume piece made someone stand out like WOW and we passed the hat for $5 each to help offset the cost of toilet paper and cleaning. There were 20 of us at the most at our friends house, and, it was my roots in LARPing. In October 2015 I ran an event for 802 people who lived in a simulated town environment for 4 days. This included building structures, having a custom made 14 foot long and 10 foot tall dinosaur, vehicular combat from the back of real moving vehicles, a side show, a stage, 20+ performers, and over $20K in event creation costs. Players could attend that event for $55.

When I was growing up I would spend $5 and get maybe 5 hours of half-assed (but fun) involvement. Now players are accustomed to 48 hours plus with massive investment for only about $50. If it was 1993 again and you told me that I could either spend 5 hours with my friends for $5, or $50 for 48 hours and get giant dinosaurs and incredibly immersive content, I would not even blink as I ditched my micro game for the macro game.

3. Loss of LARP as a hobby, and creation of LARP as a medium. Again, back in the angst filled early to mid-90s, if someone asked what I was doing on the weekend and I said “I am going to a LARP” there was one of three responses. Either they had no idea what LARP is, or they thought I was getting a foam stick and running into the woods, or they thought I was going to go listen to Bauhaus while discussing the state of undead affairs. Already when you talk to people, and they say they LARP, it could mean a thousand different things. Immersion weekends, parlor LARPs, Nordic LARP, American Freeform, education LARP, augmented reality LARP, etc. etc. With this in mind we need to stop looking at LARP as the hobby and instead look at it as the medium. Much in the same way that there are people who love different sorts of music but dislike others, we need to start accepting that LARP as a whole is a medium instead of the message. It’s OK to love rap and not rock, or to like classical and not modern, or to like Ska but not rockabilly. It’s all music with well-defined subsects.  We need to stop saying “I am running a LARP” and start saying “I run an immersive contact safe LARP event”. We don’t say “It’s a music concert” we say “It’s a rock concert”.

4. Catching up with legalities. Not to blow whistles, but, there are a number of LARP groups out there that are operating illegally or dangerously. Either they are franchises that have not taken the proper steps and financial requirements to file, or they are not handling their taxes correctly, or they don’t have the right insurance, or they are operating without any sort of business structure. All of these points leave event operators open for litigation, lawsuit, and potential future issues. From as large as IP theft to as small as knowing the legal definition for a bow in your region (sometimes it is sporting goods, sometimes a firearm, sometimes a weapon, sometimes not). For a while now LARP has been able to sort of fly under the radar. As it grows with corporate and financial investment, so does the attention brought to it.

5. Less of a playground, and more of a contest. One thing that the LARP community has that many other gaming communities do not have exists on the professional level. Many LARP designers work together, discuss techniques, help one another out, and advise one another. As time moves forward and these larger entertainment companies become involved in the LARP community, at least a portion of that sense of mutual promotion is going to go away. Competition between professionals searching to net the highest degree of profit for their big name IP product is going to make it so that the growing independent developer has to fight harder uphill to scratch out a place for themselves. Some of the company names looking to get into LARP as a means of entertainment is astounding, with billion and trillion dollar backings looking into our dusty and forgotten playground for the first time. Once these financial giants go public with their investment into our playground, the terrain will change forever.