Conflict between Competitive & Collaborative LARP

Lately there has been some notable discussion in regards to the direction of LARP design and culture with a primary focus on collaborative storytelling and game design styles. As a game designer, I find this discussion a wonderful direction for investigation, development, and implementation. Having story focused events where all parties involved negotiate to find a middle ground of collective acceptance for story direction provides an amazing environment for some in depth and inspirational transformative experiences.


As these ideas are discussed, theorized, recorded, debated, and implemented we see an addition to the greater LARP hobby in the united states. This is, without a doubt, a good thing to see. The hobby of LARP is still fighting for acceptance, making moves to get out of the negative light that has been cast on us for decades, and provide both small and large scale experiences.

Unfortunately, much like any other medium, there are some people in the industry that tend to try and tear down old statues just for the sake of making room for new ones. Collaborative play is in, so conflict and contest play is out. Freeform and pre-designed narrative play single events is in, so chronicle sandbox mechanical simulation systems are out.  Cultural transformation and therapeutically focused events are in, so now entertainment focused events are out.

This, unfortunately, is causing as much harm to the hobby as it is causing good.

Saying you are a fan of the hobby of “LARP” is like saying you are a fan of “board games”.  You can be a fan of a number of board games, both collaborative and competitive, without one of the formats of play being “wrong” and the other being “right”. You can enjoy both Chess and Sentinels of the Multiverse. Just because you love Pandemic doesn’t mean that you have to throw your Risk board out the window. Save throwing the Risk board out for when your jerk friend just builds for ten rounds on Papua New Guinea while you mathematically can’t match their growth ratio.

The same applies for LARP. We don’t need a new form of LARP to replace the old. Instead, we need new techniques and forms of LARP coexisting in the same general descriptor of the hobby. That way as the tastes, interests, and focuses of our collective LARP culture of players shifts and changes there are different options for people to pursue. We need to embrace competitive play and collaborative play while we develop new hybrids and interesting forms of augmented live action experiences. We need LARPs that are designed to be tools for social and psychological care and LARPs that are nothing more than entertainment. 

TL:DR - To quote the worlds forefront taco aficionado... "Why not both?".