Three years ago, I had no idea what LARP was. I had this vague notion that it was an event where people talked in British accents and wore medieval-style outfits with pointy ear tips. In other words, I thought LARP was a big game of dress-up on a campground in the middle of nowhere. I wasn’t wrong, but anyone who LARPs can tell you it’s far more than that. The problem is actually finding someone who LARPs to explain it to you.
When you google “LARP,” you come up with a Wikipedia entry (which doesn’t make the activity sound all that appealing—trust me), and a few defunct forums. It’s hard to learn about LARP if you don’t actually try out a LARP yourself. Eventually, that’s what I did (I’m persistent like that); I made a character and attended a game called “Dystopia Rising,” a post-apocalyptic LARP set in the woods of New Jersey.
Since then, I’ve come to realize that there’s a reason I had so much trouble learning about LARP in the first place: us. We, as LARPers, tend to not talk about our weekend activity. Some of us feel afraid of being ridiculed by our peers. Others are wary what their bosses or co-workers will think. And that’s only human. We don’t like being made fun of; it’s not nice being called names.
The problem is that we present LARP in a way that seems like we should be ashamed of it. We don’t present it as something exciting and fun (which it is), but instead as some kind of disease (which it isn’t—unless your local Story Teller is running a plague plot).
I’d like to note at this point that I live and work in Manhattan. I journey to Wall Street each morning where I sit in an office and type up science articles for an online news site. In other words, I do a steady, 9 to 5 job with people that have no exposure to LARP or the “nerd” community. But that didn’t stop me from talking about LARP.
When I first mentioned LARP to my boss (yes, my boss), I didn’t shy away from the truth and mumble something about theater or camping. Instead, I went all out. I explained that I journeyed into the woods once a month to play a survival horror game. I fought zombies and snuck around in the night to avoid deadly raiders. And at the end of it all, I had a blast.
He just said one thing: That’s awesome.
When we talk about LARP, we need to remember that this is an activity we like. We don’t need to be embarrassed. We don’t need to be afraid. If someone is curious, give them the benefit of the doubt and tell them about what you do. Sure, some people might think you’re weird but in my experience, there are far more people that will think that it’s awesome.
Hell, if my boss thinks it’s cool, maybe your boss will too.