LARP: It’s a catch-all term that’s used to cover everything from entertainment to education. And that’s part of the problem.
There’s nothing wrong with LARP itself, of course. Instead, it’s the way people look at it. LARP can include fantasy, post-apocalyptic, American freeform, Nordic, and a host of other categories and styles. It can be anything from a parlor LARP to a boffer LARP, or anything in between. But time and time again, I see people looking at LARPs through the lens of another LARP.
What do you mean, you ask? Let’s take a common example. Let’s say that someone says that an American LARP with a more-intense ruleset isn’t as good as an American freeform or a Nordic-style LARP. It has too many rules; it doesn’t have enough emotional intensity; and it just isn’t what this person is looking for.
Now I want to take a moment to look at the typical examples of an American LARP with mores rules and an American freeform or Nordic-style LARP. These typical examples won’t cover everything, but will serve for the purpose of this blog post.
A typical American LARP with a larger ruleset often includes boffer-style combat. This may include calling out numbers and calling out skills that supplement a person’s ability, but doesn’t replace it. It often involves physical activity, problem-solving, and other activities set to inspire fun. Dystopia Rising is a good example of this kind of LARP.
A typical American freeform or Nordic-style LARP, in contrast, does away with numbers and most skills. Instead, it largely focuses on emotion, internal changes, acting, and full immersion. The LARP, Mad About the Boy, is a good example of this kind of LARP.
Is one better than the other? No, but they certainly are different. In fact, I would argue that over time saying "LARP" is a bit like saying "sports." Just because there's a ball involved in each doesn't make baseball and basketball the same thing.
The fact is that LARP is such a broad category, people forget that there’s a difference between LARP that’s used for teaching, LARP that’s used for entertaining, and LARP that’s used for looking at oneself psychologically. There can be crossover, but they’re still separate categories. There are even sub-categories of LARP; for example, in "entertainment" LARP, there's boffer LARP, parlor LARP and others.
So, I ask you, why do we keep looking at one LARP through the lens of another? If you don’t like a type of LARP, you don’t have to attend that LARP. There’s no reason for you to try and change one LARP into another kind that you like. After all, there are other LARPs available for you to go to and try.
The fact is, there is no “right way” to LARP. There is no “wrong way” to LARP. It’s a hobby that we all enjoy. So choose what you like, get out there, and have fun.