It’s been a while since I went camping. When the opportunity came up to visit Firefly this year, I decided to go. It wasn’t a sure bet, as the group of people who go are not usually the crowd that I hanging around with. Any trepidation on my part, in retrospect, was less about how they are as a community and more about my own social anxiety. It was a great event, attended by many wonderful people. By Friday I decided I want to go back.
There was unfortunately very little larp. And what larp there was happened to be of a non combat variety. There were certainly people who would like to engage in larp activities, particularly a group called Hall of Arkham. The folks there are known to me, and known larpers. I had a chance to meet one or two of them in person, rather than digitally. There were even a few wandering people who have larped in the past. But the population at Firefly is not overly packed with larpers.
Explaining what Firefly was like parallels explaining what a larp event is like. Impossible to do in words, difficult to do in pictures. The question is often asked “How is your burn?” I’m not sure if this is mostly asked of new people or if it’s just a common question. My answer was always yes, but always qualified. I had a good time, but was not super impressed.
When you go to a larp event you often see large bonfires and crazy things. The lines between reality and fantasy blur (as much as they can be without assistance) in a fun and safe way, and everyone has a great time. So in many ways I was not as impressed as other newbies by what I saw at Firefly. I’ve had more intense emotional experiences at great larp events, completely sober.
I suspect that many other first time attendees to Firefly are a little more blown away by it. They don’t necessarily have a framework for comparison. Where as a larper has gone to many similar events. And there are many similarities. Some of the campsites have extreme amounts of work put into them. Infrastructure is built and gear hauled in. Artistry, presentation, and tradition are very important. There are really more similarities to some complex larps than differences.
Still though, I felt a bit like the ‘red headed step child’. While the first Principle of Firefly is ‘Radical Inclusion’ the wandering guy in garb with boffer swords was not really engaged with very much. People were happy to talk, but not interested in learning. This is a bit of hippy community, and despite really enjoying the martial skills like spinning fire, they don’t go much into what they see as a violent hobby.
It came to me during the event that people may not want to randomly wander into a fight. Real or fake. And that is a valid concern which I didn’t think of previously. I would address this next year by having a fixed location for larp, instead of wandering. That way 1.) People know where the larp is. 2.) They don’t get trigged by stumbling into violence happening in a location where they didn’t expect it.
Despite feeling slightly out of place, many new friends we met there, particularly the people in my own camp site. And a good time was had. All in all, I’m looking forward to going back. And I have some ideas about what to build. Unfortunately I followed it up with less thrilling, though still larp related adventure. The Dungeon Bar Crawl was not what I was expecting.