What is larp?

Most larp guidebooks include a section called “What is Larp”. Those sections bore me instantly. I, for one, am very tired of explaining what larp is. Other people do a much better job answering than I. Lizzie Stark explains very well in her wonderful book “Leaving Mundania” what forms larp takes, and shows the passion of larp from an outsiders perspective very well. There is a more important question answer which we often miss…

Quote with ironic link to the book.
Yes, I did linked that to Amazon on purpose. Witness the Irony.

The important question, the one worth answering, is “Why do we Larp?” In finding an answer there, we answer both questions. Invoking ‘Fight Club’, we larp because our lives are not filled with the day to day adventure that the media provides for our consumption. We larp because we’re promised “…we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods and rock stars. But we won’t…” We larp because living modern life is safe and sanitary and far removed from the dangerous kind of life the human mind evolved in. We larp because it’s a fun simulation of danger. Also it’s much safer and healthier than running underground boxing rings.

If drama is “life with the dull bits cut out”, then larp is our chance to safely inject a few more of the dramatic moments into our lives in an attempt to dilute the dull parts. We can’t remove the dull bits, even at a larp we have to cook and sleep. But we can turn down the volume on them by increasing the dramatic moments. We need that danger. We need that drama. We evolved to live in a world trying to kill us. We’ve built a world where most of us are experiencing increasing life span, in relative safety (depending on race and economic factors).

Larp becomes a kind of therapy which allows us to express our own mastery in situations which seem dangerous, but which are actually very safe. It allows us to be presented with the gun toting maniac, and defeat them. We experience the thrill of vanquishing the undead, being the hero. Most larps have some kind of magical suspension of disbelief, but their real magic is in their ability to make us feel powerful and in control, by overcoming scenarios where we’re not in control.

Granted mine is one of the most privileged points of view on the planet. As a healthy 6 foot 6 inch white male, living in an American middle class urban environment, there are few ways (apart from suddenly gaining millions of dollars) that I could be more empowered. What is larping, or role playing, to someone who struggles to eat every day? What is larping to someone who is a member of a minority in their community? Is it an escape from the oppressive grind? Is larp even viable for people without the same privileges that I have? Is it a luxury of the privileged or could it be a helpful tool to gain survival skills.

It should be a community, and connections. It should be a network of friends who see beyond race and economic status. It should be about encouraging art and creativity in everyday life. “What is larp?” isn’t really an interesting question. What can larp be? That is far more interesting. What can larp do?

I would love to hear other peoples points of view on why they larp from people with different backgrounds. Also how can we lower the ‘barrier to entry’ and get more people interested and involved? How can we make larp an available hobby and passion for more diverse people?

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