LARP on a Lark

On September 5th, I met a new friend at Pacificon and then later that night, I found out she was an alien. I almost didn’t meet this alien, and that would have been a shame, because it was a fun and unique experience.

It all started after I had finished an afternoon of playing board games at Pacificon, a yearly convention for board gamers, miniatures gamers, role playing gamers, and some small group of LARPers. I had wandered into the historical miniatures room which was a large room filled with large tables of awesome tank battles, infantry battles, airplane battles, and ship battles. I was admiring the detail on tiny plastic plumes of water splash that marked missed cannon shots in a giant fleet battle when someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I would be interested in LARPing.

My first thought was, “lol… no, not really.” I had preconceived notions of what LARPing was, and I figured it wasn’t for me. Maybe some of you have some preconceived notion of what LARPing is, too. Here’s a picture of LARPing from Wikipedia to give you a rough idea of what I might have gotten myself into.

Some serious LARPing!

I’m just not sure if I’m ready to run through the woods shouting “Magic Missile! Magic Missile! Magic Missile!” at other cosplayers.

“Well, we really need two more people to be able to start”, implored the LARP recruiter woman. Ah… what the hell, why not? Although I had a party to go to at 8pm and it was already 7pm, I said, “Sure, why not, I’ll give it a try.” She was so happy and grateful to find someone to complete their group. I forgot to ask, “Well, how long does this take? The schedule here says it’s going to take 5 hours. Is it really 5 hours?” “Yes, it could take 5 hours,” she responded. “Is that okay?”

Hmmm… That’s a good question. Do I want to commit 5 hours to doing something where I have no idea what it’s going to be or with whom, but must be committed in order to not let down some total strangers? That’s a lot of commitment for someone who just wants a sample taste of LARP.

I like trying new things, but I know that sometimes, not all things are for me. I tried going to a rave. Twice. I don’t dance. I’m terrible at it, and I’m terrible at learning how to dance. I tried to like it, but it really just bored me. I sat in a corner and started falling asleep. Someone came by and shined a light in my eyes and asked me if I was okay or if I had taken too much ecstasy. Umm… No, I’m just really bored and tired.

Dude, are you on ecstasy? No, man. I’m just super-sleepy all the time. Truth.

I think normally, I might not be open to 5 hours of random LARPing because there is a risk of wasting that time. But, being a Free Range Programmer who has already shed most of my expenses in order to buy time for myself, I suddenly found myself with a relative abundance of time. So, that changed the equation. So, yes. Yes, I would like to spend 5 hours with random strangers, playing a random game that I’ve never played before. That is exactly what I want!

But why not LARP? Why the reluctance in the first place? What is it about our adult lives that makes dressing up and pretending and being creative something to be ridiculed? Why wouldn’t I want to hang out with two dozen creative, passionate individuals, who can be theatrical, treacherous, insolent, arrogant, domineering, and all manner of interesting and engaging? I’ll bet you’ll never meet a friendlier group of backstabbing treacherous assassins as you would in a LARP.

I found that I like LARPers. Their subculture has a lot of the things I like in people— creative, open-minded, don’t take themselves too seriously, imaginative, silly, fun, and friendly and open to conversation. And young at heart.

I think getting old means you weigh the cost of time too much. You are reluctant to try new things because you think that it will be a waste of your time if it’s not “productive” or “entertaining” in some way. There is no room for adventure. What is adventure? Adventure is spending time which may be pleasant or may be unpleasant because you don’t know the outcome. Watching a movie is not an adventure, because you almost always know the outcome, especially of a Hollywood mainstream movie. So few of us actually seek an adventure because we cannot bear the burden of wasting time in our lives. Instead, we avoid adventure because of the potential unknown— I may not enjoy this activity and it is taking place in lieu of something that I know I would enjoy.

That is how you fall into patterns and routines. You are afraid of trying something you might like. You do only the things that you like over and over again. So, what I’ve learned is, that with the luxury of having an abundance of time is that I don’t have to be afraid of wasting my time on anything. If I keep a positive attitude, stay awake, and open my mind to new experiences, I can experience more of the world and discover what was already before me, but never knew existed.

This wonderful, creative community of people have already existed around me right here in San Jose. I’ve ignored or dismissed them as being too silly. How silly of me and how ignorant of me to have done that. I’m glad it wasn’t too late for me to not miss out on this unique and creative activity called LARPing!

PS – I will write about the specifics of that particular LARP in a different article. It did not involve dressing up or casting spells or anything like a fantasy role playing game. It was mostly conversations and diplomacy in a sort of live action theatre.

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