Live action role playing or playtime for big kids?

Live action role playing could be seen as geeky, something which nerds take part in and the rest of the world laughs at. But what exactly about it makes it for geeks? Is it the costumes? The fantasy themes?

The ‘geekiness’ aside, is it merely a live version of storytelling?

For as long as the world can remember storytelling has existed. Parents still read to their children, authors continue to be making millions of pounds/dollars/euros on sharing a fantasy world made up in their head. Just look at Harry Potter.

How many people, adults included, will have dressed up in Hogwarts robes, painted a scar on their forehead or attempted to ride a broomstick? Probably more than would admit it.

Is live action role playing not the same thing (just with an additional layer)? Adults dressing up as witches, healers and various other characters besides. All you have to do is add a bit of storytelling to the mix and you’ve got live action role playing.

Before books people told stories by word of mouth, they adapted and changed depending on who told them and they were shared, passed down through families, until someone finally had the sense to write some of them down.

Some of the world’s oldest stories, Aesop’s Fables, contain moral messages and history. The idea of myths and legends being passed between people as a form of entertainment is something that our world has cherished for a long time. Just look at the Bible, whether you believe the stories in there are true or not, they are words that have been passed down through the ages.

In modern times, fiction is quite often left on the shelves with many people preferring to watch the film adaptation instead. What is film if it’s not just a visual interpretation of stories that were once written down? And what are actors if they are not just live action role players creating the story for others’ entertainment?

I think that, as a society, we’ve lost touch with our imaginations. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people out there who are creative enough to draw, paint or write their own weird and wonderful ideas. But instead of seeing live action role play as something to be enjoyed, we mock it, make fun of those who do it.

Perhaps we should be taking inspiration from children, those who do get off their bums and do something other than play football or video games. There are a lot of children who still use their imaginations, they tell stories, they run around pretending to be Harry Potter or the monsters of Monster University/Inc. If you asked every single child on a primary school playground what they are doing with their break time, some of them will give you that as an answer. I remember chasing my friend as we played a game called Flowerfairies and Witches. The flowerfairies all had names, they had special powers or abilities and the witch hated them all. That’s the premise of a story if ever there was one. So when we played that game, we told a story through our game.

Nobody laughs at children for using their imagination, for pretending they’re a pirate sailing the high seas or Robin Hood come to steal from the rich and give to the poor. We actively encourage children to dress up for parties, or if they’re really enthusiastic, for a Saturday night in front of the television.

Live action role playing may not be the ‘in’ thing, it may not be something that the whole world sees as an attractive way to spend their time. But that doesn’t make it geeky. If anything, it is, as this BBC news article about it says, interactive storytelling. It is the grownups version of playtime, where they run around and pretend to be something else for a few hours, or even days.

It helps to foster people’s creativity, something which occasionally gets lost in a world where we’re encouraged to enjoy other people’s creative output instead of making our own. It’s physical activity that doesn’t involve sitting on an exercise bike sweating constantly in front of people you’re embarrassed to exert yourself in front of. It’s a fantasy version of paintball or laser quest, where you score points and fight against another person or team until someone comes up victorious.

I’ve never done live action role playing and I’m not sure I ever would, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a fun way to spend a weekend, making new friends, reminiscing with old ones, until one of your ‘dies’ and has to take themselves out of the game.


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