By: Andy Moser and Alannah Turner
Be honest. What would you do if you were getting to know somebody (a classmate, co-worker, anyone really) and they revealed to you that they enjoy LARPing in their free time?
If you didn’t know what that meant, the kind stranger would explain that LARP stands for Live Action Role-Play. Multiple people gather together and act out a fictional narrative. It may involve dressing up in costume, attacking each other with fake weapons, or it may just be a performance without all the bells and whistles. At this point in the conversation, you now understand that this person you’re speaking with enjoys playing a game where they pretend to be someone else.
What’s your instinct? Do you tell yourself that this is a person you want to dissociate from? Does the word “nerd” come to mind? Perhaps you just politely nod your head knowing you’ll never talk to this person again. Maybe you’re even interested in what they do. You know that the person is friendly and welcoming, yet you feel a strange urge to remove or separate yourself from them.
This is likely because the broader culture, for questionable reasons, tends to frown upon or laugh at people who LARP. LARP surely has an element of uniqueness to it. It lies far outside our comfortable norms, and as we know by now, the social structure usually doesn’t treat these things kindly. Stigma is applied to abnormality, and that abnormality becomes the suspect of ridicule and ostracization.
But what happens when we’re able to recognize that and look past it?
We all have things that make us happy. Some people like shopping. Some people like movies. Some people like sports. There’s typically no difficulty in embracing any of these things because they’re mainstream enjoyments. Others get fulfillment out of LARP, and it should go without saying that there is nothing wrong with that. It is simply a different form of activity. LARP is another person’s shopping, or movies, or sports.
And if you tried it, maybe it could become your shopping, or movies, or sports. Perhaps it wouldn’t, but that still doesn’t mean that people who LARP are deserving of ostracization. It shouldn’t be the deciding factor upon which you make decisions regarding whom to be friends with and whom to not.
So when this person expresses their love and enthusiasm for LARP, resist the urge to separate. Allow them the same respect you would give others. In a society that operates on conformity, don’t be afraid of difference. Take pride in difference. That is a primary action in ending not only LARP stigma, but stigma in general.