We need to talk about playing. We need to stop assuming and, to quote Lizzie Stark, write a damn rulebook.
We spend an enormous amount of time, word and effort on game design, story creation, effect, logistics and studying which philosopher best describes what we do in our pasttime. We spend more time navelgazing over our offgame feelings than on the root of the matter.
We dance around the hot potato of playing roles. What the fuck are we doing? And I don’t mean philosophically or sociologically, but actual, practical discussions of the act of playing a role.
We might have a ton of tools and techniques. Jeepform and Playing With Intent have long lists of them. But all that builds on a slippery foundation of assumptions and what seems like common sense. It’s all second order tricks resting on a morass of pretending.
When I started larping, that common sense was that good larping came from either raw talent or years of experience from playing many, many games.
It was only much later, after meeting a ton of different playing styles, trying weird game formats and reading up on improv theater, that I was able to look on larping as a skillset where I could willfully improve myself.
I may have been slow to discover this, but noone ever expressed it to me and I still don’t hear anyone really working on it.
We still start out from “everyone plays pretend as kids, this is just the same.” Despite all our advances in form and content material, we’re still stuck figuring it out on our own as players.
I’d even go so far as to say it’s gotten worse. The Jeep and similar agendas of bleed, close to home imperatives and paper-thin characters is doing away with the art of playing a character and leaving us poorer for it.
It may be emotionally filling, but it leaves me creatively and expressively empty.
To me, roleplaying means being able to perform a wide variety of roles in any sort of context. It means being able to use your imagination and suspend disbelief. It means keeping the other participants in mind and knowing how to structure our personal stories. And a lot more.
If we don’t start taking larping as that sort of skillset seriously, we’ll end up as a poor hobby of emotion junkies typecasting each other to play ourselves in dramatized everyday events. Or are we already there?
We won’t have the same chances to change our perspectives and grow as larpers. We’ll stay unsatisfied with our fellow players and worst of all, we’ll lose the chances to bring in new players and teach them to play on our level.