LARPing: From Fantasy to Reality

By Breanna Bordelon

In American culture, there is an expectation that growing up means leaving behind the fantasy world harbored in the childhood imagination. One community, however, defies the norm by bringing their childhood fantasies to life.

LARPing, or Live Action Roleplaying, is a form of role play where participants, usually dressed in costume, totally embody characters they have created in order to create and interact with a themed space.

Taylor Frantum, a gaming aficionado from Denton, Texas, explained that LARPing takes traditional role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons and brings them to life.

Evan Amos/Wikimedia

According to the LARPing website, the term LARPing is best described as “collaborative pretending with rules.”

Tanis White, the current Duke of The Duchy of Irongate, Lubbock’s Amtgard LARPing chapter, explained that the span of LARPing goes as far as a group is willing to imagine.

“Amtgard is based in the medieval realm and we focus on combat and sorcery,” White said, “but there’s other genres like horror or post-apocalyptic stuff, if you’re more into that.”

According to the Amtgard website, Amtgard employs boffer combat which requires participants to use foam-padded replicas of medieval weaponry during battle.

White said he thinks the media and movies misrepresent LARPing and unfairly perpetuates the notion that it is uncool.

“We might be a little nerdy,” White conceded, “but we’re all here to make friends and have a good time just like with any other hobby.”

Frantum said he thinks people relate activities like football with American culture so they attack nontraditional hobbies like LARPing because they see it as a break from tradition.

“Society tells us that there is a certain way to have fun,” Frantum said, “and anytime someone tries to break the status quo, it ends up being controversial.”

Nick Reed, a former LARPer from Richardson, Texas, said he thinks LARPing is stigmatized because people hold the belief that playing pretend is something only children should do.

“In the greater LARPing community, there will be people who are 50 and 60 playing these fantasy roles,” Reed said, “and I feel like there is a stigma against them because people believe we should act our age.”

He said he believes participating in roleplay is a healthy way to escape the stressors of the real world. Reed said he thinks that is something everyone could benefit from.

Reed said he came across the group by accident when he was walking through the park where they practiced.

“I saw a bunch of people running around with swords so I asked them about it,” Reed explained, “and, being the person like me, who’s willing to try new things, I was like, ‘Sure, why not?’”

Reed said people should do their research before making a judgment about LARPing.

Tabatha Zarrella/Flickr

“‘Don’t knock it ‘til you try it’ is my mentality,” Reed said. “You never know what you’ll get out of it or how you could grow from that experience until you’ve done it yourself.”

Reed credits the LARPing group in his hometown for helping him discover a passion that led him to his career.

“It’s a way for people to escape their own reality and be something totally different,” Reed said. “I know it sounds kind of silly, but it’s actually a lot of fun to dress up and commit to the persona you’ve created.”

Reed has since served as The University of Oklahoma’s school mascot, worked as a character at Walt Disney World and is set to move to Japan this summer to work as a mascot for the Nippon Professional Baseball league.

Reed said he thinks that if people let go of preconceived judgments they have made about LARPing, they would probably have a lot of fun.

“It’s a way to experience something new, make some new friends, build community with these people and make some memories,” Reed argued. “How often can you say that you’ve been LARPing?”

The Duchy of Irongate meets at noon on Sundays at Ribble Park in Lubbock.

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