LARP can save the world!

larp hero
Average people save the world

For many larpers role playing has been an outlet into a bigger world. One where they can understand who they are as a person more deeply. Often stepping into the shoes of a character can be incredibly liberating. It’s often these moments of self-discovery “in character” that translate over to out of game situations that are truly life-changing. These crucible moments have a special quality to them in a LARP setting that makes them both more frequent than other settings and very powerful. Let’s explore why and then look at how they can change the world.

When a person enters a character at a LARP they take on a world-view that is not truly their own. This begins to have all kinds of changes on you directly. The first, and most noticeable, is that you begin to make decisions in a particular way. These decisions range from being mildly different than what you would do as a person to being completely foreign and against every fiber of your being. As you make decisions you have to constantly wrestle against your self in order to stay true to the character. Often, larpers will ask them selves, “What would [name of character] do?” instead of just reacting to a situation.

The next big change comes when you begin to move from sympathy to empathy for your character and their situation. Sympathy is the having feelings for a person, but not feeling the same feelings as that particular person. Empathy is the state of having another’s feelings as if you were experiencing the same thing as them-self. An example would be to hear a of a tragic disaster. The person who sympathizes would feel for the people in the disaster. The person who empathizes would feel the same feelings as though they were also in the tragedy. In the early stages (I think this is a different amount of time for each person) of assuming your character you merely understand the feelings of the situation that they are in and, thus, sympathize with your character. Over time, however, you begin to take on more and more of an understanding of the setting, conflicts and decisions your character must make and you eventually empathize with their plight.

Larpers, therefore, have experience in taking on empathy for people and situations much more often than the average person or even gamer. This gives larp as a medium all kinds of possibilities to teach empathy to people. The hope would be that larpers would take the empathy skills they learn in a game and transfer them outside of the game to the real world. Thus, making the world a better place. And that’s how LARP can save the world.

This has been something that I’ve noticed and thought about for a while, but wasn’t solidified until I saw an interview with the Minister of International Development from Norway, Heikki Holmås. The interview is below, but he believes that larp can indeed save the world through this type of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes”. What do you think, can larp save the world? Are these empathy skills transferable to the real world? Or do they get lost in acting in the game?

Holmås also sees political potential in the role play.
– Role play can be extremely important to put people into situations they are unfamiliar with. Save the Children has run refugee game. [It can be a Red Cross Youth is intended. See the comment field. JournE. note] I have friends in Bergen has been involved in human rights role playing, to put people into situations where people are humiliated. But this must be a pro at. You should not pushover with … you create real emotion when you play role-playing, real emotion that hang in, he said.
– It’s a way the slightly scary bit of role play, one must be aware of, but also what makes the role-play can change the world. Live Action can change the world, because it allows people to understand that people are under pressure to act otherwise than in the ordinary life, when one is safe.
The Minister is aware of the League Fantasy LARP in Palestine later this year .
– I do not know all the details, but there is no doubt that you can put the Israelis into the situation of the Palestinians and the Palestinians in the shoes of the Israelis in a way that creates understanding and build bridges. The things which are important things that make RPGs RPGs can be used politically to create change.
– It is no coincidence that the role play used in the organizational context. To develop the organization and make people more aware and confident in each other. Lowering the threshold and release the sides of yourself you might not drop to normal life. At the same time, you will always be partially yourself when you play. You are never 100 percent in the role, or 100 percent out there.
– I have also been involved in live role-playing games where we have put his foot down when using the brakes and cut rules. And it has been necessary and proper. The LARP has developed the ability to do this gives a sense of security that is vital, says Holmås.
It is four days since he was appointed minister when he set aside a half hour in the office of Imagonem.
– I started with RPG long before I joined politics.

Photo courtesy of elora.daphne on Flickr.

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9 Comments Leave a comment

  1. larply May 3, 2012 Subscriber

    I think a big thing is the level of interaction people have while engaged. It is like a fantasy dramatization and people are able to relate that back into real-world scenarios. A+

  2. Severn October 1, 2012 Subscriber

    As both a social worker and a LARPer I truely appreciate the sentiment of this. Indeed, at the last event I attended LARP was viewed in the light of a social experiment where in we both act and observe people as they can imagine themselves to be. I think there are so many other paralells that could be drawn here but its nice to read an article that at least begins to touch on the subject of the greater social importance and effect that LARP can bring about.

    • Jordan October 3, 2012 Administrator

      What event were you at? Definitely sound interesting.

      Thanks for your thoughts. What other parallels would you draw? I really believe the social aspects of larp have barely been touched upon and have immense possibilities to bring about good in the world.

  3. Sean November 26, 2012 Subscriber

    I’m an Aspie (not self-diagnosed.) I think LARPing was like a form of occupational therapy for me. I could create another persona, and inhabit it, and interact with other people in a social situation! With rules I can follow, even if they’re unwritten rules. It puts interacting with people as a strategy game, something I’ve always loved. I actually managed to play a character with particularly good insight, and at one point I realized that by honing my performance as the character, I had learned things about empathy.

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