When it comes to LARPing (live action role playing), most LARPers enjoy getting into costume and into character. As with other forms of acting, donning a costume or adding some makeup and accessories empowers a player to act and interact in the role playing environment as their character.
In LARP, the appeal is that players are able to create their own characters (within rules of the game) and portray these characters themselves. It’s like being an actor and writing the perfect role for yourself. This is a main benefit of LARPing for many–but do some people take being ‘in-character’ too far?
To be fair, most characters are extensions of their creator, whether created by authors, screenwriters or LARPers. When you write a character, there’s usually an exaggerated aspect of yourself in there somewhere–and a quality you intentionally wish to exaggerate while LARPing. It’s hard for any LARPer, writer or actor to remain unattached to a character of his or her own creation and portrayal.
However, there are a few cases in which a player chooses to embody the persona of his or her LARP character for a short or long period of time. Non-gamers in particular will think that this is crazy, though it’s something most LARPers, writers and actors do to some extent. I have to confess to wondering “What would Mairi do?” when confronted with a tough situation–after all, Mairi is a war hero and one of my bravest and most resilient characters.
On extreme occasion, a player may begin to dress completely in character or speak with a character’s accent all of the time–long after a weekend of LARPing comes to a close. Eventually, this serves as a detriment to a player’s relationships and friends and loved ones must either distance themselves or create some sort of intervention.
Both situations usually end up with the same result. If friends choose to abandon the player in question, he or she will eventually ask someone why. If an intervention occurs when the problem begins, the problem is addressed more directly, but possibly before the player in question is prepared.
In such a situation, there is always a risk of losing a friendship. Should you choose to intervene with such a player, it’s best to:
- Prepare your words and make them gentle.
- Ensure the player that you like both his her or character and true self.
- Explain that you miss the person’s ‘real world’ personality.
- Show examples of how this behavior is detrimental to work life and relationships.
- Suggest a way to move forward by attending a non-LARP event together.
- Provide support and information about professional counseling if needed.
Since LARPing is so immersive, it’s easy to understand how some get drawn in, remaining in character for long amounts of time. The same is true for the workaholic that works to avoid other life problems or the gamer addicted to World of Warcraft. To break the in-character cycle, a player needs to step back and evaluate things out of character.
While this does occasionally happen, it is a rare problem, though unfortunately a frequently-stereotyped one amongst non-LARPers and the media. By breaking the cycle, you’re also breaking this negative stereotype and providing help to a friend.