Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The ABCs of LARP

Book: Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms
Author: Ethan Gilsdorf
Published: 2009 (Lyons Press)
Pages: 293

If you can tell me what LARP means and use it in a sentence that describes why the participants get angry when you call their events Renaissance Fairs, then you have graduated from this book before opening its pages. Don’t worry about reading it.

As for the rest of you – who the hell are you and how did you find this blog?!

I kid. But not by much. I’ve only gotten geekier since high school, so none of this surface-level dive into role-playing games, fantasy literature, Lord of the Rings tourism, and Dragon*Con was any sort of news whatsoever. If you’ve ever wondered about any of this stuff but neither you nor any of your friends are into it, eh, this would be a good very basic starting point so you can go into your local comic book shop and know how to tell them to teach you more.

I don’t really like the writing style. Gilsdorf circles around the same points (Fantasy lets people escape their boring/stressful/terrible real lives! Role-playing and tabletop games are actually good socializing! Geekery is something you grow out of except when you don’t!) over and over even when his chapter title indicated he had moved on to something else.

And oh my god he dropped the Styrofoam mace SO HARD when it game to the Geeks in Love chapter. Seriously, it was about half a page of “Here is this couple who both like nerdy things [she likes fantasy and he likes sci fi] and their shared house reflects that” before he goes back to wondering why people love disappearing into fantasy so much and never mentions the, you know, actual LOVE STORY of the two people who were geekily in love. That would’ve been SO COOL to hear about. Maybe I’m biased but geeky love stories are the BEST, y’all. They’re about smart people connecting and coupling over complex things, and –
But we don’t get any of that.

He does distinguish between fantasy and sci fi; although he doesn’t talk about the latter too much and the future will always have much more of my heart than the past, it was refreshing to acknowledge the real differences and not just do the thing that every retail bookstore does and smushing them together.

He fails at the personal connection thing, though. His D&D younger days keep coming up, in valid exploration of how he used that to feel powerful in the wake of his mother’s incurable brain aneurism, but then he can never decide if he should outgrow it or the Lord of the Rings obsession that he uses as an excuse to explore New Zealand. His girlfriend kind of wants him to grow up, but maybe that’s not all she wants, he doesn’t really know, so they stay together but not happily and it’s all Frodo’s fault? I guess? He’s not clear about that at all and it pops up randomly and awkwardly. Much like those adverbs.

It’s weirdly condescending for a self-proclaimed one of the tribe, and he always sounds so self-conscious and like he’s trying to find a genuine reason to laugh at all this and dismiss it as ridiculous. BUT THE GEEKERY IS TOO STRONG and it’s getting too mainstream to call any of this weird anymore.

Ahem. It mostly made me want to go to Dragon*Con so I could write better than he did about that experience. I COULD MEET DARTH VADER, Y’ALL.

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