Play more games!
This is a post about LARP theory, but I’m going to start by talking about improv comedy. In improv, one of the things you need to do to get better is push yourself out of your comfort level. Do you hate doing impressions? Do them! You like short, get to the joke scenes? Try some long form. Play a character with some risk in it. Explore some situations that would otherwise make you hesitate. Try new things. It will only help you in the long run.
A long time ago, I created the five stages of larper(1). They are still true today, but I wish they weren’t. Most larpers, the vast majority, have a favorite larp or a favorite larp scene they enjoy and just aren’t interested in trying anything else. Maybe you’re like that. Maybe you only play in a specific campaign larp. Maybe you only go to the local larp convention. Well, the sad fact is that you are stunting your growth as a larper.
You need to try new things. You need to see what else is going on out there. It’s easy to make fun of larps you don’t play in, but without trying them, you’re no better than a little kid who won’t eat their vegetables(2). Look, it’s ok to not like specific kinds of larps; there are some larp types that I just haven’t taken a shine to myself. But you need to try them, and you need to respect the people who play them. Their larp is just as valid as yours.
And this is even more important if you write and run games. The best, hands down best, way to become a better game designer is to play games. Seeing what live combat games were doing in the 90s helped my theater –style games and I’ve been learning more from the Nordic scene as well. Play more games! It will make your games better.
And finally, I want to talk about cross pollination and communities. I believe that cross pollination – people who try out multiple larps – is vital for larp communities. As a larp community, you need to not just accept and welcome new people from other larp scenes, you need to seek them out and bring them in. I realize I just have anecdotal evidence, but I can think of two larp communities that are thriving due to cross pollination, and one that did well due to the cross pollination efforts of some of its members but quickly died due – in part – to the lack of cross pollination efforts from its leadership.
Look, there’s a lot of larp going on out there. In America we have the Living Games Conference, Intercon, Wyrd Con, Dreamation, and innumerable local larp events. Internationally, there’s even more. Just try one. Just one. Take a chance. You will meet new people, learn new things, make new friends, and grow as a larper and as a person. It’s easy, oh so easy, to be content with your local larp group, but you need, you really need, to try new things, to expand. Do it! You’ll thank me later.
(1) 1. Ours in the ONLY LARP. (This was far more prevalent before the Internet).
2. Ours is the best LARP. (The larper has a strong attraction to the game he started playing and just assumes that all others are inherently inferior. MANY LARPers never get past stage two.)
3. There are other LARPs out there, but I prefer this one. (The LARPer has recognized that the "bestness" of his LARP is due to personal preference. The rest of the majority of LARPers hit this stage and stop).
4. I enjoy playing many different LARPs. (This one is rare, but is becoming more common. You may find someone who will play, say Vampire and Cthulhu Live, or two different types of boffer LARPs. You'll still find damn few people who will play Mind's Eye Theatre and NERO).
5. I not only enjoy many different LARPs, I actively seek out and try to find new LARPs to play to expand my experience. (Very rare).
(2)This is either ironic or hypocritical, I suppose, but you still can’t make me eat broccoli.