Ask people why they LARP, and they usually answer roughly the same. The most common answer is their own form of “because it’s fun” or “because my friends do it” and both of those answers are great. Did you know there are actual benefits to LARPing in addition? Examining LARP shows there are many benefits to it that are hidden just beneath the surface. In this series of articles five of these hidden benefits will be expanded upon and detailed. For more information check out the other articles on Education, Networking, Health, and Creative Outlets.
Have you ever heard the phrase “fake it til you make it?” That phrase is more true than you may think. Many social skills can be gained through role-playing as a character who is more socially adept than you are. You will become more confident and more empathic through your characters. We’ll be exploring exactly what that means below.
“You Talkin’ To Me?”
While talking to yourself in a mirror (ala the scene Taxi Driver) is good practice, nothing beats real human interaction for practicing talking to people. When you play a character or NPC that exudes confidence, it will start rubbing off on you. Interacting as the super confident Sept Alpha will help you the next time you have a business meeting or job interview. Giving out orders as the Seneschal of the city can help you be in charge of others at your job. Mediation in a scene can help you learn to accept less than perfect situations that arise.
Leading in character at LARP with no out of game risks is great practice for leading in real life. You won’t get fired from LARP for making risky choices in game, so you can try them out in a safe environment. It helps you gain confidence in your decision making, and learn what you need to improve. Having to speak during a scene that is focused on you helps you improve your ability to do so outside of game. It also helps you learn to withstand the pressure of having all eyes on you. Entering into mediation to resolve a scene faster helps you learn to do it in real life. It helps you learn to negotiate for things in real life and accept that you’re coming out relatively equal instead of completely on top.
It also helps you cope with losing. In a safe environment like this you can learn to cope with losses and be ready to cope with them in real life. Losing in LARP has basically no real life consequence whatsoever. Losing things or people in real life hurts, but learning to cope with it can greatly help you heal and move on.
I Feel You
LARPing can also make you more empathic and supportive of your friends. By slipping into another role it allows you to get a glimpse of a different worldview. Maybe you played a Catiff in a Camarilla city and got a taste of discrimination based on nothing but how you were born (or made in this case). Maybe you played a male Black Fury and you experienced some gender-based discrimination. While playing one of these will not give you exact mirrors of real issues, you will start to understand the discrimination some of your friends face.
By taking on these differing personas, you can begin to understand the people around you. Maybe that Catiff is angry and protests her treatment by the Camarilla around her. Maybe that Black Fury rails against the system, or breaks ties with it entirely. Through these experiences you grow more sympathetic to their real world parallels. The expansion of world view through LARP has changed many people. Some of my best friends self-admitted to being homophobic, sexist, racist, misogynistic awful people. Through LARP (and actual education, LARP isn’t a miracle worker) they gained a better sense of others and viewed them as people too.
LARP not only makes you more empathic, but also more supportive, which helps you and the people around you. When your friends have a bad time, you’re more aware and able to help them because you’re more empathetic. This works both ways too, because your friends will also be more empathetic. The support network that LARP provides can be crucial for some people. While LARP is NOT a replacement for professional therapy and medication, it can help to have friends to talk to.
What LARP Can’t Do
LARP is not a cure-all, a magical confidence machine, or a replacement for therapy. While you can become more socially skilled, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to try to become those things. It does not just magically happen nor does LARP ‘fix’ actual mental or social disorders. The benefit involving LARP however is it makes trying take less effort. You’re put in the shoes of different people more often, and you hear stories of other players and characters. You become exposed to 100% risk-free chances to step up, speak out, and change your mind. Through these scenes and chances, you can become more confident or more empathic if you try.
Anna uses she/her pronouns, is an avid LARPer, and on weekend when she isn’t being a vampire or werewolf she treks out to the woods to beat up her friends with assorted plumbing supplies and birdseed. Outside of LARP Anna is a feminist and part of the LGBTQ* community, console gamer, and is the proud owner of two loving cats with three eyes between them. She can be found on Twitter and on Facebook.