By this point, I’ve filled out 3 of 4 casting questionnaires for my Intercon games. (The other two won’t have casting in advance- Triple Blind involves randomly generating a character when you walk in, and the Iron GM LARPs, which haven’t been written yet, cast at you walk in as well.)
Two of them asked for my age on the questionnaire.
My kneejerk reaction was to resent it. My immediate assumption was that there was some intention for physical casting going on, meaning the GMs wanted to use some physical property of the player- in this case, age, as one of the factors for casting. Except that’s not really a fair assumption. It could have been to make sure no one under 18 got an inappropriate character, especially since Intercon this year seems to have an influx of younger kids (and a few games oriented towards them, too boot.) It also might have been there because… it’s just a standard thing to have on a form, and the GMs weren’t really thinking about it. Who knows.
I’m not entirely sure why the idea of physical casting based on age bothers me. Gender is standardly used as a basis for physical casting, but that doesn’t bother me at all. I guess gender is such a psychologically-loaded notion, that a lot of people feel deeply uncomfortable with cross-casting, and many others are ok with it but still have a preference not to be cross-cast. Other forms of physical casting come up pretty rarely No one would ever consider it acceptable to ask a person’s weight on a questionnaire. I’ve been told by GMs once or twice that they’d never put me in the role of a character meant to be physically very intimidating. That only bothered me very slightly- I do like to play combative characters, but it’s not a strong enough preference that I mourn its loss. Besides, other GMs are perfectly happy to cast me as someone who looks physically intimidating (my character from Casino Xeno jumps to mind.)
I do firmly believe that GMs are entitled to cast as they see fit, and I consider costuming to be an integral part of creating immersion because appearance helps create immersion. Isn’t player appearance just a part of that line of thinking? And even if GMs are giving physical characteristics some thought, it doesn’t mean they’re giving it consideration over things like what players want in terms of goals and personalities for their characters. Immersion and the ability to play a character unlike yourself are two perfectly viable goals in LARPing, that often come at the expense of one another, and I consider neither inherently superior. Choosing to value immersion by casting players with age in mind should seem like a legitimate choice. Especially since I’ve been in LARPs where the youngest character, who was a prepubescent boy, was played by one of the tallest males, who was bearded to boot. And I recall finding it very un-immersive.
And yet, it still bugs me. It’s a little bit silly- I am and look around the age of characters that I like to play, so physical casting based on age isn’t likely to negatively affect me anytime soon… but it might, eventually. I like to play young, headstrong, idealistic characters… And there’s a vague fear in the back of my mind that if I’m still LARPing in 40 years (here’s hoping) I won’t get the parts I like to play. Or maybe even 10 years. I think my fear of aging, propped up by our society’s rabid ageism, especially for females, is what’s fueling my kneejerk reaction to being asked my age on a casting questionnaire.
At any rate, my response to both questionnaire’s age questions was “over 18” and I left it at that.