Not too long ago, larping.org uploaded a few new videos from Larp Girl regarding safety and immersion in LARPs. One was a discussion of excessive safety rules in LARPs. The more recent one was an apology. There’s a lot of discussion going around tumblr, the youtube comments sections, larping.org’s website, and other places on the internet.
I actually first started thinking in depth about this topic back when I watched two older youtube videos- one was Larp Girl’s talk about glasses in LARPs, and the other was a response by another Avegost LARPer in response to all the negative feedback she was receiving.
To sum up- the first video was about how wearing glasses ruins immersion, or is against “decorum” (a term, if I’m understanding it correctly, refers to quality and consistency of LARPing paraphenalia- i.e. costuming, props, and set dressing, and behavior). The second video, pretty much just reiterated this.
Understandably, all of the videos have angered a lot of LARPers; they come off as fairly judgmental and narrow minded. I understand the notion of valuing immersion above all else, but I don’t at all agree with the idea these videos seem to put forth- that valuing immersion above all else (such as accessibility, meaning how easy it is for people to participate) is the superior way to LARP, that it is the mark of a higher quality LARP.
I plan to address the topic of general safety in LARPs in the near future, but right now, I want to address the issue of glasses.
I actually do understand and sympathize with LARPers who prefer not to see glasses in a medieval LARP. For example, I recently NPCed as the Queen of Ice in a gothic fairy tale themed LARP, and even though it took place in a classroom, and lots of other players were wearing modern costumes and glasses, I still felt as though my glasses were ruining my costume and wished I had time to put in contacts. (I didn’t because I knew in this case it was better to be on time than to not be wearing glasses in a LARP where costuming was treated with a lot of flexibility.)
However, I think it’s extremely reasonable for a LARP to decide to draw the line for immersion after wearing glasses. That is to say, I fully support a LARP deciding to insist on immersion and strict decorum in all ways except for allowing glasses. It does not mean the LARP is lower quality or less interested in immersion. Larp Girl says “you shouldn’t expect your handicap to be sought to”. I suspect she meant “catered to”, and I acknowledge that we all make choices in terms of accessibility. None of the boffer LARPs that I attend are wheelchair accessible, for example.
But glasses wearing is extremely common, and we rely on our sight to such an extent that it can be impossible to enjoy a weekend without corrective lenses. The idea of trying to enjoy the experience of a vision impaired person before glasses were invented, and Larp Girl’s suggestion of hiring body guards if you can’t defend yourself without glasses strikes me as patently ludicrous. It makes the assumption that such other players exist, that one can earn enough gold in game to support this, and most importantly, that a LARPer can have fun sitting with impaired vision while someone else does all the fighting for them.
I wear glasses. I can function without them, though I prefer to use them. I try to always wear contacts for LARPing (that isn’t set in modern Western settings), but if I don’t have my contacts or can’t use them for whatever reason, I wear my glasses because just having somewhat blurrier vision really detracts from my experience. I like to be able to enjoy the visuals of the costuming, and see what’s going on across large rooms. And most people who wear glasses have worse vision than mine.
The notion, suggested in the larpingorg anti-safety video, that they pose a safety risk because someone once slammed into a tree during a LARP and shards from the glasses penetrated the LARPer’s eye, is absurd. First of all, if you hit a tree hard enough to break your glasses, not having the glasses means the tree is going directly into your eye anyway. Glasses can break by snapping in half or the lenses getting popped out when hit with enough force, but modern lenses don’t shatter easily, so it probably takes force directed into a very small area- meaning a hit that would break the lenses would damage your eye even if you weren’t wearing them. I’ve only ever seen two LARP injuries that resulted in ER trips, and both came from tripping in the dark. (One guy sprained an ankle and ended up on crutches, another had a huge hematoma in his leg that could have progressed to compartment syndrome.) It’s the source of most LARPing injuries, by far, and reducing people’s vision is a good way to increase that. That risk of tripping in the dark far outweighs the risk of glasses shards in someone’s eye.
I will say that I hear a lot of people who refuse to try contacts on the grounds that they’re uncomfortable, afraid to stick things in their eye, think that they can’t wear them for physical reasons, think they flinch more than other people… I suspect a most of such people would be able to wear contacts if they gave them a serious try. If that describes you- really, consider giving contacts a try. The ophthalmologist will help you the first time. The first time I put in contacts, it probably took me somewhere between half an hour to 45 minutes, but eventually I did get them, and it’s gotten easier. Also, people used to say contacts weren’t available for people with astigmatism, but this is untrue. It’s worth actually researching and asking an ophthalmologist if your condition is compatible with contacts. And odds are, you will get accustomed to them. As for cost, if you only plan to wear them at LARPs, you can get disposable ones (which can be reused, by the way!) Plus, costume lenses become an option, and they can really enhance a costume.
Alternatively, I was turned on to a website called Zenni Optic– extremely cheap prices, and you can order a pair of costume glasses. The really old-fashioned looking round glasses, while not medieval, do give a somewhat more “period” feel- you could picture them on the mad scientist or the mysterious toy maker in a fairy tale.
I’ve also heard of people taking the lenses out of old glasses and inserting them into masks. This solution, of course, requires having a masked character and being willing to wear a mask for the duration of a LARP. Personally, I hesitate to commit to masks for more than a 4 hour one shot LARP, but I do know people who incorporated masks into their costumes for campaign LARPs, and wore them to the point that I never knew what their real faces looked like for years. To each their own.
Ultimately, however, if you’re only comfortable wearing your usual glasses, then wear them and feel free to ignore anyone who thinks their own experience is somehow diminished by your glasses.