The Four Eyed Monster

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.

Period looking glasses

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.

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About Fair Escape

I've been LARPing for years in all different styles, including both boffer and theater. I love classic LARP but I'm always happy to try something new. I have a sort of "gotta catch 'em all" attitude towards experiencing LARPs. I'm currently serve as a board member of NEIL, a member of proposal com for Intercon, the largest all LARP convention in the US, and as en editor for Game Wrap, a publication about the art and craft of LARP. I was also con chair of Festival of the LARPs 2017, and I'm on staff for NELCO, the first all LARP conference in the US. I'm
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15 Responses to The Four Eyed Monster

  1. Ivan Zalac says:

    Well, there’s definitely a difference in goals and priorities that different larp styles have. E.g. a larp which is highly immersive would probably not allow everyone to be a “hero”, nor provide “game balance” – in fact, that would be contrary to its design. Being an able combatant in a larp like that is likely neither required nor important.

    Take the “wear no glasses” situation, for example. I’m guessing here (because my sight is good), but it would probably make you feel helpless to a degree. In less immersive larps, this is a disability. In more immersive larps, it would probably be one of the things your experience would revolve around.

    However, the entire larp design is based on strong points of this style – Larp Girl herself is not a fighter. There’s not much escapism in immersive larps – they tend to resemble real life more in a lot of things, and they play this as strong points, creating a more believable experience, more rooted in someone’s personal experience.

    Also, it doesn’t really matter where someone draws the line (with either looks or safety) as long as it’s clear where that line is – and that’s what the game staff should decide, and make sure it’s known before game starts. That way everyone knows what he/she is getting into and whether it will be comfortable for him or her.

    • Fair Escape says:

      In a four hour theater LARP, if i were cast as someone nearsighted without access to corrective lenses, I would consider playing the LARP without my glasses, but I wouldn’t enjoy a weekend of boffer LARPing without them, immersion or no,

      I also do agree that a LARP has a right to set its own boundaries and goals as long as it makes it clear in advance. (I can’t really comment on Avegost because I don’t know much about it, but Larp Girl did say her LARP changed part way through and lost a lot of people. Hypothetically, I’d be pretty upset if I spent a lot of time and money on a LARP only to have the parameters change in such a way that I could no longer wear glasses if I was the kind of person who wouldn’t wear contacts. Avegost’s rules book “highly recommends” against wearing glasses, I’m not sure exactly what that means, but people were objecting to her videos pressuring people to not wear them in any LARP (and this also came up in her suggestions for newbie videos) and implying that a LARP is low quality if it doesn’t discourage or forbid glasses.

      Honestly, I’d really like to try a very immersion focused LARP, so long as its staff and players didn’t have the attitude that their LARP was inherently superior, just different.

      • Ivan Zalac says:

        Also, “boffer larp” is a rather wide term. There are larps which use boffer (or latex) weapons which can range from the pretty much everyone fighting, lots of ingame violence etc. And there are larps which use boffers (or latex weapons) on which there’s only a small minority who actually fight.

        One of the good examples of this is Drachenfest in Germany. Thousands of players, with armed conflict which is actually central to the storyline. However, together with large amount of combatants, there are spies, diplomats, alchemists, healers, priests, entertainers, townsfolk, water bearers etc. who rarely need to engage in armed conflict – and most of them don’t because that’s why they have armies. And they aren’t disadvantaged because of that – in fact they play their part in what makes their camp work like a well oiled machine.

        The bigger the difference in mechanics between two larps, the bigger is the difference in how they work. I found learning about other larps to be a very insightful journey.

  2. This LARP Girl video is made a lot more hilarious by the fact that she’s talking about *fantasy* live-combat games. Also the comments on the larping.org post are all kinds of special.

    As for the glasses topic… yeah, I agree. More LARPers should give contacts a try. I’ve heard the “but I can’t touch my eyeball!” refrain many times, and I try to explain, you don’t, really–it’s mostly just sticking the contact close enough to the eyeball that the hydrophilic bonds between the eye and the contact overcome the bonds between your finger and the contact. Usually it just snaps into place.

    (IANA chemist, so I may have explained that inaccurately. But if you do it right it should feel like the contact is being sucked onto your eye, not that you have to poke around in there. Of course, I say this, but I have also spent time fishing around in my eye looking for a contact that slid out of place and is rucked up behind my eyelid. I almost never had these problems before I started using disposables, however–I think they’re just lighter-weight material).

    Contacts do take some getting used to, but is not appreciably more difficult once you know what you’re doing, and you can get some cool cosmetic effects out of it. Plus, I think most people look better in contacts 🙂

    • Fair Escape says:

      I do kind of understand the notion of modern glasses not fitting in visually with a Dark Ages feel, even if lenses were invented in the 1200s and fantasy blends various ages. (Brian points out the the styles of weapons and armor that pop up in such LARPs are often from eras well after glasses were invented) but it’s not really about history, it’s purely psychological.

      What really bugged me about the earlier videos was the idea that if it’s a fantasy LARP that allows glasses, it’s probably silly, or low quality, or involves people in t shirts whacking each other with brightly colored foam sticks. There was an implicit judgement.

      Completely agree with the contacts comments.

      • JakeG says:

        Other than the issue of glasses because it hit close to home (my vision without glasses is slightly poorer than that of the average mushroom), I also had a problem with the implicit judgement of fantasy boffer LARPs. I get the feeling that many LARPers who’ve taken up games with more rigorous immersion standards secretly consider the rest of us to be either benighted fools who don’t know any better, or too stubborn to ‘grow up’ to their way of LARPing.

        I suspect it’s the result of people going straight from low-standards, sweatpants-and-pool-noodle games to their current style of game, and thus seeing LARP quality as a continuum, rather than a broad range of possibilities.

        Finally, a bajillion thank-yous for that Zenni Optical link.

  3. Here in NZ, a larp which tried to impose a “no glasses” rule would be whacked under the Human Rights Act for discriminating on the basis of disability.

    • Fair Escape says:

      It wouldn’t surprise me if that were true in the US as well, but I couldn’t say for certain. Maybe that’s why Avegost only “strongly recommends” not wearing glasses?

  4. Ivar says:

    Whenever we have LARPers wearing glasses on LARP (or training session) where there’s boffer fighting, we make a recommendation that they should consider taking their glasses off. However, we don’t force them to do it; also, we’re more concerned about the possiblity of the glasses being knocked off their faces, getting broken or flying away and landing under somebody else’s foot than with said “realism”. Still, it’s always the player’s call.

  5. I personally like to point out that glasses have been around in close to their current state since the mid 12th century when a breakthrough made them more accessible to the general public. That’s right. Midevel times. And primitive equivalents have been around since something like the 1st century.

    So disallowing glasses breaks immersion.

    But, for safetys sake. If you are going to a combat heavy LARP then get some sort of glasses protectors. Or re-inforced glasses.

  6. Most LARPs have magic and alchemy. Why can’t we find some way to work the glasses into the setting somehow? Maybe have some special ability that reflects having said glasses one can purchase that gives another benefit — perhaps you can call “No effect” to some kind of blinding effect a few times per day. I mean, c’mon, unless you’re playing a strictly medieval no-magic and no-alchemy game (especially alchemy which could theoretically be used to turn steel into see-through glass through transmutation) you can justify their existence.

    Contacts are good if you can get ’em / wear ’em, though, just so you don’t have to worry about breaking your glasses and can wear cool masks.

    • Fair Escape says:

      I agree! Luckily, most of the LARPs I play are in fantasy settings that draw on lots of different eras for inspiration, or else are sci-fi or have modern components, so glasses aren’t an issue. But I agree that I prefer wearing contacts when I can, because they don’t get knocked off.

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