Just watched this clip on youtube. It’s a little over 14 minutes of a “documentary” from TLC.
I’m having a very mixed reaction to this short piece. On the one hand, they had some fair insights into LARPing, including the notion that people agreeing upon boundaries in advance make it work, and that people LARP to experience things one generally only gets to watch in movies. (I believe the line was, “instead of watching a movie, these LARPers are inside it.”)
On the downside, they present a series of statements as facts, and I have no idea why they think these things or what their sources are. They claim LARP is born out of Dungeons and Dragons. There are a number of hobbies and activities that led the way for LARPing, and they go back much farther than D&D. (Not that I have anything against D&D — I enjoy tabletop RPing, myself.) Similarly, I have no idea why they think LARPing “came of age” when the Lord of the Rings movies came out. I’m not even sure what they mean by “came of age”. They don’t bother to explain that sentence.
They have a pretty poor explanation of the term bleed, I think. Over shots of a LARPer crying real tears, they define bleed as when LARPing “affects real life” and explain that it can “change the way you look at life.” I don’t think either necessarily needs to be true for someone to experience bleed. One could argue that your real emotions are part of “real life” and therefore bleed is when a LARP affects real life is true, but it’s misleading and poorly worded.
And bizarrely, they interview Ethan Gilsdorf, and tag him as a “LARP Expert and Author.” I have read his book, Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. I have no idea on what basis he is a “LARP expert”.
The idea of a “LARP expert” is, I would say, controversial at best. If you wanted to point at anything resembling a professional in LARP, you might point to the vanishingly few people who have managed to make a living through LARP, but there’s no consensus that such people are best at it. There’s no licensing required to participate, no official national league or academy. Personally, I think there’s simply no such thing as a “LARP expert,” and slapping the label on someone who dedicated one chapter in his book to a single weekend at a boffer LARP just to round out a documentary strikes me as poor journalism.
I rather wish I had seen this before Ethan Gilsdorf had come to Intercon, or before I went to one of his book signings. I’d be curious to ask him about it.
And, of course, what would a documentary about LARP be without some misleading sensationalism. They describe GMs as “playing God,” which is a term, admittedly, I have heard some GMs use, but I think it’s misleading to use it when most people viewing this probably have little to no context for understanding GMs outside of the documentary. Additionally, they obviously chose a very extreme example (even for Nordic LARPs!) to film. They show mock (but relatively realistic) torture scenes, along with mock executions. And even more shocking, a prostate exam. I hesitate to call it a mock exam because it’s not actually clear how far it went, but I think the LARPer playing the nurse may have actually…?
At any rate, this is fairly extreme, even for Nordic LARPing, and the documentary could have made that a lot clearer, instead of possibly confusing its audience into thinking this is typical. At the very least, they do make brief allusions to other forms of LARP (such as your typical fantasy boffer LARP) to let the audience know that LARPing can take many different forms.