Three British filmmakers get tossed headfirst into the deep end of the hobby that is LARPing. After a short introduction juxtaposing fantasy with reality, a theme that appears throughout, (keen-eyed Game of Thrones fans will spot Kristian Nairn, better known as Hodor,) the filmmakers start with a fantasy boffer LARP by the name of Maelstrom. From there, they go on to explore a variety of other LARP events, including the gritty post-apocalyptic Wasteland, the Battlestar Galactica-based, set-on-a-real-battle-ship Monitor Celestra, and PanoptiCorp, the satirical advertising agency LARP. They also get a glimpse into Osterkov Efterskole, a middle school in Denmark that focuses on roleplaying as a teaching method. They film their experiences, and create the 100 minute long a documentary Treasure Trapped.
In essence, Treasure Trapped is actually two documentaries in one. The first is a personal story of three geeks discovering a hobby that is strange and new to them. The second is a look at LARPing as a whole, demonstrating its breadth and depth, from fantasy live-combat campaigns, to Nordic social experiments. In this way, Treasure Trapped targets two audiences, both those entirely unfamiliar with LARPing, especially those considering trying it out for themselves, and long-time LARPers keen on finding a portrayal of their hobby that actually understands it.
The former audience will empathize with the three Brits’ initial incredulous confusion, while the latter will find their piqued curiosity and enthusiasm both reassuring and gratifying. LARPing has had more than its share of unflattering portrayals in the media; the makers of Treasure Trapped very quickly find the fun and the appeal of LARPing, and it shows. The humorous bits feel as though the journalists and audience are meant to laugh with the LARPers, rather than at them. They recognize its fundamentally social nature, and the importance of actually LARPing in order to understand LARP. “If you’re not participating,” they wisely tell the camera, “you’re not going to really experience it.” They even take on the roles of documentary filmmakers in Monitor Celestra in order to continue their work while blending into the scenario. The film also captures the enthusiasm from the staffs of various LARPs; when one GM in Wasteland says of the players, “they got to play the big heroes and we got to scare the shit out of them,” one can help but reflect that some elements of running LARPs are just universal.
Some of the interviews make claims regarding LARP that not all LARPers will agree with; for example, one interviewee claims that LARP began with Treasure Trap in the UK and spread outwards. But there are many moments in which the interviews challenge common stereotypes and misconceptions about LARP, including the idea that escapism is the primary reason to LARP because the lives of LARPers require escaping, and that the hobby primarily appeals to the anti-social. Rather, Treasure Trapped emphasizes the social elements of LARP, the importance of community in role-playing, and fun as the primary motivation, along with the joy of creative expression of both LARP staff and players alike.