Movie Review: Treasure Trapped

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.

The trailer of Treasure Trapped can be viewed here. Information on hosting a screening of Treasure Trapped in your community can be found on the Tugg website.

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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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2 Responses to Movie Review: Treasure Trapped

  1. Chad B says:

    I’ve heard the Treasure Trap thing before, and if you constrain the statement to saying it launched a -certain form- of LARP, then it is almost not wrong. But Dagorhir predates it (although wit hall early transitional media pieces, some debate whther or not Dagorhir counts as LARP). So does the Dream Park novel that inspired many early groups. SIL, the precursor to LARPA was founded as an organization about the same time the Treasure Trap people were starting to run events, and arguably SIL didn’t spring into being as an organization without having something already existing that needed to be organized. But no argument that Treasure Trap was one of the first, and even more so if you look at the UK scene.

    • Fair Escape says:

      I’ve no doubt that Treasure Trap was influential in the UK scene, and to the credit of the movie, the three journalists don’t repeat the claim that Treasure Trap was The First as gospel, (though there is still something slightly irresponsible about treating an interviewee as knowledgeable and leaving in their false claims or not offering any correction or caveats.)

      Dagorhir is really difficult — I’ve heard Dagorhir players both insist strongly that it is a LARP and other Dagorhir players insist strongly that it’s not, but it certainly plays a role in LARP history, especially in the US.

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