You’re in the office. It’s your first week, and you’re just getting to know your co-workers. The usual getting-to-know-you small talk is flying when someone asks the dreaded question:
“So, what do you do in your free time?”
For most this would be an easy question, but for larpers, it’s a different story. We censor ourselves, picking a different interest to talk about or avoiding the topic altogether. No matter how passionate we are about our hobby, it’s a well-known fact that you don’t spring the ‘I’m a larper’ conversation on someone when you haven’t gotten to know them. It’s not unheard-of for someone to keep their passion for larp culture as far from their professional lives as possible in fear of their hobby coloring their job potential.
Why? Why do we only talk about larping with other larpers? Why do we agonize over whether or not to tell friends, families, and significant others what we do in our spare time? Why is larping a dirty little secret?
The original negative views on larping (and nerd culture in general) can be traced to the early-80s Satanism epidemic was in its prime. Every new thing that came about was feared to encourage teens to practice witchcraft. Pop music? Satanism. Fast cars? Satanism. Nerdy kids playing made-up games in their backyard? Definitely Satanism.
Nowadays, we seem to be (for the most part) past this view, but the fear still lies in ostracization. We know how modern society treats those outside mainstream culture, those with different and unique interests, those who are passionate about things that most others are not. Just as we know this, no one wants to be ‘that nerdy guy/chick’ that no one wants to talk to.
Assumptions made by people who don’t know anything about roleplaying are always based on things they’ve seen in movies or on the internet, and almost none of it is flattering. There are groans and eye-rolls in the larping community when ‘lightning bolt guy’ is mentioned, and I know I’ve heard a fair share of ‘Larping? Like in ‘Rolemodels’, right?’. Thoughts go to antisocial kids with glasses and acne, and in some cases they’re right. Why is this a bad thing? Why is it a negative to have pimples or acne, or to be shy?
There are larpers who have these traits, but some aren’t even close. Larpers are of all age groups and backgrounds. We are psychologists, nurses, farmers, law students, and, yes, tech support. The big question is this: how do we break the stereotype? How do we change the views on larping to positive and accurate ones instead of negative?
Informing people who aren’t in the know with a positive attitude is more likely to make them view it positively than an embarrassed explanation could hope to. If you present something in a way that says you are ashamed, those you present it to will act accordingly. Tailoring the conversation to emphasize something the person would be interested in is also a good tactic, but I’ve found that a simple ‘I go into the woods and hit my friends with sticks’ works better than most would imagine. It piques a lot of interest, leading to real conversations.
Just remember, my larper friends. There is nothing wrong with being passionate about something. If other people see how much you enjoy it, how much fun you have, they just might stop judging and start getting interested. If not, you’ve got a great community made of some of the most accepting people out there to fall back on. They are the ones missing out on a fantastic game, not you.