Every single thing that interests me. And that's a lot.
Reality is a concept that I, in moments, have very little love for. Sometimes it’s seems like all life is made up of is an endless stream of problems and concerns. Every single time you think you’re happy and at peace something new crops up to burden your mind; another problem, another concern. Add to this all the silly obligations and responsibilities imposed on you by this modern society of ours and it’s no wonder that people feel stressed and burdened. Even if you’re relatively rich and well off, the problems scale with you. You may not have to worry about basic problems, such as food for the day or shelter from the weather, but all anyone can do is regard life from their own perspective, and this means problems of a different nature.
Regardless of what it is exactly that ails you, the point I’m trying to make is that sometimes you want to forget all about ordinary life. Sometimes you need to escape. I do this all the time, usually with the aid of different cultural media. For example I watch a lot of movies. The stories told and the pictures painted can be quite wonderful, and allows one to immerse oneself in someone else’s imagination. Books are similar, but allows for greater participation in how a story is perceived, even though the narrative is still locked to the authors preconceived path. Video games combine the best of both worlds and is perhaps the most immersive and emotionally engaging of all media, but I plan on writing more about that another time. There is however a form of escapism that until just recently was unexplored by me, but it turns out that this may very well be the ultimate break from reality. It’s live action roleplaying.
(It’s worth noting that I’ll be describing live action roleplaying as it exists in Sweden, it may take different forms elsewhere.)
Live action roleplaying (often abbreviated LARP) is a combination of improvisational theatre and collective storytelling. Groups of people, ranging from a handful to several hundred, gather and participate in creating a fictional world in which they all live, everyone assuming the role of a fictional character within the world. Any kind of world, from fantasy realms with elves and orcs, to futuristic visions with vampires and cyborgs, can be the scene for the play. I use the word play, and not game, because the goal is never to “win” a LARP. The purpose is instead to create immersion, and engage in entertaining and meaningful interactions with the other players. There is usually one or more overarching plots or intrigues planned in advance by the coordinators, and around these the players are more or less free to influence the story, the world and each other.
I participated in a LARP called “Domen över Hjorvard”, a low fantasy game taking place in and around a small viking-era village in the middle of the Småland forests. The play was four days long and the main story involved a threatening clan of nearby orcs, that caused some of the villagers to rise up against the current village chief. They thought they had a better solution to the problem than the one currently employed. Tensions were high and many of the residents had ideas of their own, and loyalties that were not always apparent.
At first I was a little unsure of how to act – it was my first time after all – so I mostly followed the two other players that I shared a camp with, one of whom was a friend since before. This initial anxiety disappeared quite quickly though and I could soon give myself completely to the role. What followed was one of the most liberating periods of time I have ever experienced. Not only do I immensely enjoy living in the woods, cooking over an open fire, sleeping in a tent, and breathing the fresh air, but allowing one self to completely forget about ordinary life is something that’s very hard to do these days. Society and the modern world is ever present, and not even in this fictional world were we able to keep all of it out, but enough of it was kept away so that you could immerse yourself almost completely. Routines, selection of food, even usage of many words were changed to further this end. It even went so far that on the final night I had dreams that were in character.
Now I’m back in my regular reality again, and while it certainly has it’s comforts, it is a bit sad. If it weren’t for all the orcs and trolls and internal conflicts, a place like that little village could have been a lovely place to live. A simple life, something I realise I value, and now miss. I had to go for a long hike through the woods the other day just to help relieve my longing for the outdoors. But all hope is not lost! There are more events to come, more costumes to sew, more characters to live and to meet, and more worlds to explore.
This is just the beginning.