In my bio blurb below, it notes that I am a wife, mother, writer, and reader, and this is all true. However, I am also a cosplayer, a belly dancer, and a LARPer. Yep, you read that correctly: I LARP. Though it has been more in the news and mainstream culture in recent years, there may still be some of you who are not aware of this hobbiest/gamer phenomenon. So allow me: LARP stands for “live action role play.” What this means, in short, is character acting and improvisational storytelling.
As the annual GenCon gaming convention (Indianapolis) draws upon us, so too do I draw near to one of my few times of escape during the year. But this year’s GenCon convention will be slightly different. This GenCon weekend, for the first time in about three years, I will walk into a brand new (to me) LARP game, full of people I do not know, with a system unfamiliar to me. And that is a simultaneously exciting, sobering, and terrifying thought. In 2005, when I started LARPing, I found myself shaking with nervousness at interacting with people I did not know, in an activity that I had never engaged in before. But it ended up being one of the most enjoyable times I had ever had. I am introvert with a love for drama and theater, but I didn’t get the chance to participate in it much during grade school and only a little bit in college. So LARP has afforded me the wonderful opportunity to indulge in the thespian part of my personality.
I adore what my mother-in-law calls our “pretend time.”
I enjoy letting myself fall away and occupying the skin and life of someone else for a while, someone who may be similar to or vastly different from me. There is a sense of freedom to inhabiting the mind of another person, however made-up they may be, to letting their confidences or fears wrap around me and acting accordingly. I once played a character that had been in an accident and the fear center of her brain destroyed because of it. Now that was fun as well as challenging. I think like my characters, move like they do, speak like they do. Oh, Mel is still here, of course, but she is sitting back and enjoying “pretend time.” And pretend time is lots of fun when you can do it with other people. My mother-in-law teases my husband and me that we apparently didn’t get enough pretend time as children. We assure her that we most certainly did but we enjoy it so why give it up?
As a woman, I can only speak to LARP from my perspective. I would assume that my experience is different from that of most of my male fellow LARPers, but only they can tell you that for certain. For me, being a woman in LARP, there weren’t any ground-breaking revelations or anything of the like. When I started LARPing, half of the game was female (some of whom would become some of my closest friends) and it has never felt out of place to me. Women like *Ellora and *Iris have commanding presences and immense creativity – in character and out – that I have always admired, as well as having very warm hearts that were welcoming, kind, caring, and encouraging, something I dearly needed at that time in my life.
I understand that, for a long time, gaming, comics, fantasy, etc., were considered to be the domain of males, with the odd woman here and there as an aberration. If you have ever seen the show “The Big Bang Theory”, one of my favorite episodes is when Penny, Amy, and Bernadette venture to the local comic shop to find out why their boyfriends are so into comics. Every male in the shop turns around and stares as they enter, the owner eventually telling them,“They are just girls, nothing you haven’t seen before in movies or drawings,” and then later threatens, “I swear I will turn a hose on you!” when they cease to stare.
Now, I’ve been there, walked into a game store before and heard all conversation cease, as I was the only female in the establishment at the time. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t really now, but I didn’t let it bother me. I knew exactly what I wanted, found it on the shelf, bought it, and then hurried home to read my new treasure (for those who want to know, it was White Wolf’s Invictus sourcebook for their Vampire: The Requiem game). In all seriousness, though, I’ve never considered myself to be making forays into a males-only domain.
When I began LARPing almost ten years ago (yes, my dears, it’s been that long), there were almost more females than males in the troupe game where I started and that continues today. More and more we are hearing of the harassment issues that women are facing in geek culture, particularly in cosplay (costume play), but I don’t want those negatives to completely overshadow the large positives that I have experienced in activities like cosplay and, especially, LARP.
Through this hobby, I have gained confidence, broadened my creativity, had stories published, challenged myself to meet some personality goals, and had the wonderful opportunity to meet score upon score of amazing, talented people.
I like to make friends. It’s fun to meet new people, laugh with them, and get to know them. I find that I’m very enthusiastic about new friends as, often, they are the people who reach out to me. For someone who is largely introverted, this is a huge gesture to me and I am grateful for it. Eventually, folks find my deeper sides and often seem pleasantly surprised by them. At least I hope they are. But I have made some of my best friends in recent years through gaming and LARP, found some of the most powerful sides of myself – courage, wrath, passion, etc. – and found the means to be able to express all of these sides, all of these characters, safely. And, really, all I can do is thank all of those who have made it possible for me over the past nine years.
Thank you for encouraging me. Thank you for interacting with me. Thank you for the compliments. Thank you for helping me to shore and build up a shaky self-esteem over the years. Thank you for listening when I need an ear. Thank you for kicking my butt when I need it. Thank you for the inspiration and shared creativity. Thank you for the guidance. Thank you for answering my myriads of questions. Thank you for your time. Thank you for your community.
Thank you for welcoming me.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
Melissa Snyder is an introvert with a flair for the dramatic in her writing. She is a wife, mother, compulsive writer, voracious reader, and fierce defender of Imagination. She has been writing stories since before she actually knew her letters, developing stories that she would tell herself aloud while drawing. She likes to write about faith and self and emotion and society and hobbies, as well as revealing the myriad paracosms that inhabit her mind. These paper bullets of the brain live in her blog and on Facebook where she endeavors to write about life and Imagination boldly and share honestly. As a first-time mother, she is also recording her experiences, memories, joys, worries, and, yes, even whines in her Mommy-blog at I Have a Forever.