So, you want to save the world with violence?
It sounds like a joke, but though we always ask it and smile, there’s something behind the
words. The next couple of pages are meant to give you, dear reader, an introduction to what
Live Action Role Playing for children is and why it’s something to be interested in. So sit
back and let me take you on a tour through one of the playgrounds of the imagination.
What’s the fuss about?
Live Action Role Playing (larp) is a world-spanning hobby, with people doing larp
("larping") in all parts of the world. It’s a phenomenon that started in the UK in the 80’s
and has since spread to places as diverse as Israel, Brazil and New Zealand.
Almost all European countries are known to have people who larp as a hobby, and while
larp is more widespread in the Nordic countries than in the rest of Europe, it’s something
that’s growing almost everywhere. But what is larping exactly?
Playing House... a simple children’s larp
One of the earliest games of with which children come into contact is "Let’s pretend". A
popular Let’s Pretend game is called "Playing House". In Denmark, it’s known as "Father,
Mother and Children", and my guess is that each country has its own name for it. The idea
is the same, though, and almost laughably simple. In a game of Playing House, one child
takes on the role of the father, one of the mother and the rest usually pretend to be children.
And for a period of time - sometimes pre-defined, sometimes just decided on-the-fly -
these kids pretend to be other people than they are. The father may complain about having
to do all the cooking, the mother can scold the children for not doing their homework and
the play-siblings maybe tease each other over something silly. Whatever happens during
the game, the object of it is not to win – it is to have fun. A game of Playing House doesn’t
have winning conditions, set rules or a tightly-defined structure. The game is an organized
form of play, but less structured than, say, a football game or a card game.
Larp is like this – organized play. No more. No less. Organized play.
But playing is just playing, right?
Both yes and no. Countless studies and books have been authored on what play is and how
it helps us grow as humans, but I’m not going to go down that road. If you’re interested in
that sort of thing, there is plenty of material out there – Johan Huizinga’s work Homo Ludens
from 1938 is a good example of the fact that the nature of playing has been discussed for a
long time. No, what I’m here to tell you about is playing the way we do it – what we call larp.