A couple of days ago, my friend Natalie as an exercise in sharing what she is grateful for, stated that she was very grateful her husband doesn't like football. I kind of don't see the point in caring about that, but clearly Natalie does and that's great. Different strokes, for different folks etc.
Last night I was able to hang out with my wonderful friend Rachel and her totally charming ketchup* mogul boyfriend Mark, and somehow LARPing** came up. Many things had to be explained to me. Mark said, there's a documentary called 'Darkon' that goes in to the culture of this game, and the people who devote a great deal of time to it (at least every other weekend, not including all of the prep work you do beforehand.) It was on Netflix streaming, so we watched it. It is not a perfect documentary, (it should have explored Skip a little more fully, because he was where the story is,) but to its credit, it did open my eyes to a completely different way to exist in life.
Mostly, the people who participate in this game/community/way of life feel like misfits in the real world, unsatisfied with their roles at work, they relish going to middle school football fields or a forest and staging wars with foam weapons and shields because they gain a sense of importance, a sense of self. All while they are hoping to be heroic, and having supremely awkward and poorly improvised conversations that seem stolen from Lord of the Rings and some Middle Ages/Renaissance something.
I don't begrudge these people the opportunity to waste their money and time on nerdy things, in fact, I think it is great. Well, let me rephrase that. I think it is great that they are connecting with other humans, finding that niche, if you will. Just like those nerds with the salt and pepper convention. But Mark brought up an interesting point, how is this any worse than people who are really in to football? My liberal sensibilities are really trying to say, it's not better or worse, just different, but my Judgy McJudgerson ways are overruling. Sure, football is more socially acceptable, and that's part of it, but my main concerns are actually the wasting of time and money and that they are escaping life. In being a football fan, you have a team or a few teams that you watch their games every weekend, that's an investment of like four hours, maybe a few more for a few months. You don't really have to spend money on it at all, and everything about your weekend of zoning out in football is considered real life. It might seem a great waste of time, but it is real life. But with Darkon they are out there for full weekends at a time, leaving their loved ones, (sometimes wives and children and sometimes just parents, let's be honest here) while they run around the forest, camp, and pretend because reality isn't satisfactory enough. I think they all know that what they are doing is fake, but still, why not expend some effort on improve reality, instead of channeling it to role playing and then have the line between reality and a game blur a little more every weekend. And the money - these people have very elaborate costumes/armor, and while I kept thinking their craftsmanship was excessively poor***, they had lots of foam weapons at one point built a huge facade of a building with 2x4s and plywood, to have a three minute battle and then burn it down. (If I had executed a plan so poorly as to not consider the slope of the hill when I was installing the doors, maybe I would want to burn it down as well, but I would notice that.) What a waste of resources!
But mostly, I think that LARPing is not the best use of time, because of the consequences on the family. There was a shot of Skip's wife and daughter hanging out at a table near some refreshments that they had prepared for the gang. They are just sitting there without much to do, as the LARPers all stood around another table and plotted their next weekend's war with plastic action figures. I am positive that Skips' wife is a much more patient and understanding woman than most, but she just looked so empty and excluded in that scene that I was upset for her sake. But the worst part is the children. Look at what happens to the children.
And I am positive Natalie would embrace football if this were the alternative.
*Seriously, Sir Kensington's is great. I have the spiced in my fridge right now. One time Shara and I took it to a burger joint with us. Delicious.
**Live-action role playing. And I thought D&D was nerdy. Shoot, and I thought video games were nerdy...
***The basics of upholstery have been the same for hundreds of years, why you think fastening fabric to plywood with duct tape instead of a staple gun is a good idea, I have not a clue.