New Traditions: Larping for Generations

Oregon Trail, the vintage video game, will be turning 44, and some of the children who played the Apple II version now have children of their own. The game has entered the canon of mass culture and a new generation has begun playing an annual live action version, in which people build wagons and do “period somewhat-authentic tasks”. The website gives a sense of the game by explaining that a task like hunting “involves Nerf guns and college students dressed up as buffalo.”

Epic Empires via virginsuicide photography Flickr

Similar in age, D&D (Dungeons and Dragons), the Godfather of live action role playing games, continues to evolve and attract a new generation of players, and we could list a dozen other games that are clearly standing the test of time. Thus it begs the question: as games age, nostalgia kicks in, and new generations and players join in, can we look at LARPING as a new American tradition? At what point do we acknowledge that this is not a passing trend, but rather acknowledge that we’re witnessing the beginning of … something … some crazy mix of a game, a performance, interactive entertainment, a communal experience, and even a global social community. Whatever it is, it seems destined to grow and survive for years to come. As much as Americans feel squeezed for time, we actually have double the leisure time that people did in the 1850’s, and hobbyists are taking their downtime activities to levels never seen before.

How will these games evolve? At LyteShot, we’re obviously interested in the integration of new, mobile technology as a way to enhance a game, (as seen in our version of Assassin, a live action game with rules first published in 1982), but in what other ways will the medium change? The artisans who create the props and costumes have developed a cottage industry, gamification is increasing its range, street theater has gone viral, and the desire to meet and connect with fellow humans in real life will never go away.

One thing is for certain: what we are witnessing is only the beginning of group live action role playing. So keep your cloak and dagger handy, you’re going to need it for the LARPing-filled future.

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