Live Action Role Playing (LARPing) is something that emerged out of table top games like Dungeons & Dragons in the 1970s driven by a desire to be more immersed in living out fantasy scenarios. Boffer LARPs use foam weapons to simulate D&D-style combat, and this genre of live action role-playing is what most people think about when they think about LARPs. But there’s also Nordic LARPs, which have more of a focus on collaborative storytelling, artistic vision, and immersion. The recent explosion of VRChat is being driven by a confluence of different cultures including LARPing, Cosplay, MMOs, MUDs, live improv, IRL Twitch streaming, and a bit of pranking, trolling, and meme culture. But one of the unique affordances of social VR is that it allows you to embody characters, and tap into expressing different dimensions of your personality through role-playing different scenes and scenarios.
When it comes to the future of interactive narrative, then live-action role playing falls on more the generative story end of the spectrum rather than on the authored story. Nordic LARPs can have directors, rough story beats, and rules that guide the narrative in specific directions, but the content of the stories are emergent from a collaboration with the participants. I talk with game designer and LARPer Sharang Biswas at the Immersive Design Summit about his experience of the Just a Little Lovin’ LARP that’s about friendship, desire and the fear of death. It’s a LARP for 60 people who role-play the gay scene in New York City from 1982 to 1984 when the AIDS/HIV crisis broke out. We talk about the different LARPing genres, and what types of lessons LARPing has for the future of immersive storytelling in immersive theater and virtual reality.
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