Sunday, November 23, 2003

Life in Monster Town

About 12:30 today I awoke, my mystical journey through NERO at an end.

Well, ok, so we drove dead tired in at 4 am, and I spent a large part of my evening in a cinder block cabin watching people get in and out of simple makeup and color coded tunics, but it was still fun.

It's one thing to be a player at NERO. It's another to be part of the staff. To be on staff means to be providing the entertainment. You're on stage. You're making the magic. I ran a couple of very simple NPCs -- no plot, no background, nothing going on but what I made happen myself. This seems to be the key. No matter what the "plot committee" comes up with, it's what the people on the ground do that makes everything happen.

I've been too involved in this kind of play acting to truly step outside and see how it must appear to those not so involved. I get glimpses, certainly. I understand how easy a target for sarcasm and contempt doing this sort of stuff must be. I'd like to have a quarter for every time I'd heard someone sneer and say "get a life". I could buy a nice costume with the proceeds.

However, I would like to counter such thoughts that live action roleplaying games, like any roleplaying game, is really like theatre. Since it is being done to entertain one's self and a few others, the pressures to be "really good" is much less. There are no official critics. You aren't trying to part a reluctant audience from their money. You are just doing the whole "Hey, I've got a barn, let's put on a show" thing, only your group is playing ALL the roles interchangeably -- you are audience, actors, playwright, director, technical, costume and makeup. Theatre has much more pressure on it because the audience, while a part of the whole sphere that makes up "theatre", is much MUCH less involved. They come to pass judgement and that is their role.

The more I think of this analogy, the more points of comparison I see. It's all about who is "inside" and who is "outside". Anyone who doesn't like, appreciate, or care about theatre will make fun of it, insult it, and be contemptuous of those who participate. It's the same with NERO or any live action gaming (or any true RPG) -- if you aren't a part of it, it makes little sense to you, and possibloy looks inane.

Theatre has long traditions to support it as "art". I contend that LARP's/RPG's have a similar history, only without quite the linear connection, finding roots in the rituals and rites available to common folk via such conduits as fraternal and religious organizations, and the pretend play of children. An argument could be made (by someone more scholarly than me) that both types of activity are actually more similar than different.

They differ, I suppose, in "status", whatever that means. There is much less of a selection process involved in gaming. Success or failure in performance is not judged by some group especially charged with making judgements. I don't like saying that it's a "lower" form because of the automatic association of "higher" and "Lower" with other ideas concerning worth, value, and merit.

Whoa, I'm wading into philosophical waters there. What I really wanted to talk about was my happy, enthused, and incredibly bright and cheerful bard character and the singing I did, but since I did so little in actuality, there's not much to tell. II put on costumes. I sang some. I talked to a lot of people and had a little interaction. I sat in the control center and listened to reports of what was going on outside, laughed, offered ideas, helped with costumes. I enjoyed myself. I stayed up far too late.

I'll probably be doing this again.

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