So I’m a big fan of Live-Action Roleplaying, whatever form that might come in. Whether it is trying to re-create a bygone era, such as with the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) or related groups, doing Cosplay, joining a traditional Live-Action Roleplaying group (such as the Mind’s Eye Theater system), attending Renaissance Faires, it really doesn’t matter to me. I’m all for it, however you choose to LARP. But let’s be honest here: LARPing is, and always will be a very fringe form of roleplaying, if only for one reason:
LARPers do a terrible job of self-promotion.
When you get right down to it, Roleplaying in and of itself is a fringe hobby, and LARPing is just a minority form of that hobby. While many people might recognize the name “Dungeons and Dragons”, and know it is a type of game, few really have a grasp on what it is, outside of roleplayers. And if you asked them to tell you about LARPing, most people might assume that is a rude bodily function or the latest internet trend (like Planking), before guessing it has anything to do with roleplaying.
Only the SCA and Renaissance Faires have any real mainstream connection to the overall population, and it took them decades of networking, advertising, and quite a bit of media attention to even get that far. And I’m still fairly sure most people wouldn’t know what “SCA” means, or what their local Renaissance Faires are, unless they’ve seen a recent ad for an upcoming event.
The problem is, this lack of public knowledge about the hobby is slowly killing it. Why? Because if no one really knows about a hobby, where will the next generation of people come from to carry that hobby onward come from? We need more LARPers, period. And to do that, we need to be much more public about the hobby, so that people who might be interested in LARPing will even know that such a hobby exists.
So what can be done about this? Well, the LARPing community, as a whole, needs to come out of the shadows. They need to get together and conduct large-scale, public events on a frequent basis. They need to get media attention, whether it be the local morning show on TV, or just a fluff piece in the Sunday newspaper. Those small Vampire LARPs in the park need to get the community involved, show off what they do and why, and provide demonstrations whenever and wherever possible. The SCA and many Renaissance Faires already do the best they can to advertise, but why not arrange to give a talk about the Renaissance period at local schools, during the off-season? Get those future LARPers hook, while they are still young! And as for Cosplayers, don’t just show up at local Conventions… Do appearances at local gaming stores, and maybe even try to infiltrate more sedate events, such as county fairs, to drum up attention and interest?
Regardless, LARPing needs to be much more public in all forms, if the hobby is to survive well into the future.