In 2014, I tried to take a look at the various games and their achievements both in attendance and events run.
Unfortunately, the hobby has grown too damn large for me to reliably keep track of (dangling participle). For every shout-out I’d give games like NERO Mass for running a 150+ attendee National Event or Madrigal for concluding a 16 year plot-arc, I’d probably overlook Mythical Journeys contribution as a key entry-point into the hobby as a whole or Dystopia Rising’s 17 event season (ok, it’s more like 12…but that’s a LOT of events).
I’m going to highlight the big theme of the expanding environment.
LARPing in New England is growing. Coming out of 2015 we saw a number of campaigns wind down (Aralis2, Madrigal2, Requiem, Covenant, Isles) to be immediately replaced by new ones. In total, I am tracking 54 games that fit the tight definition of LARPing as it pertains to this blog (see numerous caveats, please stop telling me about how things are done in Zubrovka).
For years the paradigm has been shifting away from large events (with 100 or more participants) and on to smaller ones, with 40 or so players and a handful of dedicated Staff and weekend NPCs. This trend is expected to accelerate into 2016. The interesting question here is; why?
A root cause of the fracturing of our hobby can be seen in the creative egotism necessary to embiggen fictional worlds coupled with a lack of patience in learning the craft of how to run a large, ongoing LARP continuity. However, there may be a better way to state that. Let’s try again. People are becoming active in LARPing through numerous channels and genres. It’s not just fantasy and NERO anymore (and hasn’t been for some time, to be fair). But the wider acceptance of fantastical (I refuse to use the word “geek”) culture in media has actively fueled the imaginations of a number of people who, upon reflection, feel an innate need to get out and try it in person. LARPing is, at its core, the physical representation of inspired imaginations.
While the above paragraph wandered a bit, allow me to spend a few sentences refocusing on the second issue – why are there so many smaller games instead of larger ones? The creativity necessary to conceive of and construct a compelling world tends to lend itself to selfish anarchy. It takes a LOT of people management skills to run a large plot committee capable of supporting a game over (about) 50 people.
Not to generalize, but these are advanced, quasi-professional skills that are learned a bit later in life, if at all. Holding together and leading a group of like-minded, creative individuals on an artistic endeavor is very difficult – it’s far easier for 6 or 7 people to come to a consensus than it is to, say, find 20 that can not only stand to be in the same room with each other but also maturely discuss fantastical concepts and then make them come to life.
One of the concepts our community embraces poorly is mentoring. Each generation that comes up is forced to reinvent the wheel- amusingly enough in roughly the same shape as those who have gone before (except we’ve finally, almost, gotten rid of ‘called damage with every swing’ systems: NERO – you’re on notice). While this cycle continues, smaller games will trump larger ones out of organizational necessity and, thusly, while the hobby will continue to expand it will also continue to fracture. (Note: players looking for more intimate experiences may also feel they stand out or garner more attention at a game with fewer participants. This topic warrants an entirely different post in the future).
As a result of the increasing number of events running, we are seeing “nexus” weekends where up to 8 different LARPs are holding an event at the same time within ~100 miles of each other becoming increasingly common. While this may add to the thinning of participant numbers at any one game it’s also creating a different stress – on campsites! Ye Old Commons, New England’s largest LARP dedicated site, is again taking bookings all the way into 2017, and 2016 weekends are becoming scarce. While some older camps (particularly East Boston Camps) are once again open to events, there is definitely a developing shortage for LARP sites. Games are now setting dates 8 to 10 months in advance (or more!).
One of the addendums to this blog will (hopefully) be a full-site listing and eventual review of all LARP sites in New England. Until then, if your game needs dates check to see where other games are running and then call the camps! In addition, Eagle Pass, an up-and-coming LARP-dedicated site with a large Tavern space and some gorgeous woods, is looking to add more buildings this year and if you’re in Maine you have access to two spaces – Burgundar and the Keep.