Why do you LARP?

If I asked you “why do you LARP” what would you say? 

It’s a question most people in the hobby will ask themselves at least once and it’s one that can’t be summed up in a sentence. The consensus will vary from the “I don’t know’s” and the “to see my friends” to the “to hit people with sticks” and “to do things I can’t normally do”. We all have our own reasons and none of them are intrinsically wrong.

There is, however, power in understanding why we do things. Understanding why you LARP can be an important tool and stepping stone in discovering how to enjoy LARP to the fullest. It doesn’t end there, however, not only does knowing why we LARP help us in discovering the type of ‘game’ we enjoy but it also helps us in designing games that people want to play.

The problem is that people are complicated, really complicated. Far brighter people than myself have spent lifetimes delving into the inner workings of the human mind. If we took a step back 21 years to 1996 we would be able to experience the creation of a paper written by one such individual, Richard Bartle.

The Bartle taxonomy of player types lets us understand why people play games the way they do. It examines how gamers play multiplayer games and breaks the player base into four key sections:

  • Killers
  • Achievers
  • Explorers
  • Socializers

The four quadrants each rely on an X and Y axis. These being the desire to interact with the word or players and the desire to act or interact with them. Each of these archetypes of players each seeks their own thing from a game.

So how can we take the work of Richard Bartle and apply it to why we LARP? Well for today at least we can look at a primer for each of these groups.

The Socialiser:
  • Enjoys socializing and building bonds.
  • Can find it hard to interact with the wider game.
  • Game teams should design scenarios where players have to work together
The Killer:
  • Interested in seeing the repercussions of their actions
  • Here and now approach
  • Game teams should use encounters as a means to steer these players from undesired PvP action
The Achiever:
  • Wants to show their skills
  • Wants to progress and get better
  • Game teams should design clear lines of progression
The Explorer:
  • Will dive into the lore and background
  • Will examine phys reps and quiz NPCs
  • Game teams should design a game world that allows for easy exploration

At the end of the day the question of “Why do we LARP” or “How do I tailor my game to a specific LARPer” can be answered by a simple quote:

“Equality is not in regarding different things similarly, equality is in regarding different things differently.”

– Tom Robbins

The answer is less simple than the question and I am sure is one I will attempt to answer in many more articles to come. The answer can start now however with understanding that none of these play styles are wrong and instead of asking why we LARP we should be doing what we enjoy.

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