Call me Jeffery Baker.
I’m a coal baron in the United States circa 1874. Along with my good buddy David Montgomery (and real life good friend Steve Isaacs) who owns most of the railroads, are at a wedding reception in Long Island, NY for the wedding reception
of Jacob Tyler (TX redneck cattleman) and Paulette Bonnet (cultured French ballet dancer).
In August at the world’s largest gaming convention, Gen Con in Indianapolis, I took my first plunge into what some may consider the deepest level of nerddom, I LARP’d. Live Action Role Play is sometimes mocked, like in the Lightning Bolt video. I’m happy to report that what we did would also simply be called a “Murder Mystery” but just a different story line and no murder.
The role-playing was pleasantly unscripted, leaving us to create dialogue with other guests around the room based on what we know about ourselves and others’ via the dossier handout. We each had some sort of objective to accomplish before the 2.5 hours was over as well. Mine was to make an introduction, presumably a business one that benefited me. So I introduced the Senator and my railroad buddy David so I could secure coal contracts for the foreseeable future.
My daughter was a spritely 17 year old named Wendy who couldn’t stop sneaking glasses of champagne from the waitress (All acting and part
of the show, do remember). Wendy desperately wanted to travel a semester abroad to study in France under one of Paulette’s friends. I felt the real tug of not wanting to let my daughter go away for so long (I have a daughter in real life who’s only 4, but still) and expressed my concerns of her not being able to handle herself abroad when she can’t handle her champagne at home. She finally convinced me in the waning minutes to give my blessing on the trip, so long as my buddy David’s wife accompanied her (to David’s chagrin I believe, it was far too easy to convince him to send her off).
LARP in School?
There is already a school in Denmark performing History-based LARP’s with students. As my real life friend Steve and I discussed, there is potential for use in social studies, history, and English classes. Here’s a sample scenario:
April 13th, 1865, 4 days after the Confederate General Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, before Lincoln’s Assassination. The scene is John Wilkes Booth and 2 crew members attending a White House Dinner involving VP Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward who were part of the original assassination plot. Other characters could include the waitress who sympathizes with the sympathizers, and the security guard who caught wind that there is someone at the party with ill will towards Lincoln and his colleagues. The premise is to see what conversations would take place if they bumped into each other at this party.
I’m sure our friend Lucas would have attended this LARP session, and would be busy securing LARPinschool domains that would be the inevitable successor to wowinschool.
To actually implement a LARP in my own classroom, I would begin by shifting the Overton Window, the range of socially acceptable behaviors. If I can convince them that me playing the role of Lincoln, speaking in prose, I may also convince a student to play the role of other characters. I like to get ongoing feedback via some live polls and extended feedback as we go, but so long as not all of them were speaking roles (someone has to write and translate the Morse Code of course), I think it’s feasible students would get involved with the storyline, and play it out over the course of weeks, with parallel story lines and plots. Paul Darvasi does this already with his classes, except using even more game elements as Alternate Reality Games.
Either way, I’m going to keep LARPing with pride. It’s fun to be someone else, talk like them, make decisions like them, and make up dialogue on the fly.