LARP-a-palooza: The battle for middle campus
by joey |
Midterms had been vanquished and spring break had arrived upon the land. To commemorate their victory over the first half of the semester, a legion of scholars gathered in the Student Union to hit each other with foam swords.
Warriors turned up in golden tunics and horned Viking helmets, hoisting shields adorned with dragons, crosses and sword-wielding rabbits. Chain walls sectioned off the battlefield. Late arrivals raced down the stairs to join the gathering masses. Crowds craned over the railings to survey the battle cage below. With a cache of weapons spilling off a table on one end of the cafeteria, and a prized stash of Mountain Dew on the other, it was time for LARP-a-palooza (after everyone signed a release form first, of course).
The ABCs of LARP
LARP, in case you were wondering, stands for Live Action Role Playing. LARPs are essentially fantasy games come to life, where the players (or LARPers) become characters and the surroundings become the scene. LARPs can be any game where the players physically act out their moves-generally improvised-and can be set in any time or place, either historical or completely imagined. The most common LARP, though, is the standard swords-and-sabers battle, and that's the style Game Club opted for at their inaugural LARP-a-palooza event.
Most other weeks, UAA Game Club draws a solid core of 20 students, but LARP-a-palooza netted over 55 participants. "This is the first event where we've planned to have this many people," explained club president Jackie Odena, a senior social work major. "We wanted to do a LARPing event for a very long time."
The club meets on Thursdays in the Student Union from 6:30 until 10:45 p.m. (unofficially, though, members tend to show up an hour early and stay until they're forced out the door). Often the club will borrow the Student Union's Nintendo Wii, pull out the projector and play classics like Super Smash Bros. on the big screen while surrounding tables fill with board games, card games, even pen-and-paper role-playing games (if you don't know what that means, just stop by a Thursday meeting).
"Really, a large amount of Game Club is a social thing," explained freshman surveying major Scott Duffus. He first heard of Game Club after seeing a campus flier and he was quickly hooked. "I thought, that sounds awesome-I might as well show up. And then voilà, it was awesome and I continued showing up," he explained. "It's an opportunity for us who are usually more sheltered individuals to get with other sheltered individuals and hang out for a while."
"A hierarchy of geeks"
Apparently, the campus community waited a long time for LARP-a-palooza as well, as dozens of students took to the battlefield to fight with honor, integrity and homemade duct tape swords.
"[LARPs] are actually really awesome to watch, but obviously more fun to partake. Just like golf," Scott joked as the cafeteria continued to fill.
Despite its hard shell of nerdiness, LARPing is just like any other sport-teams are often decided by schoolyard picks and everyone participates at varying levels of intensity. Some students wore homemade cardboard armor, while many others simply shuffled over from the residence halls in t-shirts and shorts.
For details on LARP culture, just talk to Talon, the outgoing monarch of Lupine Moon (translation: he's the current president of a local LARP league). In the real world, he's senior justice major Josh Casselman, and he sees LARPing as far more than an obsessive hobby.
"There's a hierarchy of geeks," he explained, citing the social saturation of video games, followed by the next-level nerds who play tabletop games. "The lowest spectrum, according to some people are LARPers," he continued, "[but] it's really just a geeky sport. You're exercising, it's competitive, you're trying to win and it's invigorating. It's better than video gaming-you just kind of have to swallow your pride and go out there and geek out."
Let the LARP commence!
LARP-a-palooza technically kicked off a week in advance, when Game Club dedicated their Thursday meeting to the construction of foam swords. Connor Parker, a staff member in the Student Union, led the sword-making seminar. With PVC pipe, foam and rolls of duct tape, students could quickly create a basic sword.
The catch? The club handed off the treasures to, fittingly, their treasurer, who squirreled them away for a week as an incentive to return for LARP-a-palooza
LARPing takes many forms, but Game Club kept it simple. "We're doing the very basic version here-we have foam weapons and we're having fun," Connor explained. Dressed in a dashing blue sash, he gathered the masses to explain the rules-two hits to any limb and you're out. One hit to the chest or back and you're out. And no head shots. After a minute of recovery back at your base, LARPers may rejoin the melee.
Connor and Jackie split the group into three teams as curious crowds stretched out along the second floor railings to watch the action below. The night kicked off with several rounds of capture the flag, followed by a much-needed water break.
Next, they staged a mock wedding between King Matt and his beloved Charlotte Pipe (pronounced PEE-pay and played by a piece of PVC pipe). A band of mercenaries kidnapped the princess and the round two stage was set-storm the castle walls, then rescue the princess. Tambourine and flute players followed LARPers into battle as King Matt-in a suit, tie and plastic crown-bellowed from the back "Save my daughter!" and, later "Why is this taking so long?!"
Like any Game Club meeting, LARP-a-palooza stretched deep into the night. Students trickled out as only hearty warriors remained. All in all, 'twas a successful eve in the land of the Student Union, as LARPers met Game Club, Game Club met LARPers, the princess had been rescued multiple times over and the merry band of warriors marched off into the cold frost of the parking lot together.
Game Club meets every Thursday during the school year from 6:30 p.m. until the Student Union closes. To learn more about UAA Game Club, visit their Facebook page.
Written by J. Besl, UAA Office of University Advancement