Thursday, September 6, 2012

I am So Jealous of the Danish

Over the past weekend, I attended a small local convention, Strategicon Gateway. Strategicon is mostly a board game/strategy game/miniatures game convention. However, the game I staff for has been working for several years on our relationship with the convention, and as a result have been able to carve out a niche for  LARP. Our game has a presence there 2-3 times a year, running personal-plot tabletops on Saturday and a live-action game on Sunday.

While the tabletop games are mostly designed for established players, we usually rely on a few curious convention-goers to show up and NPC for us. We write out roles with some bite to them. A new player isn't relegated to just playing a guard or a courier, we can make them senators or ambassadors. At this game, a very lovely new player showed up, speaking heavily accented English, and said she was interested in NPCing for us. So I set her up with one of our available roles, a bureaucrat obsessed with the danger necromancers presented to law and order. She seemed very much to enjoy her role, and I found some time to chat with her and another staff member as game was winding down, about LARP in Denmark (where she lives).

I am so very, very jealous.

In Denmark, LARPs are usually run through an established, national club. Members pay a yearly membership fee... and then get matching funds from the government. This usually, according to my new larpfriend, equals out to a yearly operating budget of about $15,000.

What could your larp do with $15,000? Or $10,000? Or even $5,000? All the awesome pictures you see of Nordic LARPs aren't just reflective of a passionate player base - American LARPers are just as passionate about our hobby as others. It's reflective of a country which supports LARP as an outgrowth of theater, music, film and other creative entertainment. LARP is supported in schools, as well - instead of quietly studying and memorizing dates, students researching the Napoleonic era will spend a week creating their character and devising a setting. And then at the end of the week, go and LARP Waterloo. I'd probably know a lot more about Waterloo and French culture during that time period if I'd LARPed it as a teenager.

I know many Americans, for one reason or another, have a bias against role-playing (despite the fact that other Americans effectively created and established the hobby). And we're currently embroiled in a national debate on the philosophy of appropriate government spending.

But wouldn't it be cool if we could the sort of government subsidies that the Danish and other Nordic countries do? What would it take to make that system work in America? Even just on the state level?