When it comes to nerd cred, I've got it in boffer spades. I do live action role-playing, or LARP, and have for years. I make my own costumes or thrift them, spend hours watching Farscape and making spell packets, and when I can afford it, travel as many as four hours away for a weekend of pretending to be someone who does magic, or sword fights, or creates alchemical poisons, or writes songs about heroic battles between good and evil. Or, as we like to call them, PCs, or player characters, and NPCs, non-player characters.
Some of the most creative, intelligent, and generous people I know I've befriended through LARP, and some of the people who make me want to shove a latex dagger in my ear I've met there, too. I've never questioned more than I did this past weekend why it is we do what we do when, in full makeup myself and my friends in makeup and prosthetic ears and noses - not to mention extensive costumes, armor, and weapons - I looked around and knew that we weren't fox-people or rabbit-people or dog-people, but moms and dads, successful professionals, people with degrees and jobs and a whole lot more laundry to do on Sunday than we would have if we'd stayed home watching television like normal people. So, why do we do it? What is it about us that makes us want to play pretend, despite it being generally socially perceived as unacceptable past the age of nine or ten?
I'm happy. In fact, I think my life is pretty bitchin'. So I don't play because I'm unhappy, or because I'm trying to escape, but because what I want out of fantasy I just can't have in real life. For the many staggering, poignant, gorgeous moments in my real adult life there are ten times over as many days where I do the laundry, pay the bills, clean the litter box. There are no litter boxes in LARP. I take thirty-six hours of my life and live it as fast and as epic as possible, and it doesn't matter what's happening on Monday at the office. There's a ruined temple in the forest where dark rituals are bringing the dead back to life, and a murderous horde massing in the Orcan lowlands, songs to be sung whose words contain the power to mend flesh and inspire courage, laws of physics to break. Why watch or read or daydream when I can play instead?