Live Action Role-Playing (LARP): Background information when reading Super Fake Love Song

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Super Fake Love Song

by David Yoon

Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon X
Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2020, 368 pages

    Paperback:
    Jul 2021, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

Live Action Role-Playing (LARP)

This article relates to Super Fake Love Song

Print Review

LARPers dressed in fantasy costumes weilding prop weaponsBefore Sunny Dae embarks on a rock 'n' roll career in Super Fake Love Song, he and his friends are minor celebrities in the world of LARPing, which stands for Live Action Role-Playing. If you're familiar with tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons or online role-playing games like EverQuest, LARPing is sort of like one of those games come to life, complete with characters, settings, props and plots.

Many childhood games of imagination could be loosely categorized as LARPs, as could some improv theater games, but when most people talk about LARPing, they are referring to a fantasy game largely for adults, with established rules and structure. LARPing began in the 1960s, but really took off in the mid-1970s, evolving from tabletop fantasy games such as Dungeons & Dragons. By the 1980s, many variations had sprung up in the United States and internationally, particularly in college and university settings.

Although medieval fantasy-themed LARPs might be the most well-known genre of play, there are many other types and themes of LARPing, including killer- or assassin-style games, steampunk, Greek and Nordic mythology, zombie- and vampire-themed games, and simulations based on established books or series (like Lord of the Rings, Jane Austen's novels, or Harry Potter). LARPs have even taken on topical issues such as the AIDS epidemic or the refugee crisis in ways that, according to organizers, can help humanize crises and engender empathy and creative problem-solving.

A typical LARP might take place over a weekend. Players receive the broad outlines of the LARP's plot and characters in advance, and then they have the opportunity to develop their own characters with backstories, props, costumes and weapons. Some of these costumes and props can be quite elaborate and immersive, particularly in Germany, where LARPing culture is especially active.

Since many LARPs take place in a rural or wilderness setting, players might sleep in tents and cook outdoors; these elements also become part of the gameplay once LARPers arrive, set up, decorate their spaces and get into character. LARP players may cooperate to solve puzzles, embark on elaborate quests, or engage in simulated warfare (the amount of physical contact is addressed in the rules of the particular LARP, along with whether characters can be injured or even "die").

Much like the related activity of cosplaying (in which participants dress up in costumes inspired by favorite pop culture characters), LARPing has an active convention scene, with participants flocking to convention centers to participate in LARPs and to attend sessions on everything from character development to prop- and weapon-making.

LARPing is largely a peaceful and positive enterprise, but as its popularity (and commercial potential) has grown, it has not been immune to scandals. One large professional LARPing studio that once ran Harry Potter, Downton Abbey and vampire LARPs at castles in Poland eventually folded after multiple allegations of sexism, worker abuse, harassment and financial mismanagement. This type of expensive, lavish LARP tourism is certainly not the only way to LARP, however, and as participants like Sunny and his friends demonstrate, it's possible to create vivid fantasy worlds and props using basic materials, ingenuity and imagination.

LARPers, courtesy of Geek & Sundry

Filed under Cultural Curiosities

Article by Norah Piehl

This "beyond the book article" relates to Super Fake Love Song. It originally ran in January 2021 and has been updated for the July 2021 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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