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On LARPers and Mormons

by Leeman Kessler, Company Member and Man-About-Town

So I am a Christian and I am a gamer. More specifically, I’m a Methodist who attends an Anglican church and I play tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, and occasionally Paranoia amongst many others. In my travels, I have noticed that I have reactions to two other subgroups that mirror each other somewhat oddly. These are, in relevant order, my reactions to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Live Action Role Players. This reaction can be defined as initial dismissal followed by intense curiousity and then rounded off with a kind of contact embarrassment. I am not in the business of defending this emotional response, just describing it.

LARPers first came to my attention on the smokey porch of a coffee shop in Nashville where, in the ’90s, I’d hang out with friends of friends who would dress in all black, smoke their clove cigarettes, and talk about how they confused folks at the mall while pretending to be Vampires. I knew Vampire the Masquerade as a tabletop game and even owned one of the marbled covered editions. The idea of taking the game, dressing in costumes, and going out into public to play seemed intriguing but also like a lot of work. Also, there were the cloves to be considered. Unfortunately, as the ’90s progressed, I never found LARPers who didn’t seem to have what I’d call a ‘too cool for school’ attitude and the cross-contamination really didn’t appeal. I tried to get over my prejudice which had been compounded by fellow table toppers who casually dismissed the LARPing crowd; I even went so far as to listen to a LARPing podcast for a few months but just found it so over-wrought and requiring a level of commitment which seemed excessive.

Mormons were their own special kettle of fish. Like most of us in a pre-Wikipedia era, all I knew for a good long while was that Mormon=polygamist. It took actually sitting down and doing a minimum of research to realize just how deep my ignorance went. South Park and Orson Scott Card did much to fill in some gaps. Then I went through a phase a few years back where I obsessed over the FLDS community of Hilldale, Utah and Bountiful, British Columbia. At the end of it all, I certainly feel less uncharitable towards them as I might have once did but I still wouldn’t necessarily volunteer to spend a lot of time in a temple.

What both of these groups did was make me think for a moment was, “Is this what people think of when they hear that I’m a Christian/Gamer?” I mean, I share more in common with those in the groups than with those out of the groups. I get together and play pretend and I have conversations with my invisible friend in the sky; surely that means I should feel a closer bond with these people but that is not the case. Perhaps it’s inevitable cliquishness that happens in all of these groups. The vitriol I’ve seen two different brands of Baptists share is equal to the rage between D&D 3rd ed and 4th ed players.

I’ve no real great insight into this; I mostly wanted to share my thoughts and maybe get folks thinking about just what other groups or activities they disparage and noticing what similarities they might share. It’s an odd little world and we can easily get caught up in trying to organize and define ourselves by who we are not and the benefit of that might be minimal.

Maybe I should organize a LARP of Dogs in the Vineyard to make up for lost time.

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