Interview: Jordan Gwyther, larping.org

936801_720324538286_612098434_nJordan ist der Gründer und Chef von Larping.org, einer Informations, Community und Shop-Plattform aus Seattle, Washington (US). Ich sprach mit ihm über Facebook & LARP, das Geek-Image und die anstehende ComicCon San Diego. Viel Spaß beim Lesen – ist eine ziemliche Textwand, ließ sich aber nicht so leicht auf die Aufmerksamkeitsspanne des modernen Facebook-Lesers kürzen! 😉

Fabian: Hi Jordan. First, please tell us something about your site – what is it you do?

Jordan: Larping.org started two years ago by myself and Dave Funk. Our goal has always been to create a connecting place for the larp community. Since then, we’ve grown a ton adding Tom Miller as our Lead Designer, Kiri Brasseur as our Editor and a bunch of really great bloggers from around the world!

Fabian: And what’s your sites primary goal?

Jordan: We hope to continue to provide gerat resources for larpers from around the world to learn from one another and get the tools, equipment and ideas they need to make larp even greater!

Fabian: Let’s get back on connecting LARPers. That must be hard in a country the size of the US.

Jordan: Connecting LARP groups is very difficult, I completely agree. In the US there are a several organizations that have groups that are spread throughout the country. These games have a lot in common and a few of them get together for bigger regional events. However, most groups are run autonomously and have their own unique rule systems, settings, worlds, etc. This makes for literally hundreds, maybe a few thousand, small games spread throughout a huge geographical area. 

Fabian: German gamers are connected quite well but as far as I know Europe-wide LARP networks are still limited to special (theme-)projects. What’s it like in the US in your experience?

Jordan: There has been a lot of complaint about the US larp scene being disconnected and divided over the last few years. The thing that we’re seeing, however, is that a lot of people are getting the chance to learn from what other groups are doing and implementing that into their games and characters. This is something we’re really passionate about. We don’t think there should be one larp to rule them all. Instead, there should be flavors to fit for every persons tastes. 

Fabian: Flavors?

Jordan: To illustrate, I like to think of larp as ice cream. Let’s say you and I love ice cream and agree to go to the ice cream shop. If my favorite kind of ice cream is chocolate, you’re never going to convince me that the best kind of ice cream is vanilla. It’s just not my preference…

Fabian: That’s a very old example…

Jordan: … but, if you offer me a swirl cone (with chocolate and vanilla interwoven), I’m probably going to eat it. Why? Because, I love ice cream. Larp is the same way. We shouldn’t be arguing about whether we like chocolate or vanilla. We should be figuring out how to make new flavors or how to make creamier, more delicious ice cream. 

Fabian: Ok, that’s really a nice way to put it! But back to connecting people. Some years ago our forum was a well frequented place for discussions and the organization of groups and camps. Since then most of this communication switched to Facebook increasing the gap between Facebook-users and those who despise social media.

Jordan: I’ve seen more and more larps move to using Facebook instead of forums. Or, they use Facebook in addition to Forums and post things both places. Posting both places ends up being tedious and people who prefer one platform over the other end up missing out on some portion of the conversation. However, one good I’ve seen is that people are more likely to check Facebook than a forum and are seeing more posts and having more conversations with their groups because of that. 

Fabian: Do you believe social media will benefit or harm our hobby in the future?

Jordan: My opinion is that forums and social media are just tools. For those of us that can remember a time without them, we know how hard it was to communicate regularly. Now that we have different tools, we need to adjust to use them in the way that makes the most sense for our context. I think that there are pros and cons for both. For communicating within your group, I think that social media may have spread us a bit too thin. Groups should probably choose one format over the other. But, for recruiting new people and giving exposure to LARP, I think that social media has been a huge force for good. 

comic_con_France_Paris_2009

Fabian: Besides the internet we also have conventions and fairs to connect players. I read on yoru site that you are planning a trip to Comic Con. Some of us did visit ComicCon France last week but that’s tiny compared to San Diego. How important is LARP (not cosplay) on the CC, especially as a way to present our hobby?

Jordan: Right now, larp is a bit of an afterthought at Comic Con. Aaron Vanek, the man who put together the pane this year, has been trying to get one approved for over six years. So, it’s a really big deal that we finally landed one. What’s really important, though, about Comic Con is it gives larp a chance to shine and really show people how great it is. In the states there is a huge stigma against larp and we’re hoping to show the world that larp is exactly the opposite. 

comic-con-logo

Fabian: You started a indiegogo (crowd funding) project to pay for that panel. Why do you believe it’s worth the effort?

Jordan: It’s really interesting when you think about how larp brings together so many facets of geek culture into once place. The cosutming of Cosplay. The roleplaying of RPGS. The strategy of board games. Not to mention the base creativity that is latent behind all of geek culture. Larp is poised to make it’s debut on the world’s geekiest and nerdiest stage of them all. We’re really hoping we can show people that. 

Fabian: So let’s hope you reach your goal; just eight days left for some more investors to sign up! I heard one could easily score a T-Shirt designed by Ted Nasmith this way ;-). Back to my final question: LARP as geek-hub. Some claim LARP in Europe is becoming more than that. It might change from a small side-note to a mainstream hobby. What do you think of it’s potential in the US?

Jordan: Over the last few years as we’ve been runningLarping.org, we’ve seen our traffic and interest in larp constantly increase. But, what’s really telling, is how often it appears in pop-culture and the media. Disney has a show with a recurring character that is a larper. Knights of Badassdom was made (and never released….). It seems every other month there is a new reality show that shows some form of larp. There are new documentaries being made all the time (Treasure Trapped, for instance). And, we get at least one message a week from a producer in Hollywood asking questions about larp, because they are planning to make a show featuring larpers. 

Fabian: That’s similar here only they don’t ask and make the hobby look pretty stupid most of the time :-(. That’s not the way we want LARP been seen by the next generation…

Jordan: But, in my opinion, what is really telling of larps growth is the interest among young people. Nearly all US colleges have some form of larp or boffer battle group on their campus. And there is a ton of mentions on social media from young people interested in getting involved in a larp. I think in the next few years, as young people mature, they’re going to be looking to get connected to larps and try them out and live out these experiences that screens can’t give them.

Fabian: Thanks a lot for your time and I wish you all the best on your trip to San Diego Comic Con next week!

Larp at comic con

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