Posted in Reviews

Review: Leaving Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games

Leaving Mundania cover

Title: Leaving Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games

Author: Lizzie Stark

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Genre: Non-Fiction

5 stars

Exposing a subculture often dismissed as “geeky” by mainstream America, Leaving Mundania is the story of live action role-playing (LARP). A hybrid of games-such as Dungeons & Dragons, historical reenactment, fandom, and good old-fashioned pretend-larp is thriving, and this book explores its multifaceted communities and related phenomena, including the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval reenactment group that boasts more than 32,000 members. Author Lizzie Stark looks at the hobby from a variety of angles, from its history in the pageantry of Tudor England to its present use as a training tool for the US military. Along the way, she duels foes with foam-padded weapons, lets the great elder god Cthulhu destroy her parents’ beach house, and endures an existential awakening in the high-art larp scene of Scandinavia.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.

Wow. Before I came across this book on Netgalley, I had no idea what LARP was. I had never even heard of it before. But after reading Leaving Mundania, I want to try it myself. Preferably the kind with prewritten characters (I think I could be at least semi-good at that).

For those of you who don’t know (heh, newbs):
LARP – Live Action Role-Play
mundanes, mundies, norms – people such as myself, non-gamers
Mundania – the real world

The writer did a great job researching LARP – she spent three years going to conventions, meeting gamers and participating in various games. I was surprised at how many different ways of larping exist. LARPs that use cards or dices to determine who wins a fight, LARPs where characters actually fight (but not with real weapons), short games that last a few hours, really long games that can last for years, tabletop games and many, many more. Lizzie Stark tries and writes about pretty much everything. After a couple of years of larping, she even runs a larp for her friends non-gamers (which seems like a nerve-wrecking job).

What I found most fascinating is the way gaming affects people’s lives. There are some gamers who are open about their love for LARP, but there are others who keep it a secret from their friends and coworkers because they are scared of how it might change people’s opinions of them. That fear is understandable, considering how many people judge gamers.

The book discuses positive and negative aspects of LARP. For example, people can use gaming to learn more about themselves, but becoming too invested in a game can be dangerous.
The book also (briefly) addresses homophobia, sexism and racism in larping.I would like to read more about these issues. They could probably fill a book of their own.

At the end of the book, there’s a very useful glossary with acronyms and terms that are often used in gaming. I was familiar with some of them before (OOC, canon, cosplay, Joss Whedon), but most are new to me.

I recommend this to anyone with even a slightest interest in gaming.

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