I was bored and looking through Netflix for something to watch, and it recommended to me The Wild Hunt – an independent movie where Canadian LARPers go a little mental. It had won a couple film festival awards, so I figured what the heck.
The setup is that Erik, an Icelander in Canada, heads out to a big ol’ LARP weekend in the woods to try to get his worthless girlfriend back. He’s not a LARPer but his brother is really big into it; Viking heritage, Norse sagas, the whole bit. The whole batch of LARPers are very, very, very serious about it – it almost converts over into cool, actually. You have other movies like Role Models where the people are into LARP but it’s still very cheesy and you’re like “whatever, diversity yay, ponce around all you want,’there’s nothing wrong with that’, but eek.” But here they are all so into it and put a lot of work into it – if you can make LARP seem cool, this movie comes closest to doing it.
It’s a pretty interesting movie. It starts out weak mainly because of the unsympathetic main characters – Erik is a certifiable wuss, his girlfriend is a bitchy whore, and the initial crop of LARPers you meet are reasonably insane – but evens out its keel once you get to know more of the (better, and more interesting, frankly) secondary characters and they quicken the pace. It’s a low budget thriller set in an isolated setting where romantic hassles etc. end up cascading into Lord of the Flies. The ending is a lot more dark and brutal than I would have expected from the first act. About a third of the way through, I wasn’t sold and wondered if I should bail, but after seeing the whole thing I’d give it a 5/10, decent.
Of course some roleplayers are worried that this will “demonize the hobby.” To that I say bah, many of the movies/TV shows with killers, they are doctors and lawyers and cops and moviemakers and other such. It should just be a rush to see your own niche thing breeding killers for a change. And it’s not like anyone will actually be afraid of this happening for real; they’re Canadians for God’s sake. Everyone knows Canadians can’t kill anyone; they don’t have the constitution for it. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
LARPing (Live Action Roleplaying) has always been on the far, far geek end of the spectrum, even in the normally geeky realms of fandom, exceeded only by cosplayers or, God forbid, furries.
However, I’ve been hearing more and more about what’s being billed as “Alternate Reality Games” or, more daringly, “Alternate Reality Design”. I heard about it first at last year’s Web 2.0 Expo in California, and now I just saw another keynote presentation on it at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) in Austin by Jane McGonigal. Here’s an artist’s rendition of her keynote address. Examples of ARGs include the “I Love Bees,” the game/viral marketing campaign for Halo 2, and “World Without Oil,” which won an award at SXSW. It’s involved with positive psychology and “happiness science.” The slides from her keynote are up on Slideshare.