VICE Magazine have always sought to focus on issues on society that don’t always get the right amount of publicity, and their most recently ‘Profile’ segment is no exception. The short documentary focusses on Jon Gallagher, a participant at Mystic Realms LARP in New Jersey. What sets this apart is that Jon has Asperger’s syndrome and this video explores how LARP has taught him to interact more efficiently with the world around him.
When I make a character, I use an actual part of me. This character has courage, wisdom, and power. He’s supposed to be the part of me that decides to be the hero. Not me. He’s courageous, and I’m kind of not at times.
I let go of my emotions. Both of us. That’s the one flaw that carries. I hate that flaw. It comes from Autism, it’s a burden. I try to act it off.
Sometimes people look at me and they know I have autism and they poke fun at it. Other times they look at me and they treat me as a lower intelligence person.
It’s one of the remarkable things about LARP as a hobby that those who have struggled to find their place in wider society often find a home in LARP. Perhaps it’s because of the structured nature of games and the hobby, with rules and guidelines, or maybe it’s just that LARPers are generally good people. I don’t know, and I couldn’t speculate with any authority.
Our program here at Mystic Realms, we really stress real-life skills. Organisational skills, writing skills, leadership skills, social skills.
Hearing about how Jon used LARP to get a job (by evidencing his problem solving abilities), and how it’s enabled him to widen his social circle and become more outgoing reminds us that LARP really is quite a special hobby filled with wonderful people. The documentary also touches on transgender issues and how LARP can offer a sanctuary from the every day world.
It’s like having two parts of the same person, in the same area, but unable to interact with each other. And it’s like having one of them decide to break the fourth wall, grab the other one by the neck and say ‘I need your help. Now.’
Experiencing difficult situations in LARP can leave us better prepared for the real world, giving us confidence in our interpersonal relationships and wider social situations. To many people LARP may well be ‘just a game’, but for many it’s an essential tool for coping with the world.
As an additional plus point – VICE.com have treated LARP as seriously as any other documentary subject that they might broach. It seems like the tide may be turning with the way that the media represents LARP – and that can only help the hobby as we look to grow in the future.
(ed. – Larp Guide would love to hear from any writers who would like to write about subjects such as disability or transgender issues in LARP. Please do drop us a line if you think you would like to have a chat about some articles.)