Larp Review: Crisis

Published on Monday 27 May 2013 in Reviews

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Original post : http://www.electro-gn.com/471-critique-crisis

Translation : David Brosselin

I had the opportunity to play the “Crisis” LARP held on 5 & 6 November at St. Paterne Racan (37) by the association Dreamcatcher, traditionally more skilled in scripted Airsoft than LARP. In this context, Dreamcatcher was widely supported by the always debonair Stéphane Chapuis, who took over writing the game.

This note is less a criticism about a given LARP than a more general reflection on the cohabitation between LARP and Airsoft. As this reflection remains a personal perception (incomplete and partial) of a single experience, I do not intend to give a general and absolute value : it is only a witness, but I think it can make answers to other actors involved in either of these games, if they questioned the relevance of the meeting between the two activities.

This testimony will also be an opportunity to do some teaching, this blog rather intending to “pure” LARPers, without experience of Airsoft. Anyway, this was my case. This very serious preamble established, we will allow us a lighter and friendly tone. Some references are not intended for an audience born after 1981. Too bad.

LARP + Airsoft: weddings of latex and plastic

On a purely technical level, it is an encounter that works fine, if you keep in mind the constraints on the use of replicas.

If this last word sounds intriguing to you, you are just like for me a few weeks ago, never rubbed shoulders with an Airsoft player. As ignorant, you would have said pistol, gun, weapon, blunderbuss, blaster or whatsoever slaughter gear, posing like Rambo III, showing a carnivorous and conquering smile. Well no, we do not say weapon, because these are not. These are replicas, and you really can not kill. You can say eliminate, remove, exclude, mutually withdraw each other, but you can not kill. So don’t say kill, nor weapon. Say replica.

So, the constraints of replicas : to avoid coming back from an Airsoft game with one eye less (than usual), it is useful to wear glasses obeying safety standards. These glasses are available in various models and chamarrés colors, that likely allow to fit with much game settings : contemporary / futuristic / post-apocalyptic / kitschy space opera / Cyber​​-poseur.

Since these are game settings in which the matter of firearms simulation often arises, know this : pretending that glasses are an esthetic pretext not to use Airsoft is intellectual dishonesty (or ignorance, at least). Besides, glasses are cheap ((prices starting around € 10, very good models around € 15/20).

Further : the only game setting including firearms that can not be satisfied with the glasses, is Western. Only hope that a manufacturer will read these lines and decided to design a line of “ok corral ready” glasses, and finally see Colts, Winchesters and peacemakers (already available) freely express. As for replicas, the choices abound : it seems possible, fast checking online stores and specialized shops catalogs, to find absolutely all of the replicas suitable for your game setting.

Then it resumes to a question of budget: for example, even a small Derringer, you know, this tiny pistol for women, is much more expensive than what is suggested in his ammo capacity (two bullets)*.

Oh no, sorry, the bullets does kill, it is called balls. BALLS. Sorry, won’t do it again. To conclude about the glasses, you can use it with your eyes closed.

* Translator’s note: in French, bullets and bills (or bucks) can sometimes be synonymous. I tried to find a match, but… it’s not my full time job, you know.

Gunfight Maximum Double Impact (but 100% safe)

Gently slip from technique to staging, by coming back to the replicas : plastic, metal and wood alter ego of the old school LARP foam sword, the replica bears its name well : we believe it. First advantage or Airsoft is to promote immersion, before you shot the least ball. When a character is enough stuffed to invade, alone, a small African country, and hanging in your heighborhood ; when this stuff makes you awfully think to the last action movie you secretly watched (on VHS) in the privacy of your teenager room ; when you realize (with horror) this guy moves, runs, and talks as easily as you into your corporate three-piece suit, unlike the armored paladin which he is the modern evolution, thanks to tactical vests, straps, ergonomic pouches, pants with more pockets than Ikari Warriors contains levels, well … you do believe it. The poor guy in khaki combi paint / super soaker who vainly tries to masquerade as a Marine Corps Sergeant is over ! Airsoft is realistic, I guarantee.

And when the shooting bursts, you are no longer immersed : you drown ! Crackling of compressed air, plastic balls impacts on every surface offered to the generosity of the shooters, whistling in your ears, sensation of pain that you can not ignore, ejecting chargers, picturesque takakakata of AK-47 assault rifle, oh ?! a grenade ? No, it should be considered as a throwing weapon, it will not explo… Damn, it did. Honestly, for having tested almost every known system to simulate firearms, from firecracker, strictly fair play to the infrared through the NERF toys and paintball, none comes close to the immersive quality of Airsoft “in live action”. In a pinch, paintball provides similar sensations, but has too many inconveniences to bear favorable comparison. No, really, to gun down your buddies in complete safety, Airsoft is some kind of bullet … no, ball… Well, it is really & superbly adapted to LARP.**

** Translator’s note: in French, “being some kind of bullet” means “really great”. But since bullet is forbidden (it does kills, remember), I have to write ball. It becomes nonsense, I know. Again, I tried to find a match, but… I have a wife and two children, you know, and this job is unpaid !

The Airsoft player, this mysterious and unfamiliar being, lives and breeds in wooded grasslands and underground networks where its camouflage abilities make his approach difficult. 

To end some clichés, the Airsoft player is not necessarily a triggermaniac whose pleasure is measured by the height of the pile of balls which buries his poor target. During LARP “Crisis”, very few balls were fired, without this being reproached during or after the game, by airsofters. Insane shootout is not the primary objective of the Airsoft player. This is also not to demonstrate his arsenal and brag to his playmates. In fact, before the game, some unstuffed LARPers nicely requested about loaning equipment. To my great surprise, the high price of replicas given, some airsofters have kindly lent their so expensive replicas. And not only to young and attractive female LARPers. And taking care to explain, politely, safety rules, maintenance, troubleshooting, operation (basics and advanced). For all this, grats ! LARPers have to learn this attitude : a beginner would arrive on a LARP forum and request the community to lend him a foam weapon, he will not have this welcome. Nor the training for beginners, nor advices, in short, Airsoft is hospitable when LARP is condescending, at best, hostile, at worst.

I found among Airsofters some other recurring and  very appreciable qualities: like good little soldiers, Airsofters are seriously familiar with respecting serious safety instructions. They also have the serious capacity to seriously learn the rules, asking on points that would remain possibly unclear, but without a excessive or wacky harassment. Fair play, self-discipline, friendliness, a ideal audience for many organizations.

Something striked me too : experienced LARP players usually run away from some characters. Gatekeepers or bodyguards, anonymous soldier among a vast army, overall escort, accompaniment and support roles subordinate to “superior characters”. I noticed LARPers mistreat these roles : because the are not so fun, because you have to wait for your superior to act, because of your lack of freedom, etc… In short, roles that do not allow to shine individually on the foreground. The LARP “Crisis” made me understand that the world is not peopled with poseurs more concerned about their personal gloriole than by a smart and suitable roleplay. The Airsoft player seems to have a skill, a kind of individual discipline, to fulfill this type of role (but not only, hey, do not make me say that) with great application, with great talent.

Maybe because he has this culture of team play, of fair play, of the hierarchy in the squad / commando / company / troop, he assumes the position it has been given, and he plays without trying to override his rank at any price, especially when the game does not offer him the possibility to. In most of LARPS, where sometimes a beauty contest replaces the plausibility, this attitude seduced me, really.

So, everything is rosy in the land of camo ?

No, not quite. It must be admitted that airsofters, despite their many important qualities, have still some deficiencies, mainly on two points.

First, they are used to “WYSIWYG” game environments, ie “what you see is what you get”, the accepted formula to describe super-realistic games, with minimal signage and offgame symbolic. For example, before and during the game, despite much explanations, many airsofters had difficulty with the straps system equipping each “active” weapon, sorry, replica, ie actually existing in the space of the game. System that allows, among other things, to simulate the theft of an equipment without actually stealing other players : you just have steal the strap and equip a hitherto idle replica, to simulate the change of ownership. Is this really a flaw ? Some rules seem intuitive to some players, if they are complicated for others, may be these rules are not as good as that… Another debate that we will not settle it here and now.

But above all, airsofters friends, you’re still a little green, a little young, somewhat muted, on roleplaying your characters. Get out of the closet, friends, remove the parking brake, unleash yourself. LARP, with ou without Airsoft, this is not reality, and we do not (only) play characters as realistic as your replicas. Game time is too short, there is too few opportunities to play, not to play his characters thoroughly. A character is not a constraint, it is a resource, and it is renewed on every game you play. Know it your own, make it live, experience and thrill through this ephemeral mask. In my opinion, here stands the most and best, in terms of resentment, of experience.

We do not have the same trellis, but we share the same passion.

If I dared a pictorial comparison, I would say if LARP is a swashbuckling movie, then you are members of the Olympic fencing team from North Korea. Being efficient, equipped, trained, disciplined, that’s fine. But it does not restore the hope of desperate housewives. To kidnapp Gina Lollobrigida after defeating the ignoble Rochefort in an epic duel, it’s not enough to put a sticker and a plumed hat: a smile, a kind word, a few torments, a tear, a bit rebellious, some apparent flaws, this is the difference between good and memorable.

And it is not enough  to remove assailed after the ignoble Rochefort during an epic duel: a smile, a kind word, a few torments, a teardrop, a rebel wick, some apparent flaws, this is the difference between good and memorable.

Many of you have proven yourself quite capable for LARP. So to speak, I even think that many airsofters could teach a large number of supposedly hardened LARPers on proper preparation and good behavior. Let us return the favor and guide you towards the character, the roleplay, the live and interactive performance that may be LARP. I sincerely believe, seeing us evolving side by side, that if our paths are different, our goals are the same : immersion and escape, for a weekend, thrill-seeking through the game in complete safety. On these basics, LARPers and Airsofters are called to meet more and more frequently. We just need to know each other.

Thank you to the magazine Warsoft – photos Jacques Maraval

the magazine’s website: http://www.warsoft.fr/

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