LARPing has a more intense effect than other entertainment

“Bleed” is not limited to the main characters of “Stranger Things”. Credit: Netflix

In the fourth season of the Netflix series “Stranger Things”, an alternative dimension “The Upside Down” bleeds in the real world. Now a new study from the University of Sydney and Monash University has found that this is a common experience for people who participate in live role-playing games.

Live role-playing (or LARPing) involves playing a fictional character to achieve goals with other characters in the real world. Participants can spend months preparing for LARP, creating intricate costumes and taking on their character’s character online before embarking on a weekend event to take on personal challenges and missions – often in a well-designed location.

New research has found that these captivating experiences can be difficult to get through, as participants experience a collision with their daily lives – sometimes with changes in their lives.

The study, published in Journal of Consumer Researchfound that most participants experienced “bleeding,” a term coined by people in the LARPing community to describe the traces their exceptional experiences leave on in their daily lives.

For most, these traces are harmless, such as continuing to wear items from their character’s team and swallowing related media in an attempt to regain the feeling of doing LARP. But for some, the experiences led to intense emotional and personal realizations that led to long-term changes in their work and relationships.

“LARP and my bleeding triggered some processes that led me to get out of harmful and abusive structures a year later, in real life,” said 36-year-old Teresa (name changed for privacy).

“Because the topics of Conscience [the LARP] he spoke to me on a very personal level and made me think about repeating stories against liberation, about the nature of freedom, about who I want to be. “

The findings have implications for how LARP designers protect participants, but also how we think about the growing experience-based consumption market, including virtual reality, augmented reality, and the metaverse.

Four levels of bleeding

The study’s authors, Associate Professor Tom van Laer of the University of Sydney and Dr. Davide Orazi of Monash University, began their study with archival data from three different LARPs, followed by an ethnographic study in four LARPS, which collected 52 pages of field notes, 2,496 photos , four hours of GoPro videos, 29 interviews, seven diaries and 2936 screenshots.

What they found in subsequent interviews was a “very mixed bag” of reactions to the experience, according to co-author Tom van Laer, an associate professor of narratology at Sydney University’s School of Business.

“From breaking up to deciding to raise their children differently – or even falling in love with one of the LARPs, which basically means falling in love with a character – our participants report a wide range of responses,” he said. Professor van Laer.

The researchers categorized the traces left by LARP into four trajectories:

  1. Absent: Returns may cause little or no bleeding when users are not sufficiently committed to unusual frameworks and roles.
  2. Compensatory: The experience leaves a mark without creating tension; as these users are nostalgic for the extraordinary experience, they seek to evoke the experience again, for example through novels, television series and video games.
  3. Catharsis: Experience creates stress in everyday life and one or more aspects of consumers’ daily lives are called into question, and compensatory consumption alone is not enough to stop heavy bleeding; instead, consumers reflect, report, and share the extraordinary experience to deal with bleeding.
  4. Delayed: In several cases, the bleeding is so intense that it requires a long distance from everything related to the unusual experience.

Why so serious?

Associate Professor van Laer said their research shows that there are three main reasons why LARPing has a stronger impact than a strong commitment to traditional media or board games.

“When you watch TV, sight and sound are basically the only two senses that play a role. LARP has touch, smell and taste, so all your senses are there. It’s not just in your head, it’s everywhere, there is no limit to reality.

“LARPs also allow more freedom and liberty than is possible with traditional media and board games. Instead of the show runner, game designer or dungeon master writing the book, LARP gives users a big part in making the story.

“Finally, you know you can stop a movie. If people get too scared, you stop it. You can’t stop LARP because the social pressure to be there is the same as the social pressure at a workplace meeting – you can “just don’t stop if you don’t like it.”

Consequences for the metaverse

Associate Professor van Laer emphasizes that many of the effects of LARPing are positive – people develop new skills, improve their confidence and touch the well of freedom and creativity, which can benefit other areas of their lives.

But he also believes that the rare but serious consequences have implications for the way we design LARP and other related experiences.

“Immersive and extraordinary experiences are becoming super popular after COVID. I mean, lock up the whole world for a few years, and that’s what we long for, but we’re not used to that level of intensity.

“So it’s the responsibility of designers to realize what they can do and the effects they could have.”

The family is our focus during a pandemic, the study found

More info:
Davide C Orazi et al, There and vice versa: Bleeding from exceptional experiences, Journal of Consumer Research (2022). DOI: 10.1093 / jcr / ucac022

Provided by the University of Sydney

Quote: LARPing has a more intense effect than other entertainment (2022, June 22), retrieved on June 22, 2022 from

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