Leaving Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games Paperback – May 1 2012
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"Whether you thoroughly appreciate the work of Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon [LARP's newly appointed overlord] or just have a mild interest in geek culture, Stark makes this world of pretend a little more real." —BUST
“Lizzie Stark takes us down the rabbit hole and into the curiouser and curiouser world of larp and shows us a place where imagination lives and breathes. Enter if you dare . . . and enjoy the ride! It’s an enlightening and wondrous journey.” —Tracy Hickman, New York Times bestselling fantasy author and game designer
“Rarely does a book so deftly crack open the everyday world to reveal the riot of imagination within. With humor, intelligence, and more than a little bravery, Lizzie Stark guides us into the vast subculture of larping, where lawyers become vampire hunters and systems analysts turn into knights. Hilarious, honest, and enlightening, Leaving Mundania reminds us how thin the boundaries are between the roles we play and the selves we believe ourselves to be.” —Stacey Richter, Pushcart Prize-winning author of My Date With Satan, and Twin Study
"Lizzie Stark isn't afraid to walk the goblin walk, talk the in-character talk, wear the make-up, and wield the boffer sword. With verve, wit and candor, Leaving Mundania provides an important contribution to the history of role-playing and gaming, and proves the cultural significance of this flourishing game/performance/medium." —Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms
“A fascinating trip through the looking glass and into the subculture of larp. Stark gives us both the magic and the humanity of live-action make-believe. And as a social historian, she incisively points to a pop-culture trend on its way from the fringe toward the mainstream.” —Samuel Freedman, author of The Inheritance and Letters to a Young Journalist
"Rich, unexpected and compelling . . . Stark’s keen observational skills and crisp writing style successfully cut through those hackneyed stereotypes to reveal the very real people who are drawn to deeply imaginary worlds."—Kirkus Reviews
"A fascinating look at the world of live-action role playing-with a book jacket that slays me."—SchoolLibraryJournal.com
About the AuthorLizzie Stark is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the Daily Beast and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She is founder and editor of the literary journal Fringe and holds an MS in new media journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The beginning may seem somewhat off-putting to very artsy larpers, as the games described are escapism-heavy, and so appear many people playing them. But once past the initial shock, their commitment to the illusion of play starts shining through. Not only is the book an excellent foray into North-American larp (and elsewhere), it is also an intriguing bit of Americana, a testament to how people can easily adapt to strange roles, yet still remain very conservative. This too is discussed in pleasantly neutral terms and from many perspectives.
So in addition to being an extremely enjoyable read, a good document and a nice reference even for academics, Leaving Mundania deals with issues far more complex than they initially seem. It records the silly along with the very serious, and discusses the differences between the two with a clever tone. It is the most descriptive, all-encompassing book about larp and larpers on the market, and highly recommendable to anyone interested in the subject.
Her stalwart dedication to her craft is evident in each richly-layered page; not only did Stark immerse herself into the lives of her subjects, but she also took the plunge into uncertain waters, exploring a multitude of different game styles and theoretical approaches to larp, despite her self-confessed apprehensions. Stark's clever voice never overshadows her vivid, respectful depictions of her interview subjects; her savvy wit never slashes to bits the activity that these individuals hold in such reverence. Other American journalists often fail to delve deeper than the surface of the complex tapestry of role-playing communities, preferring instead to treat participants like exotic animals at a bizarre zoo. Such an approach would have been easy for Stark, as the stigma towards larp remains deeply embedded in the history of the hobby in America, the threads of which the author artfully summarizes in her chapter, "Closeted Gamers and the Satanic Panic." Instead of cheap potshots or sensationalist exaggerations, Stark invests herself completely in her project. The most notable example of this devotion to her writing was her long-term participation in a boffer-style larp campaign called Knight Realms; for nearly two years, she played the role of Chronicler both in the game -- by creating a regular "newspaper" for the group -- and out of the game, by detailing the various personalities she encountered while in the fictive universe and outside of it.
Stark never positions herself as superior to her subjects, though she does admit moments of confusion when she fails to immerse herself into the game world as deeply as others. Her constant self-reflection lends to an exciting and dynamic read, where the author uses her skillful mastery of words to explain both logistics and emotions in equally compelling ways. Some areas of the text might prove dense for readers unfamiliar with the basics of role-playing games, though Stark takes great pains to describe the details of each type of experience in a faithful manner. Long descriptions of game mechanics, for example, might intimidate the casual reader, but never fear: Stark always returns to the human element of these communities in a compelling and compassionate way.
Simply put, this is a wonderful exploration of what larp is and can be. Stark's descriptions of her own experiences, her sketches of the people she meets, and her ideas about what larp can mean to different people are solid gold.
Reading the book, I'm constantly having this feeling of "finally I get it". Also, "I want to play these games myself".
Perhaps you need the perspective of someone who initially comes from the outside to truly be able to describe what larp is.
The closest comparison to another title I can make for "Leaving Mundania" is Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms by Ethan Gilsdorf, but I have to say that even though Lizzie's deep-dive into LARP doesn't begin with a recounting of a sentimental childhood in fantasy as it does in Gilsdorf's pseudo-memoir, her foray into the world of LARP has *much* more to say about the intellectual significance of LARP in pop culture and what the people behind it are like and are trying to achieve by engaging in the game than Gilsdorf. What makes "Leaving Mundania" great is Lizzie's ability to balance her objectivity as a journalist with personal anecdotes, and the fact that she approaches the book with a refreshing professional zeal. You make the same discoveries about LARP that she makes as she takes you from numerous American LARP conventions, to living LARPs like Knight Realms, to the world of artsy Nordic LARPs abroad, all the while keeping you flipping pages. I suppose my only real criticism is that I wish there was more to read!
Journalist Lizzie Stark does not damn or praise the hobby of LARPing as a default approach, but instead reports what she experiences and observes as she immerses herself in the gaming culture. Her observations and formulated opinions are based on first hand knowledge instead of outside research, offering a rare 'outsider joining the culture' view on the subject. Her contrast between American LARP events and the Nordic approach to LARP not only outlines the difference in the communities, but also the cultures they were birthed from.
If you are curious about LARPing, are unsure of the subject matter, or are even an experienced gamer then I would recommend this book as both a resource and an enjoyable read.
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