Last Sunday, I took my two sons to our local park. While my 2-year-old played on the standard playground equipment, my 7-year-old was transfixed by a group of older teens gathered around picnic tables at a nearby grassy area of the park. Armed with a variety of foam-based weapons, these teens were huddled into groups and occasionally broke out in battle.
Being my son, he was no stranger to these foam weapons. He’d made his own at GenCon about three years ago and pretty much every time we go into the local gaming/comic shop, he makes a beeline for them. His latest fixation is on a well-constructed foam mace.
But this group of boys (for they were almost all boys) weren’t just hitting each other. No, they were doing something else. They were talking to each other. They were playing a game. They were telling a story. That, I think, fascinated him as much as the foam weapons.
And that, ultimately, is the bigger point of playing in a live action roleplaying (LARP) game. A recent Kickstarter project highlights this very well. The Massachusetts-based youth LARP program Guard Up! has 4 days left to gather the remaining funds to create a licensing program which will allow people to buy licenses on their story-based educational program. As of this moment, they need about $2,000 more, but also have some good stretch goals if they can beat that funding.
In addition to getting the kids outdoors, physically active, and away from video games, as well as promoting story-based education, the Guard Up! program incorporates characters from real-world mythology and literature into their world, so the kids learn as they live out their adventure story. There’s even science incorporated, as the in-game alchemy system motivates the kids to actually use real-world chemistry to create simple chemical reactions and compounds to serve their in-game needs. In addition to their fantasy Wizards & Warriors program, they also offer a post-apocalyptic Zombie Camp, which seems to rely heavily on Nerf guns, and if they get sufficient stretch goals, they’ll include that as a licensing option. (This strikes me as unlikely at this point, given the funds they still need, but if they successfully fund their Wizards & Warriors Adventure program, maybe they’ll follow up with a separate Zombie Blaster Adventures project.)
I don’t have any experience with the program, but after reading articles on the GeekDad blog, the Kickstarter page, and their Guard Up! website, I’m finding myself really wishing that I’d had a program like this when I was young, and also wishing that there was one closer to our home for my son (and for me to volunteer at their summer camps).
I’ve supported the project and, for those who think our next generation needs to understand the importance of a good fantasy story, I’d suggest that you look into it as well.
After all … we’ll need them to be well trained for when the zombie apocalypse comes.