A few weeks ago, I attended something quite wonderful called Chimera.
Over the course of a weekend, I was an evil inventor’s leather-clad henchwoman, a mage fighting goblins in a forest, a bee with socialist leanings, an imprisoned rightful heir to the throne of England, a steampunk suffragette and, most memorably, the unfortunate wife of the Robin Hood baddy, Prince John.
Chimera is New Zealand’s largest LARP convention, LARPing being Live Action Role-Playing, (as opposed to table-top role-playing – think Dungeons and Dragons, but with the players hitting each other with foam swords instead of rolling twenty-sided dice.) It’s like being in a play, but with no audience and no script. It’s like the games you acted out as a kid, but with an adult understanding of fairness and story structure.
At this point, some of you will be thinking ‘that’s awesome’ and some of you, no doubt, will be thinking ‘oh, grow up’ or ‘get a life’ – and to the latter I say that the people who engage in LARPing are both grownup and have lives. They’re just not afraid of having fun.
LARPing is a fantastic way to meet new people that have the potential to be life-long friends. Yes, it’s often hard to remember their real names, but in-between the swordplay and the intrigue and, in my case, the escaping to France, genuine connections are forged. This got me thinking: attending a LARP would be a great idea for someone who was on holiday in New Zealand.
‘But,’ some of you will be thinking, ‘how are you supposed to put together costumes while on holiday?’ Well let me tell you that larpers are kind and generous people – I have yet to meet a single larper who is unkind while out of character – and most of the hardcore larpers would be more than happy to lend out costumes. Or, you know, you could spend a lot of money and hire a costume.
While I was at Chimera, I met someone who was only in New Zealand for a holiday. He was lent items of costume and a sleeping bag by fellow larpers. In fact, he won one of the prizes for costuming! His name is Andreas and – guess what? – he agreed to let me interview him. My first blog interview! So I’ll let Andreas tell you about the awesomeness that is LARPing in New Zealand…
Interview with the Larper
Where are you from?
How long have you been travelling?
For one month until I reached New Zealand, but my whole trip is three months.
What made you want to come to New Zealand?
The many stories of my friends about the beautiful nature and landscape.
What do you like about New Zealand?
The people, the nature, the weather, the food, the fact that places are rather close to each other and the welcoming spirit, helpfulness and hospitality of the people.
How did you end up attending Chimera?
I was looking for any LARP events happening during the time frame that I had for coming to New Zealand and found it by searching online. I thought it was a great idea to start my stay in NZ with an event like this, so I could meet nice people, make friends and experience the local LARPing culture.
Did you enjoy the weekend?
Yes, I enjoyed it a lot. People were so welcoming and helpful. Also LARPing culture in NZ is different than in Germany and it was very fascinating to experience that. Especially the fact that now I have so many new friends in NZ is wonderful.
Had you ever done any LARPing before?
I have been LARPing for seventeen years now, doing it since I was sixteen years old. Over the years my motivation to do LARP shifted though. Currently the motivation is to experience different roles and see life from different perspectives and play around with it.
Would you recommend LARPing to others travelling to New Zealand?
Definitely. It doesn’t matter if you’ve done LARPing before or not, it is a good way to meet people – having an intense experience and afterwards having a talk, a laugh and a drink together really creates a bond. It also can help if you are normally a shy person, who is not used to approaching people, to get out of yourself as you are in a ‘safe environment’ to express yourself.
Some people might say you are revealing your weaknesses, but you are not, as you are in your character at that point. It is a unique experience that one will never forget. As people who travel to NZ want to get out of their normal ‘shell’, these unique experiences are what they are seeking and in this case it is a social, theatrical experience.
Do you want to come back to New Zealand?
Definitely, although feeling like a ‘cash cow’ (being milked of my money) at certain tourist attractions, I made so many friends during my stay, especially attending Chimera, I want to meet these lovely people again. If you are a social person like me, it is the people and experiences that make you come back, not just the place itself. It is sad that Chimera does not happen during the loveliest season of NZ weather, but even then I would love to come back.
I believe that having a personal experience bonding you to a place and people is worth a lot more than just seeing a place. Having tourists come once to NZ spending a lot of money in the country might be good short-term-wise, but in the long run you would like to have people coming back again and again spending their money in the country and telling their friends that they should go too.
If there hadn’t been Chimera during my stay in NZ and all the friends I made there, I would not be coming back to NZ as I already ‘have been there, seen it all’. Also making friends there made me not hurry during my stay. I tried to see as much as possible, but in a pace that I could enjoy everything – (I only had two and a half weeks.) Since I knew that I would be coming back eventually to see my friends, I knew that I will have time to see all the other wonders NZ has to offer.
End of Interview with the Larper
Wow – best interviewee I could have hoped for, right? Thank you again so much, Andreas.
So there you go: attending a LARP is something you should consider while you travel around New Zealand. As Andreas said, bonding with the people in a place is worth a lot more than just seeing a place. Plus, LARPing is AWESOME.