Opinion: Finding a healthy escape, rather than detaching from reality
Published: Friday, March 15, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 22:03
Most people have heard of Dungeons and Dragons. If they’ve never played, the name probably brings to mind the image of a scrawny, bespectacled, greasy pre-teen guy, wearing an old tee-shirt and touting the latest comic book in their favorite series. And that’s as far as most people want to know. The same goes for many such fantasy first-person roleplaying games. People hear certain buzzwords and automatically expect hoards of obsessed, unwashed masses to overtake them if they approach the world of fantasy. I’m here to try and dispel those rumors.
I am a confessed geek. I was on a robotics team in high school. I’m part of a theater and improv troupe now. I play Dungeons and Dragons, I participate in Live Action Role Play (LARPing), and I’m a regular attender of Renaissance Faires.
I mention all of this because I want you to know where I’m coming from, and because I want to make a point. That point is that I’m not trying to defend the activities I participate in. I’m proud to be a geek, and so are many of the people I role-play with. I am presenting the following information because I feel that the opportunities fantasy events and games provide are important. Chances to create, discover, and even escape to another world for a time are becoming more and more rare in our increasingly achievement-oriented society. I hope to help people to understand that fantasy roleplaying can actually provide a healthy way to escape from stress and worries for a little while.
Some people look down on those who participate in such activities because they imagine them to be unintelligent, or irresponsible; people who are childlike, trying to hide from life’s responsibilities. However, this is far from the case. For instance, people who LARP have jobs and lives outside of it, but dedicate dozens of hours of their free time creating costumes and safe weaponry, not to mention creating a character and backstory, sometimes learning new accents, or researching occupations and nomenclature. They then take full days, or even weekends to participate in events, conforming to strict rules of engagement when interacting with other characters, which they are responsible for knowing. Then at the end of the event they return to their responsibilities, often despite being exhausted from running around, participating in combat and getting little sleep. Far from being lazy and shirking responsibility, they work exceptionally hard to be able to participate in an activity they love.
As far as participants being unintelligent, this is also untrue. While intelligence is certainly not a requirement, LARPing and Dungeons and Dragons both involve complex plots, and people who enjoy strategy often find themselves deep in battle plans and espionage.
These activities are also good for health. They allow people to exercise critical thinking and people skills that they may not have a chance to use in their professions. It gives them a chance to be creative, promoting the use of skills that are key to relaxation and mental health. LARPing involves a lot of physical activity disguised as fun, so it’s also physically healthy. The Mental Health Wellness Week’s website provides a list of strategies for good mental health. Among their suggestions are being physically active, participating in creative hobbies, and spending time with friends. Dungeons and Dragons fulfills two of these suggestions, while LARPing fulfills three.
As for those people who are curious, but feel they wouldn’t fit into a fantasy role-play, I will only say that there are people of all ages, races, creeds and professions who participate in fantasy role-play. The only requirements are that you are willing to have fun, and perhaps obey a few safety and courtesy rules. That is the beauty of fantasy; the draw that has brought so many people to it. No matter the story, it is a world that is separate from ours. It allows temporary distraction from the troubles in our everyday lives, and brings people of all backgrounds together in an intense time of fun, adventure, and community.