Kristin Brumley portrays her experiences, and the rise of the woman LARPer.
I started college as a computer science major. I was literally the only woman student in the department, and beyond the first 101 level class I was the only woman in my major classes. At the time I was also a guild leader in vanilla WoW, a Magic: The Gathering player, and a World of Darkness tabletop player. I considered myself to be an avid gamer, and in almost all my activities I was predominantly surrounded by men. It wasn’t until I started LARPing in 2009 that I found a geeky hobby where women not only flourished—they were the people leading the group.
Out of all the geeky things I’m into, LARPing is—to me—one of the most woman-friendly. Let’s face it. Women tend to be better at social situations and being social is essential to a LARP. Women own LARP chapters, run games, write plotlines, play leading PCs (player-characters) and NPCs (non-player characters), exist in abundant numbers, and are some of the leading advocates for quality games in the world. The truth is, women LARPers are the leaders of LARP. Just look at such women as LARP Girl, Stephanie Twilley, Taversia, and Sarah Bowman.
LARP women are a dangerous mix of high intelligence, creativity, and the willingness to live adventurously. While there are many women in other geek cultures who can boast brains—we LARPers have a regular lesson in confidence and crushing our self-doubt. We boast brains, brawn, and an environment that allows us to thrive. My own personal experience as a woman LARPer has been extremely positive. As a woman LARPer I have run games.
I’ve been a staff member and I’ve been invited to work on new game systems. I’ve played memorable characters. Larping.org hosts my own vlog about LARPing. I’ve started my own fictional webseries about LARPers called Basic Adventuring 101, which is the only LARP series out there produced, written and starring women LARPers, and it has just launched its second Kickstarter. These are not opportunities I readily had in MTG or WoW, and most of these came about because I have proven myself to be a hardworking and talented member of the LARP community. No one questions whether or not I’m good at LARP, and especially not because I’m a woman.
I showed up all alone to my very first LARP event and I was greeted by a group of people who wanted me to be involved—not because of my gender, but because this is a hobby filled with people who are passionate about sharing what they love. And not only this, but I felt safe. I was faced with goblins and monsters and thieves, but out-of-game I didn’t feel threatened or uncomfortable. It was a good environment. One where I felt in control.
That isn’t to say I’ve never felt unsafe at a LARP since then. I have to be honest. I’ve known women who have been raped at events. There was one instance while I was at Conquest last year when I felt like the in-game and out-of-game lines had blurred and I was no longer certain if the obscene gestures and lewd, drunken words weren’t dangerously close to becoming actions. I’ve had creepy guys follow me around. I’ve had guys fawn over me and go out of their way to give me magic items and protect me as though I couldn’t do it myself. Disrespecting and harming women, regardless of it being physical or emotional or sexual, is unacceptable. But I would still say that despite these rare instances, LARPing has given me the power to create characters that won’t stand for it.
Kristin—the real-life person—would not have handled those vulgar men at Conquest well. Iris—the character I was playing—could. Iris has seen and survived awful things, and when those men in Germany started harassing a younger, much smaller woman, Iris looked them in the eyes and didn’t allow them to make her feel small. She removed herself and the other endangered woman from the situation in a way that was powerful and uncompromising.
I can’t say that if that happened in an everyday situation that I could do it without somehow channeling that part of myself. It’s a part of me that I only discovered because I LARP. I am 100% positive that LARP has changed me for the better. It has allowed me to experiment and to discover myself, and it’s become an essential social activity that helps me to fight my own depression and anxiety.
I’ve met some of my best friends and I’ve strengthened relationships through LARPing. It’s helped me to become physically stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been in my adult life. And in the end, I hope that I can serve as an example for other women who are looking for a geeky hobby that will accept them with open arms.
We are breeding a whole new type of woman here: we are breeding the LARP woman. Hear us roar.
Kristin Brumley is a Digital Media Specialist, blogger and LARPer.