The post larp experience is a very interesting phenomenon. It can be compared to the post-burn blues experience described by participants in the burning man festival with feelings of loneliness and separation. It is characterized by an experience that “others don’t and can’t understand the experience”, “a need to talk to those who do (other players)” and “a need to get together physically with other players”.
What triggers post larp
It strikes med that what happens when we larp is not that we (as many tend to think) go to an event and then return to our “real” lives. Actually that never happens at any experience we partake in, but we tend not to notice it as much in our everyday lives as we do at larps (or festivals or really good movie experiences or whatever).
Rather than going to and returning from events I think it is fruitful to say that we move between realities, going from our everyday reality to a situated reality which can be that of a prison camp, a boarding school or a 4th of July party in the 80’s, and back again. And when we move this way between roles and realities (and we do this constantly – only the transitions are often more extreme when we larp) we try to redefine the I that should be allowed to take precedence. In other words, we try to figure out what to keep and what to throw away from the characters we have played, while not realizing that we are still playing.
This process of redefinition is part of us all the time in our everyday lives – we redefine ourselves based on our experiences – however we rarely experience (or allow ourselves to experience) these kinds of things in what we call “normal” life. Some exceptions are when we fall in love or break up.
There is a big difference between pretending to be angry and being angry and pretending to fall in love and falling in love. When we are not pretending as it happens to be in a rare few larps, the experience takes us further. The more immersed you get in the larp. The more real it feels. The more you invest of yourself. The more emotional it gets (because we only have one set of emotions – we cant invent new ones for our characters). The harder the backlash will be after the larp, when you need to reconstruct your identity.
And then we feel vulnerable because we are unsure of who we are. Which is good as I see it. The problem is when we start to fight it instead of allowing ourselves to be in transition. What has happened is that we see the difference or a potential that we can now work with – something we could not when we weren’t aware of it.
Debrief and the post-larp Connection
In addition the the shared “trauma” through the larp experience I think that the debrief itself might enforce the feeling of post-larp connection to the other players. As we get out of character and into varying emotional states we are raw and open ourselves to the other players – or at least show a side of ourselves that we rarely would show to relative strangers in our real lives – and thus we get very close very fast.