Regardless of the physical and psychological differences between the sexes, there was clearly a more conscious reasoning in their choice between games in the real and virtual environment; the former for what was presumably its realness, the latter for its convenience. However, none of that entirely explains why LARP attendees do what they do and usually with much fervor.
The investigation then moved onto a LARP event. Aside from interviews, other observations such as battlefield behavior were also recorded. To this end, we followed several teams closely.
In one particular team of thirty members which contained all four races, there were nineteen male, ten female and one “other”. At the time, it was not apparent whether this individual was intersexual (medical), transsexual (personal preference or confused) or was simply being deadpan sarcastic. This individual was of Orcnean heritage and his/her appearance was atypically androgynous which further added to the mystery. We did not push for an explanation given typical Orcnean temperament. All were adults .
The captain of the team was Bill, a young Terran male. (All names have been changed to protect their identities.) It was immediately clear that the team were comprised of his friends and his friend’s friends. There were at least five romantically linked couples, including Bill who had an Elven girlfriend named Hortduil. The males were more vocal in their enthusiasm for the actual game than females, the latter were generally more interested in “having a good time away from home” and bonding. At least half the team members, male and female, were interested in meeting people and possibly making new friends. Thus, we have five social factors: existing friendships [F], existing romance [L], potential new friendships [N], potential new romance [X] and the (away from) home factor [H].
Of slight surprise were the preparatory efforts. Each participant designed and constructed their costumes and equipment. (We were informed that holo-costumes were forbidden.) It was not the females who paid more attention to costumes than males. Neither did the males pay more attention to their weapons than females. They all dedicated enormous attention to all their gear. So here we have the artistic factor [A]. Although less labor-intensive to purchase premade equipment, it was clear that the interest did not merely reside in the gaming itself. This explains the violently dismissive behavior of any attempt by companies to enter the LARP market with premade equipment.
Hortduil’s Terran friend Katie was constantly inebriated. Their Elven friend Trinkenduil had brought along multiple kegs of Elven beer. Cannabis was also part of the indigenous plant life which our mysterious androgynous Orc collected and prepared. E3m and E3f team members drank their beer and smoked cannabis in moderation whereas the others drank and smoked copiously. Therefore, we have two additional factors: alcohol [B] and cannabis [C].
This LARP event, like many others, involved multiple rounds over the course of one week. Each round was a different game mode like “Assault”, “Capture the Flag” or “Butcher Bowl” (which was simply Galactic Football League with guns, grenades, swords, hammers, spears and maces). The final round was the so-called main event which, in this case, was the re-creation of the Battle of TG-194. This incident occurred twenty years ago when Orcnean forces attempted to capture an Elven research lab on a Terran-held planet. The battle ended with mutual slaughter, the surviving Elven scientists holding the base simply due to them not dying although a Dwarven commando squad did turn up and took some stuff in exchange for providing protection before Elven reinforcements arrived. Event organizers worked hard to set up the game with an environment faithful to the actual location.
Bill’s team—despite being of mixed race, with a team average BAC of 0.061, half-stoned and after much deliberation—played in defence of the research lab. As expected, the Orcnean team members were a little reluctant at first. But only until the first shot was fired. The friendships within the team were evident in their teamwork. The Orcs, despite their temper, were generally cooperative, even with their Elven counterparts. Other mixed-race teams were similar. Communications during battle were as clear as can be expected. Skullsmasherar, the biggest O3m in the team, favored forceful tactics whereas Trinkenduil, their most intelligent and sober player, favored more balanced tactics. Bill as captain or Hortduil as “the captain’s sober girlfriend” often served as the deciding vote in the heat of battle.
Perhaps the most unexpected observation made was that the females never acted as a distraction for the males. This completely went against the marketing axiom “sex sells”. On a related note, at the sight of the androgynous Orc, there were noticeable expressions of confusion in other teams. Players presumably understood the inherent physical limitations of other races. For example, most E3 and O3 participants, given their general physical superiority, were quite considerate to T3 and D3 players to avoid injury even though the former two were not always as kind to each other. Another example would be that males were generally considerate to females. In this case, it was apparent that no one knew how to react to this particular Orc. As a result, he/she was quite successful at singlehandedly breaking through enemy lines or flanking enemy positions, followed by much swearing by the other side. Regardless of the original intent, he/she acted as an effective distraction.