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Live action role playing: fake fights, real friendships

Bedford’s LARP Club is perhaps one of the better-known extracurriculars of the school; this could conceivably be due to the club’s whimsical nature, or to a higher-up in the Bedford High School Staff being its advisor. Whatever the case may be, the club has accumulated connotations that LARP Club President, Jarrett Villeneuve, believes to be misguided. “Many people will misjudge us because we are seen as the geeks,” Villeneuve comments, “but they haven’t actually tried it, so they don’t, first of all, have any right to say that, and second of all, they don’t know what it’s actually like to [participate], and it’s a lot of fun”.

Obviously, as the club president mentions, members get to hit each other with swords, which is a large part of the entertainment, but LARP also requires acting talent, and an immersion into a fantastical character and world. In fact, so many resonate with this type of fantastical escape that LARP organizations expand far outside of the parameters of BHS. “There’s a lot of different LARPS,” Villeneuve explains, “And they don’t have to be medieval fantasy. There are LARPS on Harry Potter, Apocalyptic LARPS, there are all different genres of LARP”. The appeal is not only school wide – with Villeneuve citing his experience as a LARP recruiter in his freshman year as success in accumulating new members – but nationwide; worldwide, even. Villeneuve explains that whenever he meets anyone else who has done LARP outside of BHS, it’s like meeting an ‘automatic friend’. In fact, the entire LARP club is akin to one large family. Villeneuve warmly describes its members as “Loud (…) I walk into that meeting room on a Monday, and it’s impossible to get them to be quiet (…) but that’s okay, because they actually enjoy what they’re doing”

This club’s community is completely open to any new members, with its president holding the astute belief that LARP is for everyone. So, why do students prevent themselves from joining this welcoming, and, frankly, fun, community? Villeneuve states that many have never tried LARP due to fear of being bullied. In response, he firmly states, “I have been doing LARP for three years now, and I have never had an encounter with a bully, other than just friends joking (…) and I don’t take offense to it because it’s a hobby that I like to do, and I stick up for the club” Even outside of a suit of armor, Villeneuve remains courageous, and defends the activities he’s passionate about.

Jarrett Villeneuve (center) and Mr. Jozokos (right)

LARP club members are a close-knit community of creative students that participate in a sort of role-playing that has been around for years. Classic ‘role playing’ culture began within the emergence of Dungeons and Dragons; characterized as the ‘world’s greatest role-playing games’. However, with the original D&D game approaching fourteen years of age, there is a new wave of role playing in 2018. An example of this ‘new wave’ are the cosplaying conventions, or ‘cons’, in which participants can dress as their favorite fictional characters from any book, movie, or internet series that one can think of. In fact, New Hampshire has a ‘Granite State Comic Con’ located in Concord. The Con’s website asserts that its relatively small numbers in attendance benefits staff and con-goers; for reference, San Diego’s massive 2017 Comic Con amassed over 130,000 participants, and features celebrity guests in ‘panels’ that cosplayers can attend to meet some of their favorite stars. So, ‘small’ in comparison to those numbers is still one or two thousand; meaning, the New Hampshire cosplaying and/or roleplaying community is larger than one may think. So, calling anyone who is interested in acting, in fantasy worlds, in the middle ages, or,  anyone who would like to simply whack another student with a sword, join LARP Club. There awaits an accepting community in BHS that is only a small portion of the world-wide presence of LARPers and cosplayers everywhere!

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