I really like the term because it draws a parallel to theater, and I found it to be very dignified because it implies an artistic vision. I think there are people in the US who could be called larpwrights . . . but it's certainly not a term used in the US.
I would call [LARPing] a medium for storytelling, just like books or movies or television. You can use that medium to tell different narratives. Some of those narratives are not art; some of them are.
I think the difficult thing about the art/not art distinction is that the art stuff is better in some objective way, and I don't think that's true. I think it depends on who you are and what you want out of your narrative. If you want a grand, sweeping, escapist adventure, then LARP can give that to you. If you want a quiet moment of relationship drama, LARP can also give that to you. That's why I think that "Is LARP art?" is a misleading question. The real question is "Can LARP be art?" The answer to that is definitely yes.
There are small, arty scenes in the US. One of them is actually located in Boston. There's this tradition coming out of the Society for Interactive Literature and the MIT Assassins Guild, which come out of parlor LARPing . . . These often have arty aims, and address more serious themes.
Western Mass [is] a hot spot for [independent] role-playing games. There are a lot of small designers that have come out of the tabletop tradition who have been moving toward games that are in the Nordic free-form style. There's a trend to move towards more GM-less games. [A GM, or Game Master, is the LARPer who runs the LARP.] One of the best examples of that is a game called Fiasco, in which you use dice to limit the types of relationships you have with other people, and then you role-play a Coen brothers movie.
SO DOES LARP FORM ITS OWN SUBCULTURE, OR IS IT JUST PART OF THE LARGER GEEK SUBCULTURE? I think gaming is a subculture, and LARP is a part of that subculture. Or maybe role-playing is the subculture. I used to think that LARP games and tabletop games as opposed, because in one, you're standing up and acting out your character, but I don't think that's true. There are similarities between standing-up LARP and tabletop LARP, in the same way that there are high fantasy LARPs, there are high-fantasy tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons. Then there are LARPs that are pushing the boundaries more, like Nordic art LARPs.
I KNOW A COUPLE LARPERS, BUT MOST OF MY EXPOSURE TO LARP HAS COME THROUGH DOCUMENTARIES LIKE DARKON AND MONSTER PARTY. EVERYONE IN THESE MOVIES SEEMS SO SHATTERED. THE PEOPLE IN YOUR BOOK SEEM RELATIVELY WELL-ADJUSTED. DID THOSE MOVIES DO A BAD JOB OF SHOWING WHAT LARPERS ARE REALLY LIKE? I think those films have a certain truth about them. They were journalistic films. The people who made them went out and found people who they thought had an interesting or compelling story or something to say about LARP.
But there's a social stigma attached to gaming, and I think that sometimes the LARPers feel that very keenly. I think the perception of the LARPers is that the media buys into that narrative.