Saturday night I played in Spring River, the newest from Alleged Entertainment
, written by natbudin
, and v_cat
. I always try to play their stuff, at least when I'm not on the writing team myself, as they do some excellent innovative stuff with the form of larp. I was actually invited to be on the team for this one, which I regretfully had to decline due to other commitments, but the upside was I got to play in it.
The premise of the game is that every player is one personality trait within a complete character, so four of you make up one complete person who must battle it out to figure out what decisions your shared person will make. While not on rails, there are few secrets in the game, and you are actively encouraged to temporarily drop out of character to plan what the most dramatic trajectory for your person. By the end your character will have lived a mostly complete life as determined by how the various personality traits determine their choices.
I was cast as Noah's Hedonism, a role that I was not immediately sure how to approach. I didn't want to go creepy or gross, and I didn't want to box myself into something repetitive that wouldn't be applicable in all situations. Like, if I chose to interpret it as fixated on, like, animal appetites, like always wanting to go off and have sex or eat or something, it would get old fast and I wouldn't have much to contribute to actual conversations. So I decided to go with the idea of "I want what I want when I want it," with no ability to suck it up and deal in situations I didn't want to be in. Being obsessed with pleasure, in this case, meant always wanting to do the comfortable, pleasant, easy thing, rather than ever work, struggle, or suffer. I found this to be a workable perspective in the context of the game.
It was clear from the beginning that I was the worst part of Noah-- the weakest, the most immature, the most wrong. I believe I existed, from a game design standpoint, as the force of conflict in Noah's brain, as the others were his Idealism, his Nuturing, and his Competitiveness. I played it like a self-centered teenager, and whiny, loud, and actually pretty funny, advocating for the easy, fun, impulsive choices. This had the effect, I think, of establishing me as both really absurd, and always wrong. I think that made sense, as I knew I was the shoulder devil of the group. All that seemed to work, and I think I did a pretty good job of it. I even think I was the only person to make in-character use of the fact that we were all tied together at the wrist. When they were having a boring conversation I didn't want to be in, I pulled as far away as I could and slumped on the floor so that they couldn't forget my deadweight pulling on them; when I wanted them to go my way, sometimes I tried to pull them over towards me by it. But I have to say, I ended up having probably the strangest moment I've ever had in a larp because of it.
There was a moment where my team seemed inclined to go down a path that I as Hedonism felt was not just a pain, but CATACLYSMIC for our character. We'd become too workaholic, our stress was huge and we weren't really enjoying our life, our family, or anything. Since this was such an extreme moment, I decided that was the point that Hedonism would throw a fit. I mostly had just whined and made demands up to then, so I thought the time had come to escalate. And that's where the strangeness started. They literally ignored me. They didn't just tell me they weren't going to do what I wanted; they started talking to each other and paid no attention to me at all. So I escalated. I actually started yelling things like, "I NEED YOU TO TAKE CARE OF ME." And they STILL ignored me, despite the fact that I had, albeit in a whiny obnoxious fashion, descended into nakedly begging to be addressed. That was the moment that Phoebe was yanked outside of the character of Hedonism for a moment and became really aware of the circumstances. And believe it or not, I experienced my first-ever moment of bleed in a larp.
I'm pretty much ninety-nine percent bleed-proof in larps; I am a technique actor, not method. But, if you know me at all, you probably know that about half of everything I do is influenced by the desire to prove to the universe that I am not lazy or needy-- basically trying to avoid anything that could ever be construed as hedonism. Not that it's exactly the same, but I never want to be the kind of person who imposes on other people for their own comfort. As Hedonism in that moment, I was doing exactly that. It was totally in character for Hedonism, but not only would Phoebe NEVER demand to be taken care of, but she's fairly convinced that it's the fastest way to give people contempt for you. So they'd never actually indulge that. So Phoebe had a weird moment where she saw people ignoring Hedonism's BEGGING for care and it confirmed for her that deep-set fear and belief of, "Wow. Even if you're desperate, you really can't expect help from anyone. They won't be there." And that caused that weird emotional bleed through where Hedonism's situation made Phoebe have a little moment of upset.
Now, it totally made sense for my scene partners to act that way. As I said, my performance taught them to regard Hedonism as both absurd and always wrong. And while it made sense to me that Hedonism wanted to be heard in that moment, I was not feeling like other players were being unfair in any way; I certainly didn't care that I wasn't getting my way. Ultimately, Hedonism pointed out that they NEVER gave in to what Hedonism wanted, and it was about damn time. It led to the other characters realizing that they'd never fed their desire to feel good and have fun and it had boiled over. I think it's notable that while many traits, such as Nuturing/Overbearing in Noah, had both a positive and negative aspect specified to them. Hedonism only had the negative, but it occurs to me that the positive side of it could be considered to be "Self-care." And that part definitely got neglected in Noah! And you know, having that be a crisis point actually gave an interesting turn to our character's story. He NEEDED to struggle through this problem, and that conflict shaped our arc. As natbudin
pointed out, it led to a startlingly diagetic representation of a midlife crisis.
So I really liked this game. While I'm not really in larp for bleed, I prefer to just tell compelling stories, it was interesting that this happened to me. And I loved the acting challenge the strange role offered. So I highly recommend this game, which will be running at Festival this April