Live Action Role Playing (LARP) can be an effective and engaging way to learn about different cultures – both in an informal learning environment like summer camp and in the formal classroom. However, to make sure that your LARP is respectful and accurate, it’s important to work with a Cultural Advisor. A Cultural Advisor is someone who can provide insights into the customs, beliefs, and traditions of a particular culture or lived experience, and help ensure that your LARP is culturally appropriate.
Here are some steps on how to create a LARP that explores culture using a Cultural Advisor.
Step 1: Choose a culture
The first step is to choose a culture to focus on. This could be a culture that is familiar to you, or it could be one that you have always been interested in learning more about.
Step 2: Find a Cultural Advisor
Next, find a cultural advisor who can provide guidance and support throughout the process. The best cultural advisors are actual members of the culture you wish to explore. You can locate a cultural advisor through your personal network, a cultural center, or through a directory such as CulturaConnector.com. If you are unable to find a Cultural Advisor, you might consider using a LARP adventure like Quest for the Caribbean Cure that has already been developed in partnership with a Cultural Advisor.
Step 3: Develop a storyline
Once you have found a cultural advisor, it’s time to develop a storyline for your LARP. This could involve creating a scenario that is based on a specific event in the culture’s history, or it could be a more general theme that allows participants to explore different aspects of the culture. It is best to explain what outcome you wish to achieve to the cultural advisor and ask for them to direct you on what kind of story would be best suited to your objective.
Step 4: Work with your Cultural Advisor to create characters
The characters in your LARP should be authentic representations of the culture you are trying to teach about. Working with your Cultural Advisor, you can create characters that are accurate and authentic. Your Cultural Advisor can also help ensure that the language and behaviors of the characters are appropriate for the culture being represented.
Step 5: Plan the setting
The setting of your LARP is also important, as it can help to create an immersive experience for participants. Your Cultural Advisor can provide guidance on costuming, masks, props, decorations, and other elements that are specific to the culture being represented.
Step 6: Promote your cultural LARP
Once you have planned your LARP, it’s important to promote it to potential participants. You can also reach out to cultural organizations or groups that may be interested in participating in your LARP. Be sure that any person who plays a cultural “face character” (where their actual face is seen instead of a mask) is a member of the culture. If not, it may be best to use artistic or symbolic masks instead. At no time should a person attempt to change their natural skin tone or eye shape through makeup to look like a member of the culture they do not belong to.
Step 7: Host your LARP with your Cultural Advisor present
The final step in creating a cultural LARP is to host the event with your Cultural Advisor present. Your Cultural Advisor can help ensure that the event runs according to their consultation, and can address any questions or concerns that may arise during the event.
After the cultural LARP is complete, it can also benefit the participants to do a debrief and address any of their questions or to improve their understanding of the experience. This is particularly important for an educational LARP (edu-LARP) to improve the transfer of new knowledge.
Cultural LARPs can be an immersive and exciting way for both the LARP designers and the participants to learn about a culture. Bringing a Cultural Advisor into the planning as well as production stages can ensure that your cultural LARP is appropriate and respectful and help your organization avoid negative social media. Other than visiting the culture firsthand, there are not many other experiences that can create an immersive learning environment than a cultural LARP.
Guardian Adventures provide consulting and licensing of educational adventures, including a free LARP and cultural programs, for summer camps, amusement & attraction industries, and more.