Summer camps create memories and friendships that last a lifetime, but staying engaged with campers during the school year can be a challenge. With the increasing accessibility of online platforms, Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) can be a powerful tool to keep the camp spirit alive and ensure return registrations. Here’s how to use online LARP to enhance camper retention during the school year.
What is Online LARP?
Online LARP is an adaptation of traditional Live Action Role-Playing to virtual platforms (like Zoom). Participants assume characters’ roles and interact in a digital environment, guided by a storyline or set of objectives. While lacking the physical aspect of traditional LARP, online versions offer unique advantages like:
- Accessibility for some people with disabilities
- Reaching your geographically dispersed campers
- Introducing new campers to returning campers before summer begins
- Requires very little space
- Largely weather-proof
Why Use Online LARP for Camp Retention?
- Maintain Engagement: LARP is an interactive and fun way to keep campers involved, reminding them of their positive camp experiences.
- Strengthen Bonds: Campers reconnect with their friends, fostering lasting relationships and engaged in Social Emotional Learning (SEL).
- Promote Continuous Learning: Camps with an educational component can use an online educational LARP, or EduLARP to reinforce and build upon concepts introduced during summer sessions.
Steps to Implement Online LARP for Camp Retention
- Set Clear Objectives: Understand your goals. Are you aiming to strengthen community ties, reinforce lessons from camp, or introduce new camp themes for the next year?
- Choose the Right Platform: There are several online platforms suitable for LARP, such as Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, and more. Your choice will depend on the complexity of your game and the age group of your participants.
- Design an Engaging Storyline: The story should resonate with camp themes or values. For instance, if your camp focuses on science, a LARP session could revolve around solving a fictional scientific mystery.
- Schedule Regular Sessions: Consistency is key. Regularly scheduled sessions, be it monthly or quarterly, will give campers something to look forward to and ensure sustained engagement.
- Incorporate Feedback: Allow campers to influence the story’s direction or provide feedback on gameplay. This empowers them and ensures the LARP remains relevant to their interests.
- Promote and Remind: Use email newsletters, social media, and other channels to keep campers informed about upcoming online LARP events.
Best Practices for a Successful Online LARP Session
- Design or Find a System: You can either make your own online LARP system for navigating your adventures, or you can take our free online course which uses the Universal Game System Lite and has documentation on how to run not only an in-person LARP, but also an Online LARP. (Yes, it’s free and no strings attached – we are trying to make LARP more accessible and wide spread)
- Moderate: Ensure there’s a skilled moderator or game master to guide the story, resolve conflicts, and keep the game flowing smoothly.
- Incorporate Multimedia: Use videos, music, images, backdrops, props, and even dress in a costume or use masks to enhance the virtual environment and make the experience more immersive. Encourage your campers to also use (appropriate) costumes and backdrops.
- Safety First: Especially with younger campers, ensure that all online interactions are safe. Set ground rules, use secure platforms, and monitor discussions.
- Stay Inclusive: Make sure every camper, regardless of their technological proficiency, can participate. We highly recommend offering tutorials or tech support ahead of sessions.
- Follow-Up: After a session, send out a recap, highlight memorable moments, and tease the next adventure to keep the excitement alive.
In the digital age, the end of summer doesn’t mean the end of camp camaraderie. By leveraging online LARP sessions during the school year, camps can maintain and even boost engagement, ensuring campers eagerly return year after year. It’s not just about retention; it’s about enriching the camp experience and making memories that bridge the gap between summers.