Today we have a guest contribute to discuss the other side of living and mourning in the LARP community. Ian Powell is a freelance writer for Eschaton Media, Inc., the producers of Dystopia Rising, Project: Paradigm, and CHRONOS. You can contact him via email at Ianpowell913@gmail.com or check out his contributing work on Amazon.
My friend died.
Not his character. I'm sure that his character lived and died a thousand deaths. Actually, come to think of it, I guess his character dies too. All of the stories that could have been told about him, all of the trials and victories he could have faced: all gone. LARPing is designed for that endless opportunity. An ongoing story in which there may not be a grand victory, as there is no clear conclusion. To live a second life.
My friend did that. Many years ago I helped run a game. There were tiers of responsibility involved for keeping the stories running. There was the owner and creator of the game, there was his staff, and there was the cast. Beyond that, the true heart of the game, was the players. I found myself in the staff section with two of my very good friends, and we ran most of the day to day of the LARP, as the owner was unable to attend the game as much as he'd like due to health issues. It wasn't the biggest game, so you really got to know all of the players on an almost familial level. There were some who irked me, some who would kiss my ass because I was in charge, some who I would make lifelong friendships with until this day. And then there was my friend.
My friend was older than most of the players at the game by about 20 years. We had a fairly young player base to begin with, so he was a bit of a sore thumb when he first arrived. He jumped right in though with an amazing enthusiasm, a love for pranks and being stealthy and sneaky, and a penchant for being way more fit than a man his age should have been. A running joke began around the camp that he was always listening and always present, and that just saying his name would summon him. On more than one occasion he would prove that statement true, and appear from the shadows as if he had always been standing in your conversational circle, not with a "roar" or a "boo" but a friendly "Hey."
My friend loved that game. He'd eventually bring his family to play. He'd drive hours and hours to show up at group functions. When I was burned out and upset and fried at the end of events, even if I was mad at the whole world, I wouldn't be mad at him. He'd step forward to help out, crack a joke to make me laugh, do his magical appearing act just in time to save me from throttling someone. I frequently describe people as "a good guy". "Oh so and so is a good guy." "I like him, he's a good guy."
My friend was the truest definition of a good guy.
I split with that game, me and my two staff friends. We had disagreements with the owner, we were frustrated and tired and not having fun any more. In the fallout of us leaving, things got tense with that community. People spoke ill behind our backs, some cursed us out to our faces. It's no one persons fault really, I blame a lot of my actions at the time on youthful ignorance and pride. In the end though, I lost a lot of friends. A lot of people I built my life around stopped talking with me, and if they were talking, it was about me, not to me. But occasionally, I would get a message from my friend. Either it was a "Missed you guys.", or a "How's it going?". Sometimes, it was just that quiet toned "Hey" that would make me laugh at my phone before I could respond.
Those faded as well. The game was what we had had as a bridging ground to form a friendship, and without it, there wasn't much there. Sure, he was an amazing guy, but I wasn't going to bug him. There was no reason for me to send him messages on Facebook, asking him how he was. It could only lead down the dark path of me being shitty and smack-talking the game he loved that I had left.
It had been years since I'd heard from my friend, when I saw a GoFundMe go up in his name. He had cancer, and his family was trying to raise money for treatment. They plead to his second family, the LARP community he vacationed in, and they immediately responded with aid. I was panged, immediately. I shared the link, I donated what I could. I felt guilty that we hadn't spoken. I felt terrible that I couldn't do more.
He died the next day.
The community was quiet and in mourning. I saw friends posting statuses memorializing how good of a guy he was. How we should try to be more like him. How he had an impact on our lives. And he did, there's no doubt. LARP is storytelling. Every character in a story intertwines, and when you live a character in a story, you find yourself interwoven with others, even if it's only for a short time. A man like my friend didn't just cast a thread, he cast a net. His stories will be woven into so many of our lives for good. I'm honored that I got to know him. I'm glad LARPing brought us together. I'm ashamed LARPing made us part ways. I wish I had had more time. I wish he could draw from the deck again, and pick another card. But he can't. He's gone. His character is gone. His memory isn't.
My friend died.