WHO LARPS NOW: CLAUSTROPHILIA
CLAUSTROPHILIA is the love of confined spaces. It’s also the name of a new, super popular adventure game for Eastern European tourists.
Think Saw crossed with The DaVinci Code. I didn’t see or read the latter, and I only watched the first of the eighteen Saws (the one with the Princess Bride guy), but I do know that this combination of creepy, no-exit style confinement crossed with puzzles that tingle with Egyptian antiquity and Arabic mystique references the popular draw of both, without actually threatening any of the participants’ lives.
And for older gamers, since hardly anyone’s ever successfully completed the tasks, think live action Myst.
In Claustrophilia (or ParaPark or TRAP or any number of successful businesses doing the same thing right now), a group of two to five players are (effectively) locked into a room in one of Budapest’s many run-down, bombed-out, dilapidated buildings and are locked in. They have a series of tasks they must perform in order to escape, or else their time’s up and they are let out as losers.
And it’s become hugely popular, particularly with tourists.
Maybe less surprising are the zombie survival events recently getting good press in England. Zed Events hires college students to chase you through malls, mansions, or even on weekend-long horror camping trips, while you fight them off with airsoft guns.
I mean, everybody loves zombies now.
But what’s really happening here? Regular, everyday people are LARPing. They may not be putting on costumes or inventing elaborate characters, but this kind of play is no different, and satisfies the same desire. The Zed games include cinematic, overarching plots, designed to satisfy a certain kind of gaming need.
As an increasingly digitalized age formalizes and abstracts our interpersonal interactions, sucking the vitality out of our daily lives, more and more people seek the unpredictable and the fantastic. But this kind of game is more than a fantasy; it is also a catalyst for camaraderie, a basic human need which isn’t satisfied in cubicles, bars and Facebook feeds.
More people are playing Claustrophilia and the people that play are looking for experiences that are more immersive, more interactive, and more unpredictable than Scrabble or Call of Duty.