Monster Camp

The particular way in which an individual chooses to spend their free time reveals much more about their interests and who they are than any one conversation could. In Monster Camp a group of individuals is examined specifically because of the way they choose to use their free time. In our society their are certain norms. It is expected for people to be interested in sports or politics, or even video games. However, what is uncommon (for the large majority of the population) is the subject of this documentary. Live Action Role Playing, or L.A.R.Ping, is essentially playing a video game in real life. This requires real people with real jobs and lives of their own to dress up and learn over 200 pages of rules.

Monster Camp follows the process of a few different events, all within the “Nero” universe. Nero is the name of the game, just as one might sit down and play “Halo” or “Call of Duty” only in this instance the specific rules regarding the game must be closely adhered to. The movie is interesting, if for nothing else, but to see just how one would run something like this. Costumes, rules, characters, plot lines; all these things have to be carefully set up, leaving very few people to run the success of a much larger group of players. Having run small scale versions of what this movie portrays, seeing the scale of the world that they run is incredible. To do something like this, something that is universally seen as “nerdy” requires so much skill and imagination in order to organize the story lines and battles, while at the same time giving players free range to do anything they want within the scope of the game. This movie is just as much about the players and their relationship to each other, as it is about the game that they all love.

Stereotypes are a dime a dozen when it comes to nerd culture. The funny thing about stereotypes is that they typically stem from some truth. In watching this movie, you can see exactly where these generalizations stem from. Typically, the types of people that become intrigued with these games have fewer social skills and enjoy fantasy, fiction and video games. This is escapism at it’s highest form. A few of the players realize that it’s escapism and realize that they are indeed trapped in this game, the lines between reality and fantasy are blurred for them. While as a viewer it becomes comical at times, there are various instances where individuals explain to the camera just how damaging an addiction to gaming, or any other escapist function, can be. Then there are the ones who live for nothing but the game. While it’s comical and entertaining to watch, there is a real human drama that unfolds in this movie. These individuals, who fall in love with their games, are drawn together and form bonds of friendship, and occasionally love. The complexity of separating real life with their RPG characters becomes a subject that is discussed as well.

This film shows a class of people that have generally been mocked and ridiculed for their interests and lack of social abilities having fun in a way that is different than the norm. Just as there is levels of intensity in anything there is so in this game. As far as documentaries go, it’s short, sweet and surprisingly heart warming.

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