How Role-Playing can Transform our Communities

When we imagine ourselves becoming someone else, we tap into our latent potential as human beings and as a community.

When the group agrees to “pretend to believe” in these transformations, we create space in our consciousness for an expanded sense of our own identities. Through the power of imagination, we are able to conceptualize ourselves as capable in areas in which previously we may have felt limited. Some examples include expansion in one’s abilities, such as leadership and physical prowess; one’s personality qualities, such as extraversion and openness to experiences; one’s interpersonal capacities, such as empathy, intimacy, and connection; and one’s experiences of emotional release, such as catharsis, anger, desire, and grief. We can also explore our shadow sides — those unconscious and scary parts of ourselves and of our collective humanity that arise when we play characters that reveal undesirable character traits and behaviors. As a result, many of us have experienced powerful impacts from role-playing and may even continue to hunt for these peak experiences, returning to larp after larp in the hope of immersing in moments of exquisite intensity once more.

But what happens when the magic circle fades, we return to daily life, and are faced with the sometimes brutal facts of the social and physical reality within which we usually exist? What role can bleed play in our ability to create “magic” outside of larp contexts: that uncanny phenomenon in which emotions, behaviors, physical states, and relationship dynamics sometimes spillover from character to player? Our belief is that the “magic” discovered through role-playing can persist long after an event concludes when supported by integration practices — not as a form of delusion, but as a valid facet of the role-player’s social and psychological life.

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