17. LARP, LRP, Larp, larp and all the rest

Most of us agree that what we’re doing is live action role play. Not all, but most. When it comes to what we call it, we’ll gladly fight each other to the (online) death if needed.

Here are some thoughts on the name debate.

First off, for those who say “Does it matter?”, the simple and decisive answer is “Yes”. Words have power, and definitions matter. Spelling and usage also matter. If you belong to the group of people who says “I don’t care!”, that’s fine. If you don’t care, do it our way. After all, you don’t care, right? :-)

With that in place, let’s talk about options. The first and most obvious place to start is with the classical acronym, LARP, which is popular in many place. It’s clean, nice and clear. It’s easy to grasp that it stands for something, and if you don’t know what, you can ask. Plenty of interesting things exist as acronyms, after all. NASA. NFL. NATO.

It gets a bit tricky when we use it in speech or writing, however. I do LARP. Am I a LARPer? A LARPER? A LARP (something)? When we “verb it”, what does that look like. Am I a LARPer LARPing in the woods? Does LARPing even exists as a useful word? Did I go to a LARP or LARP at a LARP? Play in one, maybe?

Also, it looks clunky in writing, as is painfully obvious from the picture, which is from a (very nice) book about LARP by David Simkins.

LRP, which has a large following in Great Britain, has these same issues, just a lot worse. While it’s definitely nice that Live Role Play doesn’t have to involve much action (remember, definitions are political), using it as a word is even more tricky. Do I LRP? Do I role play? And how is that different from when I play tabletop RPGs? Am I a LRPer? A Live Role Player? It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But I think even the LRPers don’t say that they go LRPing, and that makes it less useful as a term.

Now bring in the capital first letter version, Larp. It’s not an acronym like LARP, and functions well with identity declarations. “I am a Larper” is more elegant than “I am a LARPer”, but there are still hurdles to overcome. I may go to a Larp, but what do I do there? Go out and Larp? English doesn’t really support that. Verbs are lowercase.

In Germany, Larp is the standard form, but German also uses capital first letters when talking about things. A car is an Auto, a stadium is a Stadium, and so on, so it makes good sense that it’s a Larp here. I don’t know how they feel about “Ich bin ein Larper” (I am a Larper), but it works reasonably well there.

Enter those who prefer “larp” in lowercase letters. I won’t make any secret of the fact that I’m one of them. I am a larper. I larp. I go to larps. I love larping. I often use larpish methods in my non-larp events, and I will gladly discuss how to larpify something.

I think larp, I talk larp, and I do larp.

Of course, not everyone agrees that this is how it should be. There are good arguments for keeping it as the acronym LARP (or LRP), after all. But here are some arguments for larp – in no particular order:

  • It takes into consideration that we (the larpers) already use it as a both verb and noun. And, oh, do we ever!
  • It looks more elegant in writing, as per the example from Simkins’ book. Acronyms aren’t that elegant.
  • It’s less of an unusual thing, and more a natural part of vocabulary. If we want to make larp more mainstream (I do!), then this is worth taking into consideration.
  • It’s ok that it started as an acronym. So did LASER, and that went lowercase many years ago. Don’t worry about that part.
  • Some countries are already going lowercase. In Poland, it’s officially lowercase, for example.

And if you don’t care one way or the other, then know that you’ll be making some of us happy. After all, it’s easier spreading the larp revolution when we don’t have to spend energy fighting about whether it’s actually the LARP/LRP/Larp revolution instead. :-)

Director at The College of Extraordinary Experiences, Coach at McKinsey & Founding Partner at The Global Institute For Thought Leadership. Author of 31 books.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store