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Leaving Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games Paperback – May 1, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569766053
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569766057
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #933,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Whether you thoroughly appreciate the work of Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon [LARP's newly appointed overlord] or just have a mild interest in geek culture, Stark makes this world of pretend a little more real." —BUST


“Lizzie Stark takes us down the rabbit hole and into the curiouser and curiouser world of larp and shows us a place where imagination lives and breathes. Enter if you dare . . . and enjoy the ride! It’s an enlightening and wondrous journey.” —Tracy Hickman, New York Times bestselling fantasy author and game designer

 

“Rarely does a book so deftly crack open the everyday world to reveal the riot of imagination within. With humor, intelligence, and more than a little bravery, Lizzie Stark guides us into the vast subculture of larping, where lawyers become vampire hunters and systems analysts turn into knights. Hilarious, honest, and enlightening, Leaving Mundania reminds us how thin the boundaries are between the roles we play and the selves we believe ourselves to be.”  —Stacey Richter, Pushcart Prize-winning author of My Date With Satan, and Twin Study

 

"Lizzie Stark isn't afraid to walk the goblin walk, talk the in-character talk, wear the make-up, and wield the boffer sword. With verve, wit and candor, Leaving Mundania provides an important contribution to the history of role-playing and gaming, and proves the cultural significance of this flourishing game/performance/medium."  Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms



"Lizzie Stark valiantly throws herself into the sword-swinging world of live-action role-playing games in Leaving Mundania."  —Vanity Fair


“A fascinating trip through the looking glass and into the subculture of larp. Stark gives us both the magic and the humanity of live-action make-believe. And as a social historian, she incisively points to a pop-culture trend on its way from the fringe toward the mainstream.” —Samuel Freedman, author of The Inheritance and Letters to a Young Journalist



"Rich, unexpected and compelling . . . Stark’s keen observational skills and crisp writing style successfully cut through those hackneyed stereotypes to reveal the very real people who are drawn to deeply imaginary worlds."—Kirkus Reviews

"A fascinating look at the world of live-action role playing-with a book jacket that slays me."—SchoolLibraryJournal.com

About the Author

Lizzie Stark is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the Daily Beast and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She is founder and editor of the literary journal Fringe and holds an MS in new media journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

More About the Author

Lizzie Stark is the author of two nonfiction books.

Her most recent, PANDORA'S DNA, examines the history and science of the breast cancer genes through her family tree; Stark was diagnosed with a BRCA1 mutation in 2009 after watching her mother suffer cancer twice as a young girl. But PANDORA'S DNA reaches beyond memoir with painstaking reportage covering everything from the surprisingly long history of plastic surgery, which dates to ancient India, to the modern controversy over mammograms as a way of screening healthy young women for cancer, and the landmark Supreme Court case against Myriad Genetics that overturned human gene patenting.

Her first book, LEAVING MUNDANIA, examined the hobby of larp, or live action roleplay--essentially make believe on steroids for adults. She blogs about gaming at LeavingMundania.com.

Stark's shorter writing has appeared on The Today Show website, The Daily Beast, io9.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer and elsewhere. For eight years, she served as editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Fringe, dedicated to political and experimental writing.

Lizzie holds an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Emerson College.

Customer Reviews

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Reading the book, I'm constantly having this feeling of "finally I get it".
Juhana Pettersson
I'd certainly recommend it to anyone with an interest in larp or role-playing games in general.
William
In this book, American journalist Lizzie Stark describes her experiences with larping.
Harviainen Jussi T

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Harviainen Jussi T on April 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book, American journalist Lizzie Stark describes her experiences with larping. As fits her profession, the style consists mostly of reported experiences and long human-interest anecdotes, such as the life stories of some gamers and descriptions of events. It's like reading a lighter version of the Nordic "Knutepunkt" books - the key concepts are basically all presented, just in layman-friendly terms and with few yet enough references: historical precedents, artistic aspirations, escapism, education, economy, prejudices, connections with siblings like re-enactment, and so forth. (I found especially the sections on re-enactment, military excercises and business role-play to be solid gold.)

The beginning may seem somewhat off-putting to very artsy larpers, as the games described are escapism-heavy, and so appear many people playing them. But once past the initial shock, their commitment to the illusion of play starts shining through. Not only is the book an excellent foray into North-American larp (and elsewhere), it is also an intriguing bit of Americana, a testament to how people can easily adapt to strange roles, yet still remain very conservative. This too is discussed in pleasantly neutral terms and from many perspectives.

So in addition to being an extremely enjoyable read, a good document and a nice reference even for academics, Leaving Mundania deals with issues far more complex than they initially seem. It records the silly along with the very serious, and discusses the differences between the two with a clever tone. It is the most descriptive, all-encompassing book about larp and larpers on the market, and highly recommendable to anyone interested in the subject.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Bowman on April 22, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I tore through Leaving Mundania over the course of several hours upon receiving the book in the mail, riveted by the various accounts of live action role-playing contained within: convention larps, boffers, military simulations, reenactment groups, parlor-style Cthulhu, and Nordic Larp. Though the author does not self-identify as a larper, she manages to succeed where most other journalistic representations of larp fail. Stark invested over three years of her life into exploring local subcultures of larp in the Northeast United States, then travelled to the Nordic larp convention Knudepunkt in Denmark for the climax of this brilliant exploration of larp communities.

Her stalwart dedication to her craft is evident in each richly-layered page; not only did Stark immerse herself into the lives of her subjects, but she also took the plunge into uncertain waters, exploring a multitude of different game styles and theoretical approaches to larp, despite her self-confessed apprehensions. Stark's clever voice never overshadows her vivid, respectful depictions of her interview subjects; her savvy wit never slashes to bits the activity that these individuals hold in such reverence. Other American journalists often fail to delve deeper than the surface of the complex tapestry of role-playing communities, preferring instead to treat participants like exotic animals at a bizarre zoo. Such an approach would have been easy for Stark, as the stigma towards larp remains deeply embedded in the history of the hobby in America, the threads of which the author artfully summarizes in her chapter, "Closeted Gamers and the Satanic Panic." Instead of cheap potshots or sensationalist exaggerations, Stark invests herself completely in her project.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Juhana Pettersson on April 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
Leaving Mundania is a book about the U.S. larp scene. Stark takes a subjective approach to larp: to understand the game, she plays in fantasy games, in horror games, and even organizes a game herself. Finally, she goes to experience the Nordic art scene in Denmark in the book's final chapters.

Simply put, this is a wonderful exploration of what larp is and can be. Stark's descriptions of her own experiences, her sketches of the people she meets, and her ideas about what larp can mean to different people are solid gold.

Reading the book, I'm constantly having this feeling of "finally I get it". Also, "I want to play these games myself".

Perhaps you need the perspective of someone who initially comes from the outside to truly be able to describe what larp is.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Daniel James Quinn on May 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
Lizzie Stark's "Leaving Mundania" is one of those rare titles that takes an honest look inside an often-misunderstood but culturally valuable corner of the pop culture realm that few have explored with as much journalistic integrity as she has. It's worthwhile to read for everyone from seasoned LARPers, to readers in search of quirky human interest stories, to those new to fantasy gaming who are interested in the genre.

The closest comparison to another title I can make for "Leaving Mundania" is Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms by Ethan Gilsdorf, but I have to say that even though Lizzie's deep-dive into LARP doesn't begin with a recounting of a sentimental childhood in fantasy as it does in Gilsdorf's pseudo-memoir, her foray into the world of LARP has *much* more to say about the intellectual significance of LARP in pop culture and what the people behind it are like and are trying to achieve by engaging in the game than Gilsdorf. What makes "Leaving Mundania" great is Lizzie's ability to balance her objectivity as a journalist with personal anecdotes, and the fact that she approaches the book with a refreshing professional zeal. You make the same discoveries about LARP that she makes as she takes you from numerous American LARP conventions, to living LARPs like Knight Realms, to the world of artsy Nordic LARPs abroad, all the while keeping you flipping pages. I suppose my only real criticism is that I wish there was more to read!
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