Separating fiction from reality

Apr. 11, 2014 @ 02:48 PM

It’s probably for the best that I never plan to run for public office.
After all, I’ve pretended to be an affable talking bull with a penchant for smashing things on World of Warcraft.
I’ve portrayed a maniacal general, bent on declaring martial law on someone else’s sovereign planet.
I once played a character that enjoyed tossing journalists out of windows on the highest floors of a Martian skyscraper.
When I worked on Fallen Earth, I created a character that encouraged players to gather chemicals for use in a special steroid cocktail.
Long ago, in the earliest days of home-computer gaming, I stole mail, broke into someone’s white house and looted treasure all over some magical underground empire.
Clearly, I’m no role model and certainly not someone to be trusted in elected office.
But the characters aren’t me – no more than Jake Rush, the Republican running to unseat a tea party candidate in Florida, is really the vampire character he portrays in a live-action role-playing game (or LARP). No more than Colleen Lachowicz, who came under fire from the GOP when she ran for state Senate in Maine in 2012, is the orc character she logged on to play in World of Warcraft.
I’m not sure why so many people don’t seem to grasp that the healthy exercise of imagination in a harmless pastime doesn’t amount to a dangerous identity crisis.
I’m not a LARPer. Never have been. I don’t mind playing characters online in a video game, participating in tabletop adventures or collaborating on interactive fiction stories, but all of the travel, costuming and camping involved in LARPing just seems like way too much work to me.
That said, I know some people who love it, friends who use it to socialize and experiment with actions and consequences. They act. They sing. They exercise. Some even learn to design and craft costumes or build weapons. Some play multiple characters in several different LARPs.
Anecdotally, most seem no stranger than Duke fanatics who color themselves blue on game day or Civil War re-enactors who don period garb to bring the Battle of Gettysburg to life.
Like Lachowicz – who won her election bid, by the way – and Rush, they’re not the characters they play.
They’re no more orcs and vampires than George R.R. Martin is a savage wildling from beyond the Wall in Westeros when he writes his fantasy novels or Stephen King is the evil Walkin’ Dude, Randall Flagg, in “The Stand.”
They’re not the characters they write.
Robert Downey Jr.? He’s not Iron Man. Meryl Streep? Not Margaret Thatcher. Johnny Depp? Well, he might be Jack Sparrow and Edward Scissorhands, but he’s no Tonto.
They’re not the characters they bring to the screen.
While I might not agree with Jake Rush on the issues in Florida, I find some comfort in the fact that a candidate with imagination, with the ability to think outside his own bubble, is in the running.
I’d be worried if he wanted to legalize hunting humans for blood and only wanted to debate legislation between sunset and dawn.
But those don’t seem to be on his agenda.
Everbody’s different. We’ve all got something that we’re fanatical about. And, within limits, that’s okay.
I think Alexandra Petri may have summed it up best in a blog entry for The Washington Post:
“People are weird. And now the Internet has made this weirdness searchable. Where once your neighbors wondered why you toted that sword around, now thousands of people can peer at your obsession and declare it odd, never mind what they have open in the next window. Everyone has something open in the next window. If you think you don’t, you’re Anthony Weiner.”

Wes Platt can be reached at or 919-419-6684. Follow on Twitter at @HS_WesPlatt. Connect on Facebook at