Sunday, July 13, 2008

Darkon - Reaction

An interesting, well-put-together, funny-at-times, open-minded documentary about people who play a particular live-action role playing game, what they think about it, and why they do it. The real-life characters are interesting and they do a good job acting in fantasy-life roles. (Indeed, the costumes they make are much better than I expected. In fact, they display an impressive commitment to role playing in terms not only of costumes and makeup but also time.) The movie is by necessity haphazardly photographed, as it's trying to capture unscripted fast-paced events.

Although the film mentions the rules of the game (different colored weapons, how they affect various armors, the rules of resurrection, etc.), it mainly focuses on what the players get out of the game. Some players use the game as a form of escapism from real life. The game is where they can pursue the American dream: to live their lives as they desire. Some of these players draw the analogy that just as reality, where one has responsibilities, is like adulthood, the fantasy world is like childhood, where one is unencumbered and more free. Others use fantasy role playing to gain confidence and train for real-world situations, developing skills for socializing, playing politics, negotiating, or leading. (One person playing the game for this purpose, Danny, says "sometimes Danny doesn't have the balls to do what needs to be done.") Interestingly, a number of players reflect upon the idea that just as they're playing a role in the game, they're playing a role in their real lives.

The movie also explores the different lines people draw between this world and the real world. For instance, some players' characters don't date in the game even if they're dating outside of it. Players generally try to maintain real-world friendships regardless of in-game actions, though sometimes the line is crossed and real life impinges on one's fantasy life and vice versa.

I particularly liked two scenes: one, the neat opening transition from a hexagonal game board (the common board for role playing games) to an aerial view of the suburbs, and two, a brief interview with an Iraqi war veteran who plays and why he does so.

Some of the deleted scenes are quite good.

I must admit the movie is probably not interesting to people who've never role played.

I first heard about the film through a radio segment: The Role of a Lifetime (WNYC's On The Media via NPR). The story provides a good overview of the film and its feel. (Listen to the story; if you read the transcript, you'll miss out on the sounds and voices.)

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