Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Age Restrictions in LARP

Last week, there was an interesting discussion at CILS regarding ages at LARPs. Austin put up a survey about what kinds of age limitations people would like to see.

It seems like the majority of people have no problem playing with younger children. That's something I'm glad to see. However, most of those people understand that there will be times where those ages cause serious limitations.

I figured it would be worthwhile to list some of the instances where age might pose a problem.

1) Insurance
This is probably the biggest problem with any kind of cost to play LARP, especially with overnights. Every game should get insurance, and every insurance policy is different. It's possible that providing insurance to younger children (12 and under) might be cost-prohibitive. In those cases, you'll probably have a discrete age where someone can play.

2) Combat Intense Games
A lot of foam fighting and boffer combat games may put restrictions on underage players for the sake of safety. In a lot of these games, children can participate in dressing up and roleplaying, but cannot enter combat. The age at which a child is developed enough both physically and mentally might be a little more grey than the insurance issue, but it's probably best to put some guidelines in to avoid the appearance of favoritism.

3) Heavy Immersion Games
Some games rely heavily on being completely immersive for the players. In these cases, it's important that every player understand that they have to say in game and to avoid acting out. In these cases, you might have to handle children on a case by case basis to see if they are mature enough to handle the game and participate appropriately.

4) Adult Themes
Some games try and amp up the roleplay and immersion by introducing adult themes. Obviously, these themes can be inappropriate for children as young as 17 or 18 years of age.

Other than that, I believe that age should not be a limit, as long as a person can be a good sport.

What do you think?


  1. We have a good insurance policy with no real age restrictions. I still carry a "soft" age 14 to fully participate but will lower it on a case by case basis. I speak to the child and the parents and determine the child's maturity levels. Not all kids are at the same maturity level. There are not enough occasions where it is an issue to make it logistically difficult and as long as the parent is present and the child can handle the responsibility of fully participating and fighting I allow it.
    If they cannot we run a "Page" program for children of any age. That allows them to participate in the Role Play and stay out of the combat. This also requires a minimum level of maturity to know how and when to get out of the way.
    We will usually run a children's mod with the parent acting as an NPC with me personally to give even the young kids something to do.
    On a few occasions having young children around has annoyed players or been a little difficult, but to me the good of allowing parents the opportunity to come play and the chance to hook the next generation of LARPers far outweighs the bad.

  2. Hey Bill; Austin here. I wonder if there is an error in your fourth point, which reads:

    "Obviously, these themes can be inappropriate for children as young as 17 or 18 years of age."

    Surely, you're not suggesting some LARP themes are inappropriate for people 17 or 18 years of age, and mean to suggest that they'd be inappropriate for people under these ages?

    If I am mistaken, and you mean what you wrote, what age limit are you suggesting? 21?

  3. In my admittedly somewhat limited experiences with LARP's I have seen almost no cases of underage players wanting to actually “play” the game. With almost no exceptions the only people who I have played with who were interested in the game and wanted to create characters and participate in plot and fight in combat have all been at least of driving age. I'm therefore somewhat ambivalent about how I feel about 13-15 years olds or so playing the game. I suspect that I would not have to much trouble with it, and if they become problematic for whatever reason then they can be dealt with much as would any other problem player would be.

    I have had experience with younger children on site and in and around the game. On a number of occasions players have shown up to events I have attended with their kids. Sometimes it is the case of staff members bringing their kids because they couldn't arrange daycare. Many times the kids want to participate in some fashion and mom or dad will dress them up in a costume or maybe even give them a small role. But the kids never completely commit to the game or for the whole time or participate in the plot. They just experience the game kind of as a weekend dressup trip to the Ren Faire.

    My experience with these situations have been near universally bad. Typically the kids become very overstimulated and distracting when exciting things are happening and they become bored and disruptive when things get slow. Players get annoyed when they get interrupted by unsupervised children, and it gets aggravating when either staff or players end up getting pulled away from the game because they need to go supervise their children. And there is very little worse for destroying the atmosphere of a game than having a small tired overstimulated overheated toddler have a complete screaming meltdown that can be heard over the entire camp.

  4. @Austin

    The intent was to include everyone under that age. But the point is that we often assume that someone who is 18 can handle any concept thrown their way, which is not necessarily true. There are still many sensitive topics that should only be handled by 21+.

  5. I can say I am young I actually have to admit that i'm 12 and a half and I can easily say I have a quite level maturity, I have even taken the time to learn basic LARP rules. The only thing I dislike is in LARPS they usually never tell you an age requirement or expectancy. I do not wish to show up somewhere I shouldn't be of course so it keeps me from actually finding any LARPS. I also do not know about someone people my age but I take a hit with a foam sword or axe.