Is Airsoft LARPing?

Adam's M4, Dave's Ak-74 and Elijah's MP/STG 44
Two weeks ago we had our first airsoft game with the JADE crew. We were unprepared and ill equipped but we still had a blast! We went to a friends property out in the bush of Southern Ontario where I grew up, had our first round of target practice, and our first very informal match with 4 players in total. All in all a great day.

Airsoft is a big departure for JADE since we normally keep our gaming to the tabletop. But with the success of our #characteroftheday dice we decided to reward ourselves, and expanded our idea of "Gaming" as a whole. So we started looking into somethign a little different to do, and Airsoft was the most interesting thing we could come up with.

We started off balancing our teams by the type of gun: each team has an Assault rifle, and SMG etc, etc. But that fell apart pretty quickly, and country based teams started to materialize. It was no longer about teams using which ever gun they wanted, it became whether you were on the NATO Team or the Soviet Block Team. And it was this change that started the great debate: is Airsoft Live Action Role Playing?

My Bizon PP19
The argument started around the specific design of each of our guns. While Airsoft is in the same family of games as Paintball, Laser Tag and Nerf Guns (replica/toy guns that actually fire a projectile), in Airsoft you can only get replicas or close-to replicas of actual firearms. So unlike Paintball or the others, right off the bat the you are making a "Roleplay" decision: which gun do you want to pretend you are actually firing.

Now of course you can get Paintball guns that are replicas of actual firearms, but in Airsoft that is your only choice. Your first decision is a costuming one; where you ask "what gun do I find aesthetically pleasing?"

The gear needed for the game.
After selecting a gun (I went for the Bizon PP19) we started looking at other gear. And again what started out getting gear out of necessity turned into costuming choices. I was even looking at actual Spetznas gear to use while on the Soviet side of things. With so many options for any army kit that you are interested in using, you can pretend to be part you chosen armed forces for only a few hundred dollars.

It was starting to seem more and more like maybe Airsoft was LARPing. But costuming and aesthetic decisions does not make it a Role Playing game. For that you need some actual game rules, which Airsoft has. From Death Match to battle re-enactments, to capture the flag, Airsoft has a trove of different game types with distinct rules for you to follow.

So, Airsoft has custom choices, an element of pretend or "Play Acting", and a set of rules. In my books that makes it Role Playing Game.

Out in the field with our helmets on.
Now we didn't have our full costumes for our first time out, and not everyone was as convinced as I was that Airsoft was LARPing. Among some other arguments, the strongest and most common was the counter point  revolving around the idea of the "Player Character".

Essentially the argument is that you never created a proper Role Play Character. Instead, you simply picked a gun that you liked and could imgaine yourself using. This made it more of a equipment choice for somethign like Sport rather than an RPG.

Now if we were in a large league that had ranks, and was actually recreating different battles (Like WWII conflicts), etc. That would be one thing. But since we did not create a character and we were not recreating an specific time we were not Role Playing, we were just playing a game.

Jeff's MP40
That being said, there are a number of Role Playing Games were you play as yourself with a fictional occupation. A good example of this are the games from Fantasy Flight's End of the World Series: which do just that.

So on a technical point, in Airsoft, are you not at least Role Playing as a user of your chosen firearm in the given scenario? Is that enough to qualify it as a Live Action RPG?

Started with a full bottle, and almost killed a full 5000 biodegradable rounds.
Either way, Airsoft at least walks a fine line between RPG's and an outdoor game. It certianly has the physical activity for both, but perhaps lacks a certain imaginative element that makes for LARPing. But I think arguments can easily be made on either side

So what do you think, is Airsoft Live Action Role Playing, or is it just another outdoor game?


Written by: Andrew Gregory

Is Airsoft LARPing? Is Airsoft LARPing? Reviewed by Jade GamingNews on 4/29/2016 02:05:00 pm Rating: 5

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