I ended up watching this off of streaming Netflix. Guin didn’t want to watch it with me as she was afraid it would be mean-spirited.
Monster Camp is a documentary on NERO (Now Alliance) Seattle. NERO is the world’s most famous fantasy LARP (Live Action Role Playing) game and I’ve always been morbidly curious about it ever since it was profiled in an issue of Dragon Magazine I purchased in 7th or 8th grade. I actually still have that issue somewhere… Now I’ve watched mockumentaries on gaming like Gamers and Dorkness Rising, both of which are a lot of fun, but they were fictional. I’ve also seen Darkon which is a look at a local DC Metro area LARP, but that focused more on nerd in-fighting and politics rather than why people do this and what makes LARP’ing appealing to them. So when I saw this as an option on Netflix, I decided to try it out to sate my 17 year curiosity about NERO (Which does have two chapters around me, one in Arlington and one in Annandale of all places) and also get a look a yet another documentary on gaming.
This documentary takes us through a full year of Nero, although the bulk of time is spent on the Winter campaign. We see couples form, relationships end and eventually, the owner of NERO seattle burn out and pull the plug on his creation. It seems like there are about 60 people playing it at one time, which is pretty neat, but a far cry from the original NERO games, where over 1,000 people could be found playing at any one time.
I do like that the documentary covers a wide range of people who play NERO. You had people like coders for Xerox or an elderly woman who is confined to a wheelchair who plays it with her caregiver as something fun for them to do. On the other hand you also had two uber nerds that didn’t even finish high school that do nothing but play video games and LARP. Seriously, they made me uncomfortable with their levels of nerdiness. Also, why is it that every person in this documentary, whether a likeable person or not is a total slob. Is that some inherent trait that comes with really being into fantasy?
Anyway, for the most part you had some really far out people and some pretty normal people who are just curious about LARP’ing. My favourite guy was a newcomer named Matt Yeager who is at NERO for the first time and is just trying it as a change of pace from all his video gaming. No, he’s not the Matt Yeager I hung out with back in MSP or that I still write with, but he does look a lot like him which threw me for a bit. I was like, “MATT??? WTF, YO? You’re an undead lizardman.”
Anyway, this was a lot of fun and it really treated everyone involved fairly and was a nice look the LARP’ing subculture. It didn’t make me want to go out and do this myself (IN fact, more the opposite), but you get a really good look at who plays these type of games and why.
Is It Worth Keeping? I’m considering buying it actually