Dark Empathy

One of the traditional claims about (live) role-playing is that it increases empathy, our ability to feel what others feel, to effortlessly experience the world through other peoples eyes.

This claim is supported by plenty of anecdotal evidence, and no real evidence. It makes sense, though.

For one: if we assume that players make an effort to experience the inner world of the character, such effort should be empathy-training, giving insight into the inner worlds of people who are like the character. I doubt that all players do this, but there are certainly those who do.

But more importantly: live role-playing is built on a foundation of empathy, on players listening to each other, attentively, moving their improvisation in the same direction. Those who join larp as loner geeks rarely remain so for long.

But is this only a good thing?

Empathizing with each other at larps, we also suspend the self. We adjust our behaviour to that of others, and vice-versa, establishing together the genre, etiquette, way of playing. The better we are at moving, feeling, thinking as a group, the more powerful are the experiences we unlock.

There are plenty of words that describe moving, feeling, thinking as a group: team spirit, groupthink, the madness of crowds, mass hysteria, lynch mobs, totalitarianism.

Empathy is a dark god.

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