Gamers And Gaming
November 28, 2011 1:11 p.m.
Katherine Harroff, author of the play "Ragnarok," and artistic director of the new Circle Circle Dot Dot theater company.
Brendan Cavalier, actor and managing director, "Ragnarok," and self-described resident nerd of the theater company.
Philip Hansen, founder and owner of Evil Avatar.
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CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Modern warfare three, legend of Zelda. Many parents are in the process of trying to decipher the video games on their kids' Christmas lists. Of course it's not just kids who are involved in game playing, and not all games happen in cyberspace. Some gamers are taking fantasy into the real world in a movement called live action role play. Ing. A new play by a San Diego theatre focuses on this community and will talk about both aspects of game playing. I'd like to introduce Catherine Harroff is artistic director of circle circle dot dot and writer of the play, Ragnarok. Welcome to the show.
HARROFF: Thank you so much for having me.
CAVANAUGH: Brian Cavalier is also here. He's an actor -- sorry, sorry, Brendan. Nice to meet you.
CAVALIER: It's nice meeting you too.
CAVANAUGH: And welcome to the show. Catherine, Ragnarok is only the second production of circle circle dot dot. Give us some background
HARROFF: We started almost about a year ago. And we're a group of artists from many different disciplines, like musicals, some are just actors, some we have a couple of choreographers that work with us. We have puppeteers, and a couple of writers like myself, designers who help make our set and create sound designs. We were all interested in creating stories for a live theatre
CAVANAUGH: You call this a community based theatre. What does that mean?
HARROFF: Community based theatre is when you go out into your community and you interview different members of different groups. So very instance, Ragnarok is about these LARPers, and there is a large group of LARPers in San Diego
CAVANAUGH: Let me stop you right there. LARPer means live action role player, right?
HARROFF: Yes, that's right. So you reach out to this group and tell them you're interested in sharing with your community about what it is that they're doing. And so you interview them, you ask them different questions about what it's like to be a LARPer, what kind of stories they've encountered, what kind of things have happened to them as they have interacted in this kind of lifestyle. And you take interesting elements from their stories and create it into a play that you perform for your community. And it helps sort of educate others about the different kinds of people that are in the world.
CAVANAUGH: So you take all of this information that you get from speaking with people who are are actually doing what wering or whatever it is in the community, and then you go back and you create a dramatic piece from that.
CAVANAUGH: What is Ragnarok tell us a little bit about the plot of the play.
HARROFF: Well, Ragnarok is -- I took the title actually because one gentleman that I interviewed, Aaron, he told me about this festival that happened annually in Ohio called Ragnarok. And that roughly translates to end of days. The Ragnarok festival brings LARPers from all over the world. And I guess this last year it brought about 7,000 different kinds of LARPers that were interested in participating in the Ragnarok festival, which happens through a weekend. And the story itself is about a group of young D & D enthusiasts that come together
CAVANAUGH: Dungeons and dragons
HARROFF: That come together and decide to take their gaming to the next level. So they're usually playing at a table, but they decide that they want to go outside and interact with the stories as much as they possibly can. So this particular group that I interviewed, they were really excited about going to Ragnarok. So they trained for Ragnarok, and that was their ultimate goal.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Brendan, you play one of the LARPers in the player, Ragnarok. Tell us how it is in the play, they're playing basically in their basement at a board game, and as Catherine says, they decided to take the next level. How do you take it to the next level? What do you do? Do you give yourself a name? An avatar? Where does that play go from there into the real world?
CAVALIER: Well, these group of friends are playing dungeons and dragons, and they're playing characters there. And they decide that instead of rolling dice and playing on a table top, they're going to go out into a park and build armor and weapons, and they're just going to swing a sword at each other. And there are certain rules with LARPing, and it depends on the type of LARPing you're doing. About you if you get hit in the arm, you have to fight without that arm.
HARROFF: They're not real swords
CAVALIER: Although there are type was live action role playing where they use wood and different materials.
CAVANAUGH: Do LARPers get a lot of criticism from people who think maybe this is a strange thing to do?
HARROFF: I think that they do sometimes. When we were first reaching out to this community, there was a little bit of reservation in communicating with us because I think a lot of outsiders tend to make fun of what it is that they're doing. But they're really proud of it and really energetic, and it's really a kind of sport in a lot of ways. Well, this particular LARP. There's a lot of different kinds that are les athletic. And once you get to know them, it's really not something that we had any desire to make fun of. It was another type of theatre in a lot of ways.
CAVANAUGH: Very right. Now, I know that Brendon, you are the resident nerd of the theatre company is what I've heard. What is your gaming addiction?
CAVALIER: Well, mine mostly is video games, although I do like a lot of table top games as well. My own gaming experience started when I was a kid playing return to Zorg and Nintendo entertainment system games.
CAVANAUGH: There must be crossover between people in the LARPing community and people who do video gaming
CAVALIER: Absolutely. Well, through this process, I've done a lot bit of LARPing and experiencing that, but a lot of them have a common base in role playing games in general. And a lot ofs those have moved to video games as well as table top. There are several dungeons and dragons video games out there that I've played, and a lot of the LARPers have as well
CAVANAUGH: I'm going to take a slight diversion in your conversation and welcome a new guest. Philip Hansen is on the line, he's a video gaming expert, founder/owner of the gaming website evil avatar.com. And welcome to our program.
HANSEN: Thanks for having me on.
CAVANAUGH: Why is it do you think that video games are now making more money than most movies?
HANSEN: I think it's a quality issue. We've come a long way from pack man in terms of graphics. And will what they can show us in a game now revivals when they can put on a big screen in a movie
CAVANAUGH: So video games are becoming more cinematic?
HANSEN: Definitely. Modern warfare three, that whole game is basically an extended movie that you participate in.
CAVANAUGH: Even so, if you buy a game that's $60, but if you go to a movie, it's only $13. What is the distinction there? What makes video games more attractive than going to a movie?
HANSEN: Well, it's twofold. You are participating. When you watch a movie, you are going to get a great story and actors, but you're not a part of that movie. When you play a video game, you are the hero of that movie. And then second, I'd say it's the -- it's a quality and the amount of time that you get out of a video game. If are your $60, your not getting an hour and a half of entertainment. You're getting 10 to 20†hours, and then a lot of games have a multiplayer component which you can play for an unlimelighted amount of time. So a video game is probably a significantly better bargain than a movie.
CAVANAUGH: Are there still reasons for parents to be concerned about spending hours in front of videoim gas?
HANSEN: I think so. I think did kids do want to take it to the extreme. They can sit and play a game for 8, 10, 12†hours, and exclude other activities. So yeah, parents definitely want to limit the amount of time that your kid spends gist sitting in front of the computer playing games.
CAVANAUGH: I'm going to talk with our theatre people about this as well. I think one of the misconceptions about gamers is that it's sort of a brain numbing activity. It's actually quite creative at times isn't it?
HANSEN: Yeah, there's definitely a lot of puzzle solving involved in that, a lot of thinking. There are straight games that you don't do anything but shoot stuff or drive your little car in a circle. But there's a lot that goes into the development of these games for the story, and the puzzles and things like that.
CAVANAUGH: Finally, Philip, I know you have to leave us. What are some of the big games coming out now during the holiday season?
HANSEN: This season I've got to look forward to of course the modern war fare 33 that just was launched. They made 7 hundred 75 million in five days from that game. Then you've got saints row the third just came out. And for people who like games like world of war craft or the role playing games, star wars the old republic comes out on December†20th I believe
CAVANAUGH: All right then. We have to get our money ready. Thank you so much, Philip Hanson.
HANSEN: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: And let me bring it back to our guest in the studio. I'm wondering, Catherine, what do people learn from your play that this world of live action role play, which may be foreign to them going in?
HARROFF: I think what I hope that people gain from it is is that these folks are not so different from other people. They're really passionate and excited about something. We talk a little bit in the play about being a nerd. And I think in our culture, a lot of times nerd is a bad word. But a nerd, a friend of mine, told me that they always thought that nerd was a compliment, that nerd just means passionate. That if you are nerdy about something, it just means that you're passionate about something. And even if it's a weird thing to some, like swinging your sword in the park, it's something that these folks are enthusiastic about, and I think just about everyone is nerdy about something
CAVANAUGH: I think you're right about that. Brendan, what response have you gotten from the LARP community?
CAVALIER: They seem to be pretty positive about it. They're excited we're telling a piece of their story. And a few of them have gotten to see the show so far, and they seem to be really happy where what we told. And and they seem generally pretty positive about it.
CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, as you present this play that you've created, Catherine, and you're trying to establish this new theatre company in San Diego, what other aspects of the community do you think might make for good drama for your company?
HARROFF: Do you mean other than the LARP community?
CAVANAUGH: Yes, uh-huh.
HARROFF: We have a couple of different groups that have reached out to us. We are going to develop a piece about the transgendered, drag performance community which has a strong following in San Diego. So it seems like almost every day somebody comes up with a different group that has an important story to tell in San Diego. We're really excited to continue as we gain more information. Maybe we'll do one on KPBS.
CAVANAUGH: Give us a lot of warning! I want to let everyone know that Ragnarok plays weekends through December 10th at the 10th avenue theatre downtown. I've been speaking with Catherine Harroff, and Brendan Cavalier, both with the theatre sump circle circle dot dot. And thank you both very much.
HARROFF: Thank you so much