In this series each post focuses on a specific aspect of camp. It is our attempt to share some of the knowledge we have accumulated in more than a decade of LARPing.
Take It Home With You
Closing circle at camp almost always includes a specific message and call to action: the things we do at camp can be brought out into your regular life. This isn’t to say that you’re going to get everyone you meet to break out into LARPing games at school or in your day to day lives, but instead that much of the work we do on ourselves at camp can be applied to ourselves outside. Personally the comfort and confidence I have found in myself through Wayfinder has allowed me to navigate social situations for the past 14 years of my life. It’s taken a combination of the different types of skills and knowledge I gained through camp in order to be able to cultivate those qualities in myself.
Maybe the simplest (and the easiest to overlook) is the work we do with improv. The rules to improv games form a great set of conversational guidelines. If you go into social situations with them in mind (accept and build, make your partner look good, go with the flow) it can be easy to get a conversation going. Many Wayfinder attendees over the years (including several of our alums from the Where Are They Now series) have talked about the ways that they just treat uncomfortable professional or social settings like they were roleplay situations. This is the same kind of guideline. You decide upon the version of yourself you want to be playing that day, and then put it into action. Improv and Status workshops at their cores are essentially a form of low stakes social training that we engage in together.
Another way I have found myself able to bring camp into my daily life (and thus keep alive some of the feelings of connectedness that I get while I’m there) is to try and bring as much of the trust work as I have done there into my daily interactions. Again I’m talking about the core tenets of what we do in those workshops not the actual exercises (though I have sat with non-camp friends and done a session of the stare into each others eyes and take turns sharing workshop when I really had a need for that kind of guided sharing). Consider the ideas that we work on: establishing and communicating clear boundaries for yourself, being a safe place for people to share their personal business, and relying on the people around you for support. If you move through the world guided by the work you’ve done in those spaces, it can allow you to create the kinds of bonds you have made at camp in the outside world.
The Adventure Game itself is rife with experiences to pull into your daily life. As we often talk about, every character you play comes from somewhere inside of you, which means it’s there any time you may need to access it. Now it may not always be necessary or appropriate for you to draw on being a demon hunter (or even just a demon), but sometimes you need a little bit of that kind of spitfire, me against the world, bravery. Everyone of us has faced down death and the end of the world through Adventure Games, and while clearly those stakes were imagined, there still is an element of having to make snap decisions with real in Game consequences. Remembering that kind of high tension decision making can be helpful when it comes to those moments in your everyday life.
Camp helps us form who we are. It doesn’t have to stop doing so when we leave the land and return to daily life. Those ways we feel empowered to be ourselves through camp can be hard to hold on to. We all live in each others’ memories as those versions of ourselves. If they can hold on to that piece of us, why shouldn’t we?
Written by Judson Easton Packard
The Hero Fund
At Wayfinder we believe in the work that we do. Giving children and teenagers a safe, playful place to explore their identity is important, and we’ve dedicated a lot of years to making sure we’re able to provide that. Every teenager needs a space outside of school and their family to explore who they are and who they’re becoming. Not every teenager comes from a family or situation that can afford to send them to summer camp to provide that kind of experience. That’s where the Hero Fund comes in. Often Hero Fund applicants come from economically disadvantaged families, families where one or more parents are undergoing serious medical treatment, or have recently lost a job. Wayfinder is the place where these young people feel most comfortable and open, particularly in moments of familial unrest like these. Wayfinder has always striven to help people in need of financial assistance since it’s inception; for the past three years we’ve been asking our community to help us with that goal.
In 2014, Wayfinder started the Hero Fund, our scholarship program. The Hero Fund is funded through donations and money made from our Frontier Adventures that we run throughout the off-season. In the end (being a company based around community), Wayfinder often operates at a loss to help get everyone we can to camp. Donations generally come from community members who feel that camp is an important space to them, and extended community members, such as parents, who have seen the benefits of our programs. One of the largest donating demographics are our staff pool, with 16 different staff members having personally donated to the fund, making the work we do at Wayfinder a priority for them. Staff have donated paychecks at the end of events, donated after they were no longer able to be involved in camp, or just donated when they could afford to (the best present that I got when I graduated from college was a Hero Fund donation).
While the money coming in from people who are already involved is important, Wayfinder is currently at a need for donations. Over the past three years we are proud to say that the Hero Fund has been able to give over $15,000 in assistance to participants in need. We are so thankful to the community for having provided this much for our members who need that extra help. For this coming summer, we have requests for almost $8,000 in Hero Fund funds. Money is allocated based upon the amount that our participants are able to pay to be at camp and the amount of money we’ve had donated and raised throughout the year. We do everything we can with the donation money to provide a space for as many people as possible. We also take the privacy of our applicants very seriously, and never share even the fact that someone has asked for assistance with the community at large.
We’re calling on our community to help us raise this money with the summer fast approaching. The Hero Fund supplies campers with access to a space that meets a certain kind of need in their lives, one that can be particularly hard to meet. Wayfinder as a community and an organization offers people acceptance. At the age at which people start coming to camp this may be something they have never experienced before. Countless participants have talked to me about the ways in which Wayfinder has saved their lives (and a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how it had done that for me on this very blog). So often kids come to camp shy or nervous, only to leave by the end of the week glowing. I could never possibly list the number of parents who have told me that Wayfinder was the time their child was happiest. This summer we’d like to offer that to as many participants as possible; some of them need a little help to get there. Please help us be the difference in those children’s lives.
Written by Judson Easton Packard
While there has been a lot of discussion of “creating space” on this blog (and generally is at any Wayfinder event), little focus has been given to what kind of space Wayfinder is to begin with. It may seem kind of strange to try and diagnose a space which has no connection to a specific location (our office and storage facility notwithstanding, there is no one place which contains the Wayfinder Experience), but for the purpose of discussion space refers to whatever space we occupy together as a community and not the land itself. Wayfinder exists as a transformational space. The nature of this movement, combined with the variable make up of community members (both staff and participants) at any event, and the type of personal, introspective work we do allows transformations from community members to go unquestioned.
Transformational spaces are necessary and often produced accidentally. Wayfinder has something special in that we conscientiously produce this space. The transformation aspect of camp would be present whether or not Wayfinder was a LARP space. Bringing together people of the ages of our participants (8-16) and staff pool (16+) is guaranteed to include transformation. At those ages people are spending time crafting who they will be as adults, with different levels of awareness. Wayfinder provides space to try on different personalities and social roles, both through everyday interaction and creating characters with which we play out pieces of ourselves we may not get a chance to any other time. People come to Wayfinder as they are forming personalities, choosing the directions they want to take their lives, and needing space to process things they cannot in their everyday lives. We offer a space that can contain all of these types of transformations.
I would be remiss to write about transformation and not give some time over in the discussion to the LARP aspect of our camp. Each week participants are offered at least one roleplay experience in which they can be essentially whoever and whatever they want to be. There are some constraints put on the characters (players may be told they’re from a specific place or given some other game world conditions) but within those players can explore whatever aspects of themselves that they wish. If you want to play a character who is fearful or talkative or anything in between it’s entirely up to you. Exploring these roles gives us a chance to see ways we could be in our everyday lives, if we chose to do so. A couple weeks ago Max Friedlich talked about going into some business situations and just treating them as if they were roleplay events. I know I have applied some of the rules of status or improv that we teach and applied them to social situations. You get to be whoever you want to be in life. Wayfinder simply offers you a place to craft that personality and reflect on it.
Constructing an identity is a difficult and endless process. You will never stop changing, no matter how old you get, so we must all be aware of the pieces of ourselves that are new and different at any particular time. Through being at Wayfinder, roleplaying and doing trust work, we can see a lot about who we are. While the work that we do gives a chance for you to explore every facet of self and personality, that is not all that is required in the process of forming a self. The reflection that we give space for is maybe more important. Space is made each week for discussion of self, something that you do not often find places to do. Within the community there are people you can trust both to hear about your struggles and offer feedback should you be looking for it. Knowing that other people in that space are going through that same process is one of the ways you know you can trust them with yours.
That kind of shared transformation is so often the basis of our relationships. People become friends as they start new jobs, at new schools, or in new places. Having some new shared discomfort allows for people to be on an even playing ground. No matter how long you’ve been at Wayfinder you are given a chance for this kind of shared transformation every week. We turn the land into whatever world we will be playing in for that week, and we turn ourselves into whatever characters we have constructed throughout the week. Any space that we create only exists for a week at a time, but the transformations we undergo can last a lifetime.
Written by Judson Easton Packard
Published on 6/3/2017