Wayfinder Wisdom

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.

Always Coming Back Home To You

Always Coming Back Home To You

WFE1In all of the Where Are They Now interviews the interviewees (members of our community who have been away from the physical space of camp for some time now) have brought up an important facet of the Wayfinder community. The idea that you can leave camp for any amount of time, and you will always be welcomed back in. The way I have always pictured it is to see camp and our community within that physical space (even though we’re not always at the same location the physical space when the community comes together for an event) as a circle. No matter how long you step away from that circle, we will always have a spot for you to return to. There is no guarantee that you will come back to see the same faces as when you left, and more than likely there will be more new ones than familiar ones. I can promise though that you will be welcomed with the same warmth, the same love that you had when you left.

It helps this idea (both the circle I picture in my head, and the reality of returning to camp) that we put a lot of practice into doing this. At the start of every camp, and then again each morning, we open with a circle. During this time everyone is invited to share how they are feeling, what new experiences they have had since the last circle they were a part of, whether it has been hours or years since they held that space. An exercise I’ve always loved in our circles is when we take a silent moment, look around the circle person by person, and smile at every face that we see. It doesn’t matter who they are or how well you know them, every face you come across is returning that feeling to you.

WFE2Due to the setup of our community around a summer camp, there is always going to be some change in the people who are attending. People’s lives move forward. They go to college. They get jobs. They move on to whatever the world holds next for them. Spending summers at camp you get used to the rotating nature of the people around you. Every time someone new comes to camp it’s a chance to bring someone new into the fold. It’s always exciting to see what they bring into the space with them. New games. New ideas. There’s also, almost guaranteed, to be a friend who has been long absent. Someone who wasn’t able to be at camp for whatever reasons, or you two just haven’t been at the same weeks. Every camp is a chance to reenter these friendships. The function of being a summer camp means that the majority of the people at camp will not see each other maybe nine months out of the year. The friendships we have suspend in time, they tie to the space we hold at camp. It’s why it’s so easy for us to come and go in each other’s lives, to maintain relevance, as Marika put it so well a few weeks ago. We have grown use to coming home to each other.

It can be hard to understand making your home in other people. The idea of home we are always sold probably attaches to a specific structure or town. My home is Wayfinder. It has been since I was 13 years old and came to my first camp. Since then I’ve spent time with Wayfinder at upwards of twenty different lands and locations. No matter where we go, no matter what difficulties that land possesses (everything from giant mosquitos to non-potable water) I know I will be home. Home is the place where you can be yourself, whatever the most honest version of that looks like. Camp is a place where not only are we encouraged to be our real selves, we take time to work on that piece. I talked a couple weeks ago about how characters help us build ourselves so I don’t need to go deeply into it again here, but feeling at home in that space is a big portion of being able to do that work.

WFE3I’ve lived in six states and three time zones. I’ve told myself more springs than I’d like to admit that the coming summer would be my last one at camp, that it was time for me to grow up and move on to a new home. In 2014 I didn’t go to camp for the first time since I started in 2003. The year that followed was one of the hardest, most isolated of my life. There were a lot of external strains that led to this throughout the year as well, but I would be lying if I didn’t notice the weight of not getting to come home to camp and be me. Not having the time to put my stress aside and sit in a circle and fall asleep in the grass when I’m probably not supposed to (OK I’m definitely not supposed to and am probably supposed to be running the circle). Camp is my home. Who knows how long we get to call any one particular place home? If you get the chance to, come back. We miss you.

Written by Judson Easton Packard.

Published 4/7/2017

Trust in Adventure Gaming

Trust in Adventure Gaming

Obviously deep, intensely emotional, trusting relationships exist outside of LARP communities. The point here isn’t to claim that Wayfinder has some unique ability to provide participants with trust or friends or anything like that. The idea is more this: trust, like the realest kinds of trust, are formed through having intense experiences together. Through the Adventure Game we get the chance to simulate a lot of those intense experiences. I have lived one thousand lives in my time at Wayfinder, and the more invested I have been in each one the more I have grown from it. No piece of any character comes from anywhere but inside ourselves. This is something that comes up time and again. It takes an incredible amount of trust in a person, a group of people, or even a whole community to go deep into that, to explore those pieces of ourselves that we normally keep hidden or ignore altogether.

A couple weeks ago I promised to do a series of posts based exploring different types of trust that are directly relevant to Wayfinder and then promptly got sidetracked. I’m returning for the second of that series now. This week’s focus is trust and how it intersects with the Adventure game. It’s a complex relationship. There are a lot of factors of trust required just in setting up the Game. You have the most basic elements, for example trusting that people will play by the rules (reacting to swords and magic) and trusting that people will respect you as a player (building scenes with you and reacting to/building off your offers). There are also some much more complex trust relationships that go into the Game. There is A LOT of physical trust required in playing with a group of people. You are trusting people to chase you/fight with you (often in the dark or in the woods) in a safe and fun way. This kind of trust can be a challenge, but it’s something we work at all week long. The more contact based elements are things that trust workshops are specifically geared towards building to; whereas the elements based upon the rules are a trust that we work at in our game systems based workshops throughout the week (and here you thought CTF was just for fun).

There’s another important element to the relationship between trust and Game that is something we don’t go into quite as much. That is the fact that despite how much we put into building those relationships with each other before Game, like the actual interpersonal ones between our real selves, there is nothing that brings us together quite like an Adventure Game. Once you’ve stood next to someone on a battlefield, cried over their corpse, or literally died to save them there is a different kind of closeness between you. The trust established through having an intense in Game experience together is one that I have never found in any other setting. It’s hard to approach. You both (or all if there were more people involved in the scene/situation) know that something very real happened between you in the Game. Immediately after a Game that has one of those moments there is always a need to find each other, to talk about what happened, share the other side of the experience, or how that moment effected the rest of each player’s Game. But it doesn’t stop there. There are friends of mine I’ve had for years who we still think back to some of those moments as our most intimate, when our friendships moved from close to unbreakable.

During a Winter Game at the Ashokan Field Campus (a Game that I wasn’t particularly emotionally invested in prior to this moment) where my friend (and in Game mother) cried over my dead body until someone brought me back to life. From that moment the two of us held each other and cried in a room full of people who were holding us prisoner (don’t feel too bad, up until then we’d been some of the main bad guys). I’ve never been much of a public crier. It’ll happen, a tear here and there at an intense community circle or trust workshop, but this was loud, ugly crying. Sobbing on a hardwood floor in a room full of people who I was legally responsible for. It’s a moment I remember whenever I’m having a hard time processing my emotions, particularly in reference to other people. I was able to lean on the community in a way that I wouldn’t normally, to allow for an emotionally intense in Game moment because I trusted them to contain it within the Game understanding that my emotion was a function of character not mental state, and also to lower my guard and enter that place of trust because of the way that an Adventure Game is set up. The closeness that is brought about in those kinds of scenes, even if it is an unspoken kind, is one of the most important factors in binding ourselves together.WFE4

Written by Judson Easton Packard

Published 3/24/2017

The Benefits of Friendship

The Benefits of Friendship

Wayfinder3Community is a funny thing. We talk about the Wayfinder community as if it was a living entity when really it’s a web of interpersonal relationships and a kind of commitment you make to people you have not met yet, but who have occupied space in that same circle that you do. We talk a lot about how that circle functions. How it welcomes new people with arms open. How it manages to hold the same type of space though never being made up of the exact same group of people. How your spot in it is always there for you, no matter how long you step away from it. Something else we talk about a little less often, is how our circle stretches out into the world past camp. The friendship that we form at camp, those individual strands of the community, are some of the strongest you will ever find in life.

Marika touched on something important about those relationships in her interview. She talked about how for people from camp out in the world “our lives still have relevance to each other.” This is not an easy type of relationship to find. With most of the people you meet in the world, once your shared experience or location is over with it goes the closer portions of your friendship. Obviously this isn’t always the case, and I’m not trying to say you can’t form lasting friendships outside of camp. I’m looking to highlight the amazing ability Wayfinder has built over the years to create generation of generation of real lasting friendships. We so often refer to ourselves as a tribe, and this is exactly what that has always meant to me. So many of the people who I grew up loving and trusting from camp are out in the world now, without time or ability to come back to Wayfinder. That doesn’t change the fact that tomorrow I could drop in on just about any of them and pick up our friendship right where we left off.

Wayfinder2While it’s not the only thing we work on, or even the focus of much of what we do, the relationships built between Wayfinder’s participants are a crucial part of every single workshop we go through at camp. (Maybe the point is the friends we made along the way?) Game is a huge piece of this. After a game where you spend a lot of time playing with someone you don’t know that well, there is going to be a kind of closeness between you that wasn’t there before. That special kind of closeness that comes from shared experience. (If you can face down literal demons with someone friendship can’t be much harder, right?) The only feeling I have found similar to it is in people I have worked with, but those relationships are usually missing the other pieces we do at camp. The active work on trust and mindfulness in relationships.

Sitting in trust workshops together goes further than we realize in doing this interpersonal work for us. It establishes a baseline of trust that you just don’t get to have with people in very many situations. Often in trust we share some of our most personal discomforts, whether those be in the form of forging physical trust through touch or emotional trust by sharing a hardship we have been through. Being able to look at someone you intend to build a friendship with and see someone who already knows these things about you, who already seen some of the bits of yourself you try to keep from the world, and knowing that they want to become better friends with you regardless of (sometimes even because of) these pieces is a kind of relationship it is almost impossible to find, and certainly rare to find such a safe space to do it in.

Wayfinder1With these rare elements added into our friendships from the start it seems only natural that the friendships we build hold relevance. The work we do at camp is to define ourselves as people. Playing in adventure games gives you the chance to explore different sides of yourself, to try on different personalities and ways of being and decide which you like best. Doing trust workshops gives you a chance to find that you can share the things that you have been through and find people who love you and hold no judgment of those things. Improv gives you a chance to have fun and embrace that ridiculous joyful kind of funny that comes when you just go for it. These are the things that people search desperately for in relationships throughout their lives. They are also things that people at Wayfinder give themselves over to with ease. Treasure the friendships you have been given, nurture that relevance, and keep as many of those people in your life as long as you can.

Written by Judson Easton Packard

Published 3/10/2017