In Class

May 1, 2018 at 11:49 am

Keep LARPing, Say Students in Medieval History Class

Dr. Chang and students from Dr. Uhalde's HIST 1222 prepare for a LARP game.

Dr. Chang and students from Dr. Uhalde’s HIST 1222 prepare for a LARP game.

“Keep LARPing!” was one student’s reaction to a new component of HIST 1222 Medieval History in Film and Literature this spring.

Dr. Kevin Uhalde, Associate Professor of History, has taught this introductory course in history and medievalism for many years. The syllabus contained mostly historical texts and films such as Passion of Joan of Arc, Seventh Seal, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Recently, though, other popular media have been included.

This spring he added a new component—LARPing, or live-action role playing game, a form of role-playing game where participants physically enact their characters, with help from  Dr. Edmond Chang, Assistant Professor of English, who joined Ohio University in fall 2017.

“LARPing is a lot like watching a movie or reading a book, since it allows you to step into someone else’s shoes and immerse yourself in their story,” said History major Precious Oluwasanya ’18. “However, LARPing is so much more realistic, because you’re literally running around with ‘weapons,’ creating strategies with your team, and thinking through your actions like a real warrior/elf/king/character…. Despite my reluctance to get hit, I ended up having a good time.”

Video of First Battle in HIST 1222’s Demonstration of Archaea:

Bringing Gaming to Medieval History in Film and Literature Class

Upon learning about Chang’s interest in bringing gaming, fantasy, and especially LARP into the classroom, Uhalde asked him to consider visiting HIST 1222.

“Dr. Chang’s background as a scholar, author, and player in all sorts of play and gaming reaches many students where they experience the Middle Ages most,” Uhalde says. The two professors exchanged numerous emails and met several times over the winter, preparing to incorporate LARPing into Uhalde’s course in a way that students would draw meaning from and enjoy.

Chang first visited the class to discuss with students “how I got into live-action role-playing games (and my initial reticence), the different attitudes culturally (particularly in the United States) toward fantasy versus science fiction, and why I created Archaea in the first place.”

The following week, the class met Chang on a small grassy area on campus where he guided them through a demonstration of his self-created LARP game Archaea. Read Chang’s reflections on the experience and view images and videos on his blog.

“The world of Archaea is a well-crafted and mesmerizing place. As someone who is a Creative Writing major, cosplayer, and D&D fanatic, I feel that this event helped shape many of my views and inspired me to work harder at developing my own fantasy projects. I am even taking Professor Chang’s English 2200 this fall thanks to this LARPing experience,” noted Emma Keefer, a first-year English Creative Writing major.

Live action role playing in history class, students get ready to challenge opponents.

Live action role playing in history ‘class.

‘Finding Historical Significance in Some of the Strangest Places’

Students responded positively to both the topic and the experience. HIST 1220 typically draws a cross-section of majors, which is reflected in the following student reflections on the LARP demonstration.

Morris Wein, a second-year Journalism News and Information major “loved LARPing!”

“It is something I never would have tried myself, so I’m happy I was able to experience it in this class,” he said. “Yes, it’s kind of goofy, but that was part of what made it so entertaining. It was a great way to have fun at the end of the semester, while still learning about the course material. I never would have thought I could actually learn about something historical through something like LARPing, but this class has shown me that you can find historical significance in some of the strangest places.”

Nat Robbins, a first-year Biological Sciences Pre-Professional major chose to not participate directly, yet she too enjoyed the class experience.

“I felt like I was an audience member watching any other sport (the ones more socially accepted) and I was cheering on the underdogs and actually very mad when I saw cheaters cheat,” she said. “By the end of the class I wish I had participated because it looked like a lot of fun, which was surprising to me, and I feel like I missed out on a unique opportunity.”

About Dr. Edmond Chang

Chang holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington. He is currently working on a book about queerness and digital games—the subject of most of his recent publications and conference presentations.

“My recent work thinks about video games and ways in which the technology that undergirds them is always already normative. I’ve termed this phenomenon ‘techno-normativity,’ which is an extension of heteronormativity,” he remarks. Chang’s regular course offerings include ENG 2010 Prose Fiction and Nonfiction and ENG 3230 American Literature 1918—Present.

In Fall 2018, Chang teaches two courses:

  • ENG 2100: Critical Approaches to Popular Literature: “Why are Americans Afraid of Dragons?” Critical Approaches to Reading, Writing, and Playing Fantasy (which will include LARPing as part of the class).
  • ENG 3850: Writing about Culture and Society: “Ready Player Two: Critical Approaches to Virtual Worlds and Video Games”


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