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Thursday, February 5, 2015

LARPing below the Poverty Line

Hey there Scholars and Warriors.

Saturday my church hosted a "Poverty Simulation" run by a group from Grand Rapids that coordinates food banks and other mercy ministries. As we entered, we were asked to find someone to sit with that we didn't know. I sat down with a retired gentlemen and we were later joined by a college student.

As I looked around, I saw tables around the outside of the room labeled as different things: the pawn shop, clinic, grocery store, employment office, mortgage/rental company, etc. I realized something the organizers would never thing to consider: we were live action role playing. I don't have a much experience with LARPing. I have some friends who do it. But I have not really done much of it.

Our group of three was a family: we were larping as a 25 year old single mom with two kids below 5 years old. The single mom had some income, but not a job and the dead end dad was not around and not paying child support. The youngest son had health issues.

As we went around, we had to use "transportation tickets" to represent the cost of taking the bus or the time of walking. We had to purchase these tickets. We also had to pay mortgage, utilities and make sure we had food each week. For the first 2 weeks (of four) I was one of the kids. Then we switched and I was the Mom for two weeks. (The weeks were 15 minutes long each). At one point, there was a death in the family and we had to pay out 200 dollars to help with expenses for the funeral costs. Obviously the kids could not help with much and could even make things difficult (esp. with transportation passes).

What struck me the most was that the system was not designed to help people get out of poverty. It is designed to alleviate difficulties, but not to fully bring someone out of it. This may not have been as much fun as LARPing LOTR or Doctor Who, but it was eye-opening.

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