Name: Stephen Stallkamp
IG Name & Race: Giah Lannar / Human
Number of Years LARPing: 10
Home Game: Shadowed Realms
Stephen Stallkamp has been a LARPer for the better part of eight years. He started as a teen in Michigan and quickly found two major LARPs to attend, playing many different characters from paladins to necromancers. This has transcended into a life-style and now owns his own LARP-oriented consulting company, Catapult Gaming, LLC. in Toledo, Ohio to help LARPers and other gamers connect with one another and to start their own venues.
A gay teen struggling with pressure both internally and externally from bullies, LARPing helped Stallkamp escape that and how to socialize in an environment where he was accepted. “I want to tell the world how Larping helped me overcome any major obstacle in my life and how it too can help others. It’s nearly therapeutic.”
Catherine C. J. Baxley: How did you first learn about LARPing and where was your first event?
Stephen Stallkamp: I first learned about LARPing when I was introduced to SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) when I was fourteen years old. A lot of it stemmed from enjoying medieval fantasy that one would find in video games, but also wanting to portray that aspect in real life. From here, began my search scouring the ends of early [Digital Subscriber Line] (or DSL) in order to find a good game. From here I was able to find games such as Nero, Sharded, and Archon which allowed me to delve into the world of LARPing.
CCJB: Do you have a favorite genre of LARP? Why?
SS: I prefer fantasy LARPs, and more specifically, lightest touch boffer LARPs due to the mechanical aspect of them. When I first began, I ran across full contact LARPs and they were more of a sport than an actual game. When I came across a real, true, LARP it was invigorating to my adolescent imagination and I was able to immerse myself in another world to get away from the social anxiety and hardship any fifteen-year-old goes through. Fantasy to me speaks volumes because of it’s sheer difference from our own life and it truly allows you to become someone else.
CCJB: What has been the most challenging experience in-game (or IG)? Did it coincide with your out-of-game (Or OOG) mentality?
SS: I want to say one of the most challenging experiences in-game is facing confrontation. When RP [or role-play] becomes heated and conflict occurs – especially between players – I feel that it shakes me up and I had a hard time adjusting to that at first. My out-of-game mentality coincides with this; I’m rather non-confrontational and I try to be the mediator but when you are the target of the confrontation things drastically change.
CCJB: What were the main differences between the two LARPs you attended in Michigan?
SS: The first LARP I really attending full time was Archon. This LARP was set in a very open world where the points and leveling structure was fluid and open. I really enjoyed this aspect, but at the same time, the second larp, Shadowed Realms, had a much more structured environment. I feel that the difference would be fluidity over foundation and they both have their merits to provide an excellent experience. Another difference I’d say would be the numbers. In Archon there were only about twelve to fifteen players playing at any one time where Shadowed Realms boasts a more profound forty to sixty average player count. While the lower numbers allowed me to become integrated quickly the larger numbers promotes a unity amongst the players and also adds to diversity which makes a LARP more colorful.
CCJB: In what ways has LARPing helped you overcome significant “real-life” obstacles?
SS: This is the big one for me. LARPing has personally allowed me to grow in an environment where I truly am the creator of my destiny. Before I started LARPing I was nay a hair from being a total seclusionist. I suffered greatly from depression and social anxiety because I felt ‘different’ and I was often bullied. Due to this, I dropped out of school in the eighth grade and I didn’t really have many friends. LARPing changed all of that for me. I sometimes think I even owe my life to LARPing, because at one point I was suicidal. LARPing allowed me to make friends, allowed me to engage in a safe and friendly environment with like minded individuals. LARPing also taught me how to be self-reliant and taught me some life-skills (like how to make a fire, how to forage for food in the woods, and other important life skills) that I might not have today if I was just a football player or some other sports related individual. LARPing helped me cope with life when life was the hardest, especially when I came out as being gay to my family.
CCJB: As a member of the LGBT community, have you experienced any discrimination while LARPing?
SS: Never. I can honestly say LARPers are the most accepting group of individuals because everyone has a similar interest. I have never faced discrimination; in fact I met two of my previous relationships while LARPing. There are a lot of LGBT people in the LARP community because it is such a welcoming and embracing group of people. Now, as a disclaimer this isn’t to say that it happens; but if it does, it is seen as a serious faux pa.
CCJB: Tell us about your business, Catapult Gaming, LLC.! What services do you provide?
SS: Catapult Gaming, LLC is actually my second LARP endeavor. My first endeavor, Paradox Gaming Productions, was centralized around running an event at local conventions. I actually began the first business when I was seventeen. When I moved, I sold the first company but on my return and my re-engagement with the community I felt the need to give back burning in my heart.
Catapult Gaming, LLC was founded between two of my best friends and myself in order to provide services to the LARPing community on a social, legal, financial, and creative level. Our services include help with legal requirements in the Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana areas. This includes starting the business, business model and operations, disclaimers and insurance needs, financial plans and layouts, and finally LARP construction. Essentially we’re a full LARP consultation company that assist in general gamer needs. However, we are still under construction due to how new the company actually is.
CCJB: So essentially, you’re a full-time LARPer!
SS: And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
CCJB: What are the long-term goals for Catapult Gaming, LLC.? Will you expand into other parts of the country?
SS: I think the long-term goals for Catapult Gaming, LLC is to eventually expand the company to wherever it needs to be. Having a national presence on the scale as say Larping.org or the product distribution companies would be great, but we like to think in small steps. We’re focused on the here and now, and that is getting our feet on the ground and getting attention from the national market as LARP interest is currently soaring across the United States.
CCJB: Since you already have one LARP-oriented business, would you ever consider running your own game?
SS: I’m glad you asked! Our LARP that we host through our company, Legends of the Aether (LOTA) , is our first real service that actually spawned the company in the first place. Originally Catapult Gaming, LLC. was meant to host LOTA for insurance reasons, but it spawned into so much more once we saw the potential to grow the community in our area. Toledo, Ohio has never had a true, fully mechanical LARP and we aim to make the first one the best. Legends of the Aether is centered on a mid-high fantasy setting where adventurers must combat the consequences of The Old War. A cataclysmic event between the gods that have left the world of Un’Thera tainted and corrupted by dark energies from beyond.
Right now we are still in the development stages as LARPs take quite some time to flesh out and we are working with a group of talented individuals who are offering their services to assist us and will be point of contacts for specialty needs such as web-hosting and graphic design. We do plan on starting a Kickstarter to help us gain the capital we need to fully launch a fantastic game for our players and I urge people to join us!
Currently, we are doing play-tests to show off our wonderful facility offered to us by the Boy Scouts of America. Camp Miakonda, located in the Western Greater Toledo Area, is 128 acres of wooded trails along with the staple of our game, the enormous two story fort which acts as LOTA’s town center. Along with that, we offer three types of camping experience over your weekend game ranging from “modern” camping, “rustic,” and “primitive” for the hard-line LARPers who want the full experience. I implore people to become active on our page and help us make this game amazing for you and your friends.
CCJB: Has there ever a time that you wanted to give up LARPing? Why?
SS: There was a stint where I was only doing Parlor LARPs locally. Those LARPs are very emotionally charged and going through college full-time left me more heated and anxious to the point where I debated quitting after I took a two-year hiatus. But the moment I returned to boffer LARPs up in Michigan was the moment I fell right back in love with the genre all over again.
CCJB: Is there anything you’d like to add?
SS: There is. LARPing often times gets a bad rap in the media and I feel this is unjustified. I’m not a social justice warrior of any means, but if you are reading this article and ever wondered what it would be like to join a LARP I want to personally say that it can be life-changing. I encourage imagination, as imagination is the only thing that truly loses its value as we get older and maintaining that aspect of myself has not only allowed me to grow as a person, but it also has created a quality of life improvement through my early adult years. LARPing is an art. The costuming, the acting, the boffering; everything about LARPing requires dedication but its a dedication that you will love, and in return, will find that it loves you. It’s a great way to get in touch with a part of you that you might have never met, and that is truly a gift to receive in the darkest hours, and in the grand light of your life.
Photography: Christian Pokrywka, Whitney Wiremen, Dan Kennedy
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