Devin Torkavian is a writer, a witch, a woman of trans, and an all-around passionate LARPer (live action role player). Her LARP journey began by watching a web-series and connecting with one of the LARPers featured. Torkavian first LARPed at Seventh Kingdom IGE, a South New Jersey LARP that, at the time, was not too far away from her. She LARPed for one wonderful year before having to move to Portland, Oregon. Now she’s struggling to find a suitable LARP to continue her LARP quest. How has this life-altering experience affected her LARPing activities?
Catherine C. J. Baxley: How did you first learn about LARPing and where was your first event?
Devin Torkavian: I always kind of knew what LARP was, but when I really learned about it and discovered that I had to do it when I stumbled upon a LARP web-series called Realm of LARP. I quickly became attached to one of the players in the show and from there, I set on a quest to try and get in contact with them.
I found her YouTube channel, and discovered that she LARPs in South Jersey. I messaged her and fully expected to never hear from her. She messaged me back with in the hour, and we began talking about LARP, and she helped me make my first character. By next event, I attended Seventh Kingdom IGE and I promptly died!
CCJB: Do you have a favorite genre of LARP? Why?
DT: My favorite genre of LARP is one-hundred percent fantasy. I have been playing tabletop games for ten years before I started to LARP. It’s what I live for.
CCJB: What has been the most challenging experience in-game (or IG)? Did it coincide with your out-of-game (or OOG) mentality?
DT: I was not prepared for the amount of “bleed” (learn more about bleed here) I would experience, or at times how to handle it. I’m not sure it it coincided with OOG mentality so much as just hit a little too close to home.
CCJB: In what ways has LARPing helped you overcome significant “real-life” obstacles?
DT: LARP has helped me with my self esteem. I’m a transgender woman, and I made a decision that in LARP I would own that. All of my characters (past, and present), are transgender females, and somehow that just helped me love myself again.
CCJB: As a member of the transgender community, what sort of differences do you notice between your LARPing style and others who are not a part of the community?
DT: I’m not too sure how to answer this one. Everyone has their own style of LARP across the spectrum as human beings. I’ve LARPed with other members of the transgender community and their styles were vastly different in play. I think the answer to this question is nobody can LARP like I can, and every LARPer can claim that. So, yes–good question, Kate!
CCJB: You appeared in the documentary, LARPing Saved My Life with two of your friends – one who was the main focus of the film. How did you become involved with the project? What was the experience like? What have you learned about yourself or others or LARPing? Were you satisfied the way you were portrayed in the final cut?
DT: Oh yes, Jon was approached by Vice, and he asked me, and my sister if we would like to take part in it with him. I was thrilled and my sister, Jessica, was interested in having a new experience. The experience was pretty good. The crew were incredible people and a blast to work with. They filmed us getting ready for the event and asked us some questions. It was very clear that the focus was on Jon as most of the questions were about him, though oddly all those questions were cut from the final film. I did learn that day that I am incredibly comfortable in front of cameras. All in all however, I was not very satisfied with my part in the final cut. They cut out a lot of what I had to say. Also it was very hot, and I was very sweaty, so watching it is cringe-worthy at times. That part wasn’t their fault though.
CCJB: You wrote an article for The Geek Initiative about your joys and hardships about Perspective: Trans Girl in the Gamer World. There was one section in particular that you were rejected from participating in all-girl gaming groups and that womyn in the trans-community did not approve of your hobbies. Could you expand on this?
DT: Well, It all boils down to perspective and bigotry. I was discriminated against by a few all-female gamer groups because “I wasn’t really female.” Which is a big problem in society as a whole. Take for example the ridiculous oppression the trans-community faces in states like North Carolina: it’s the same, shameful principle.
As for the community not approving that’s a matter, or older trans generations trying to force the same 1950s anti-feminist drivel, every woman has to deal with at some point in our lives. The idea that trans-woman need not want to be interested in only hipper, feminine-like things from clothing, mannerisms, eating habits, weaknesses, submissiveness, and whatnot is still very much alive and kicking when I experienced that form of horizontal oppression. That train of thought seems to be dying out with the older generations of transgender females thankfully.
CCJB: Do you think members of the trans-community still hold girls versus boys in specific pedestals (toys, health products, recreational activities, etc.)?
DT: Yes and no. People in the community around my generation and older–yes–for the most part. My generation of the transgender community were the first generation to really get the ball rolling on that kind of change in society. I see younger generations who, for the most part, have relinquished those harsh gender roles. Which I am very proud of, and am very happy to have had a hand in that change.
CCJB: What was it like to participate in “Gamergate & Beyond: The Fight Against Gender Inequality in Gaming” Panel at the 2015 Camden Comic Convention?
DT: It was amazing! Camden Comic Con was (I believe) the sixth panel I’ve participated in, so I kind of knew my way around things, and it is such an important topic that needs to be talked about more. When Tara invited me on to the panel, I was more then happy to put in my two cents.
CCJB: You mentioned that you left New Jersey where you LARPed at Seventh Kingdom IGE for a year and now reside in Oregon. How is the geek and LARP culture on the West Coast?
DT: Yes, and leaving [Seventh Kingdom] nearly broke my heart. The LARP scene out here in Oregon is very different than New Jersey. In N.J., the market seems almost over saturated with LARP. Which for the player, is amazing. The LARP scene in Oregon is still growing. A lot of the LARPs out here are actually discontinued LARPs, but there are some good vampire LARPs that I take part in, and I am flirting with a fantasy-full weekend event boffer LARP called Dying Light. Which would be amazing because then I could revive my [Seventh Kingdom] character, Hazel.
CCJB: Have you attended any events?
DT: Yes–Hidden Parlor, which is a vampire masquerade LARP.
CCJB: Have you found any events you’ve enjoyed?
DT: Hidden Parlor is pretty good, though at first I was shocked. It’s a parlor LARP, and the events are four-hour games. Coming from the hardcore weekend boffer events of [Seventh Kingdom], it was a change of pace to say the least, but a beautiful experience I highly recommend.
CCJB: Has there ever a time that you wanted to give up LARPing? Why?
DT: No. I can’t go back. It’s too late for me.
CCJB: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
DT: Yes. If whoever is reading this is in a situation where you feel helpless, friendless, and or unloved – come to LARP! You might be scared, and heard some weird things about LARP, but you’re reading this. Just come to a LARP; that’s how I felt the night I sent that first message. All you have to do is “Google” LARPs in your area, and reach out. I promise there will be someone to respond, and if you go to a LARP where the people suck, that’s okay. Just move on to the next one. They’ll probably be who you’re looking for.