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The Wizard's Desk

The Wizard's desk is a blog space where our staff and creative leads offer their insight and experience on engaging with DrachenFest US! We're excited to share what we can, so pull up a seat!

Interview Series: Victoria Alexandria, AKA: LarpEverAfter!

This week, our Scribe sits down with Victoria Alexandria, and discusses gatekeeping, what it’s like to be a LARP influencer, and what it’s like to clash against cultural expectations getting in your way.

The Scribe: Okay. Where do we want to start? I've never interviewed an influencer before for any kind of position, so this is a first for me. Have you ever been interviewed before? 


Victoria Alexandria: No, this is actually my first time and being called an influencer is still very foreign to me, <laugh>. This is my first interview ever, kind of nerve wracking, but I'm really excited. <laugh>. 


The Scribe: Well, that's good to hear. I don't actually know much about influencers. How have things been before today? How does the dynamic work? 


Victoria Alexandria: From my personal experience so far, I've been doing this since about 2020. So as far as how it goes in LARP, a lot of people discover that events are happening through social media. I believe the marketing teams reach out to people like me who have these online spaces: we share our own experiences and like preparations when it comes to getting ready for certain events. I like to think of it as a mutual sharing of excitement. It's like, “Hey, if you do this, if you post about this, even though you already know you're going to be posting about this anyway, I want to offer this to you, or I want to offer you this perk for this event or offer you whatever, whatever in exchange for you promoting this event for me.” 


The Scribe: Okay. 


Victoria Alexandria: So weird. 


The Scribe: No, no, I get what you mean. To give you an idea, I haven't really interviewed people as part of a formal process other than for school projects in years. And suddenly I'm back to once again being a journalist and working to help promote content. 


Victoria Alexandria: How does that feel? 


The Scribe: Well, it's a bit strange because, to give you an idea, I've done a lot of bad writing gigs in the past where I was just sort of in a closet helping other people build their business. And now I find myself more front and center. 


Victoria Alexandria: Nice. At least now you have a lot more control over your own kind of creative process with this, I hope <laugh>. 


The Scribe: Well, that actually dovetails nicely into my first big question for you. What made you choose to put your voice out there as a LARP influencer? 


Victoria Alexandria: Oof. When you say put my voice out there as a LARP influencer, in the beginning it was just me, sharing my own excitement for local games here in the Atlanta area. It evolved from a casual, “here's this character, here's a little blurb about something that I did at this event” to realizing how much people were enjoying the things that I was posting when I started getting DMs and messages from other people who kind of come from similar backgrounds like me. I’m a person of African descent, a person of color, and I was getting DMs from people saying, “I've never seen someone like me into this! Let alone someone so vocal online.” 


I think having chats with other LARP influencers made me realize the importance of it. My perspective of it shifted from just like a casual post to: “Okay, people are actually looking at this. So, I'm going to intentionally talk about my existence and how other people perceive my existence in this community.” So far I've really been enjoying it. It does come with a lot of risk though because I have received, um, like not the nicest comments from people who feel, um, to be PC here, very threatened. As if I shouldn't be like, “how dare I enjoy this thing and post it here,” and it just gets really silly. I just have to tune that stuff out. So yeah. <laugh>, I hope that answers the question <laugh>. 

The Scribe: It does, and it actually dovetails into another question which I will be the first to admit: I am a suburbanite white guy, so I'm nervous about asking this question: “what is it like being a person of color in LARP space?” 


Victoria Alexandria: I'm someone who exists in like a lot of different niche/nerdy hobbies that are “not made for black people”. I think that notion is kind of made very clear on all parties within all parties. I think growing up as a kid and going to anime conventions, and just existing in like the cosplay space for so long, I was pretty used to hearing from both my non-white and white counterparts that I didn’t belong: there was always like a side eye, like to me being so into this thing that traditionally, black people are “not supposed to be into”, and it's not so like, dissimilar from my experience in LARP. 


There have been multiple occasions at multiple events, especially as a teenager here in Atlanta, like down south, where I have been the only woman or the only black person in a room full of white men, or like just white people in general. Both at actual events and online role play message boards, and I always felt really alienated. I started LARPing when I was 16. So I think as a teenager I felt really sad about that. It genuinely broke my heart and I felt like I was betraying the black community in a way because it's so spoken and unspoken in so many different ways that what you're doing, your interest in this weird thing called LARP is not acceptable. 


I think over the years, I can kind of read someone's kind of energy when it comes to my presence being in the room. Unfortunately enough, in the last like maybe two years or so, I've only been to events and games that kind of already have that standard of acceptance and that standard of “we're gonna make you feel comfortable” already set in place. It's definitely weird. As a kid, as a teenager it got really depressing and I was ostracized. But I think as an adult now, I can get a meter on someone’s reactions more easily. And I have the wonderful option of the delete and block button.


The Scribe: Oh God, yes. 


Victoria Alexandria: People on the internet will go in and give you all these reasons as to why you don't exist in this space. It’s a space that doesn't really exist in the first place. To me, it always goes back to like the Lord of the Rings argument or the little mermaid argument. It's like you're arguing against the validity of a person of color's existence in this space that isn't real to begin with. It's entirely imaginary. So people are bringing their own biases into this thing that is made for everyone.


The Scribe: Believe me, I understand. To give you an idea. I've been going to anime cons for a long time, and it was a real rude awakening to find out that this fan space that I always thought of as being for everyone and all-encompassing, could also have some of the worst human beings you've ever met who view they must place that gate between you and everyone else. They all are the ones who decide who enters and who leaves. It's bad. 


Victoria Alexandria: Yes. The overlap between the anime convention community and the LARP community is very strong <laugh>. I've been going to conventions since like 2013, I believe, and then people get so entitled <laugh> in these silly conventions. It's not that serious dude. <laugh>. 


The Scribe: Yeah. It's just, just crazy. And again, on the internet, thank God you have a block button. 


Victoria Alexandria: Yeah, it's, yeah, I, I use that block button pretty frequently. I am really grateful to have people in the LARP community who can relate to this. Having met so many other black and other minority people in the community, just having that of support system and allies makes it feel a lot better. It feels a lot less dehumanizing. <laugh> 


The Scribe: Well, that's what it comes down to when you're dealing with that kind of thing. They really do want to find an excuse to make whoever they're talking to be lesser. Now, in my case, I'm non-binary and firmly in the closet. I've got the bigot uncle on one side and a whole lack of legal protections as a government worker on the other. 

Victoria Alexandria: Yeah. Don't even get me started on me being a queer person and having that also in the pile of reasons why you don't deserve respect. People are awful sometimes. 


The Scribe: <laugh>. They’ve got you coming and going. That's awful.


Victoria Alexandria: <laugh>. 


The Scribe: So I guess my question then is, do you think things are improving? Do you think that the space has become less toxic over time? 


Victoria Alexandria: I think it's heading in the right direction for sure. I have noticed at least on the side of, as far as runners are concerned, I've noticed a lot more events and games that are popping up, at least in North America, are kind of owned and driven by queer, minority people of color. I noticed a kind of shift in their presence on social media and their kind of energy in their  website and what they tolerate and what they don't tolerate. The messaging and the wording in everything. I think that has definitely shifted over the years. I can remember back in 2016, 2017, before you even attended an event the energies that I was getting from the online presence of these games that were being run in my area. They were just black and white and very minimal effort when it came to the protections of the most vulnerable people in the communities. 

As a teenager, I didn't really understand the importance of it, but I think now having that comparison, I think the toxicity is becoming a lot less. I don't think it's as tolerated anymore, if that makes sense. I think because a lot of these games and events have their handle on cutting back and like making sure that minority players are represented and protected. The amount of toxicity within like message boards, or chat boards, or in advertising, has all changed. The tolerance for BS is dissipating. I think a lot of us are looking to each other and realizing that, you know, having the same kind of people create the same kinds of protections for these games is just going to keep creating the same kinds of problems. 


So, I think a lot more companies are being more mindful when it comes to, you know, hiring people of color or people to represent these groups that they want to protect. And in that, that kind of work, I think has been showing through and, and working in my perspective. Of course we have a long way to go. I want to compare it to the state of the United States. If you have the same people in charge, you're going to keep having the same types of problems over and over again. So, it's like, I feel like there's a collective mental shift kind of we're in the midst of. I think the toxicity levels are going down just a little bit. <laugh>. 


The Scribe: Well, I don't disagree with you. I mean, I don't like getting into politics too much on recording, but since we're here? Yeah. It does feel like there's a shift going on and it does feel a bit related.

(Editor’s Note: and I will discuss things on a recording if I know I have anonymity when it’s posted!)


Victoria Alexandria: <laugh>. Yeah. I think that it's going to take a lot longer and that it will take a lot more work for us to make this space what it really deserves to be. 


The Scribe: Hmm. 


Victoria Alexandria: I'm really enjoying these questions. <laugh>, these are so wonderful. 


The Scribe: Oh, thank you!


Victoria Alexandria: <laugh> 


The Scribe: I do worry about that sort of thing. 


Victoria Alexandria: Oh, no, I get it. 


The Scribe: So we got into some really heavy stuff there. It was good. It was really good. But additional questions do include, and I think you answered this, but since we're here: what is it that drew you to the LARP experience? Because I did notice what you did there. There is a great overlap between LARP and anime cons. Especially where it comes to cosplay and expressing yourself through other lenses. So what is it that drew you to LARP as an experience that you wanted? 


Victoria Alexandria: Ooh, okay. So earlier I was talking about  feeling ostracized and alienated in the LARP community. As a kid, I was bullied a lot because I was into these things and it was weird. When I'm in these communities or these spaces, I feel the bullying coming from both sides. Bullying saying that I shouldn't enjoy LARP or enjoy this, it ended up driving me to LARP more. As a teenager, it was: “you don't like this, but I'm still going to keep doing it.” And I think now being able to look back at that time as an adult, I realize that with LARP it's like you kind of have some form of control over your own existence and how other people perceive you. I think it's really interesting and really freeing to be able to explore parts of yourself that maybe you've never really got a chance to, or never really were allowed to for a lot of different reasons. 


So I think one of the things that drew me and has kept me within the community for so long, is that exploration of myself. But also the exploration of community and friendship. Not to get all cheesy, but I think having traveled around the US now, the amount of comradery and the amount of, “I got your back” kind of attitude that exists in the Philadelphia scene that I noticed was unbelievably heartwarming and refreshing. I think seeing that collective artistry of the community up there, as well as the, “if you want to go there, we can go there” kind of attitude, but, “when we go there, I'm going to make sure that we're going to be able to safely pull you out of that place” is there as well. 


I had never seen that before down south. I think escapism and friendship are the things that have kept me in the LARP community for so long. And I think now, I just really love digging into all the different avenues there are when it comes to creativity. I'm currently getting my degree in filmmaking and film marketing. And there's so much overlap between film departments, set design, costume design, or NPCing, and being an extra in a movie. Seeing the geekiness behind the creativity and the logistics of running and putting together an elaborate game has blown my mind. My answer would be education escapism and friendship has been keeping me stuck in this hobby for so long. 


The Scribe: <laugh>, I'm sorry, you teed this one up for me: was the real LARP the friends we made along the way? 


Victoria Alexandria: Ye-! 


The Scribe: <laugh> 


Victoria Alexandria: On, oh my God, you should put that on a T-shirt. I would totally buy it. <laugh>. 


The Scribe: Sorry, it was right there. I- 


Victoria Alexandria: Oh my God, we're so cheesy. 


The Scribe: But yeah, I might have to see about putting that on a T-shirt. Now <laugh>, 


Victoria Alexandria: The Power of Friendship saves All <laugh>. 


The Scribe: Well, I have two questions for you to round us out that I think really dovetail together. The first is, what was your favorite part of being in the Drachenfest, and what advice do you want to give to new Drachenfest US attendees? 


Victoria Alexandria: Oh, wow. I was honestly really hoping you were going to ask this. Oh my God, it's such a layered answer. Jesus. Okay, so sorry. <laugh>. I think attending Dragon Fest kind of opened up my eyes to so many other possibilities of what LARP is and like gave me so many new definitions and to what it's supposed to feel like. Attending the game, it was so freeing. Just be able to just exist casually or as sporadically or as chaotically or as intensely as I wanted to. 


And then having that freedom to just get up and just leave a scene that I didn't want to be a part of so casually like it was freeing. And there was just an overwhelming amount of support from everyone to get into the drama. But also during the down moments, I really loved the flexibility of Drachenfest. I loved the freedom to adventure, but also the freedom to just relax and have fun and sit out in the sun <laugh> like, oh my god, that rhymed <laugh>. And I think not only getting to know the players, I made a lot of amazing friends at Drachenfest because Drachenfest is so big. 


I made a lot more friends than I thought I was going to. Honestly, going to the origins event, I thought that I was just going to go and say hi to the people that I already knew and maybe a few new people. But now it's like, I saw people who I haven't seen in years and, and I made so many new connections, and I met new people that I can call dear friends now. I think that that was probably my favorite part of Drachenfest. Being able to just explore whatever it is that I was feeling that day and not feeling the pressure to kind of follow some prewritten thing. I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but I've been to other games where I feel like I have to be “on” all the time. I think being at Drachenfest gave me the freedom to just exist and enjoy the game without the pressure of who has the highest number of this or who did that. It was just very casual, but also not if you wanted it to not be casual. I really hope I'm making sense here <laugh>. 


The Scribe: No, no, I believe me, I get it. To give you an idea, my favorite part of the game was just being a wizard in the bazaar and just hanging out, chatting it up with people occasionally causing problems or solving them depending on how you feel. 

Victoria Alexandria: I loved just walking around the bazaar really early in the morning with my little Starbucks and Nitro coffee that I poured into my aesthetically pleasing cup <laugh>. I was just walking around and hearing like the birds chirping and all these casual conversations of people slowly waking up. And I loved that, it was really peaceful. I loved the calmness of it. It felt like the calm before the storm of all of the battles and everything. It was a nice reset from the previous chaos that might have ensued the night before. To answer your question about my advice to new Drachenfest attendees. Was it like advice or…


The Scribe: Uh, yeah, any advice? 


Victoria Alexandria: Okay, I do understand how nerve wracking it can be to attend something you've never attended before. But I will say that, hmm, that Drachenfest is very newcomer friendly and, and very welcoming with open arms, and nothing is too silly or too stupid to be asked. So, if there is something that you're just unsure about, you can always, reach out to Drachenfest because they really are that open and that [and] ready to make sure you have the best experience possible. I think the way the game is designed, it's really up to you what it is that you want to explore within the game. So, I think really sitting down and figuring out what kind of experience that you want to have. I think having that in mind will help you ease into the game. IT will definitely help you build your character and decide what it is that's going to drive them to do these things that you want to accomplish. 

So yeah, <laugh> 


The Scribe: Fantastic!

 


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