It hadn’t been a pretty night. I’d violated Elysium preventing an assassination, discovered the identity of the Spymaster (and nearly devoured him) and to cap it all off, there were was a swirl of rumors that perhaps the city’s newest arrival was the secret mistress of the Prince of Jerusalem.
I was in no mood to deal with the Seneschal.
I can still remember that night because it was mythical in its negativity. I left game feeling pissed off and drained. Some of that anger was particularly awkward out of game because not only was it bleed over, but the Seneschal was also one of my friends. Our game was full of actors, and like many of them, I had taken a few years of method acting. I had also promptly ported it over to my role-playing. I got nominated for exceptional role-play consistently, but it came at a cost. The thing method acting hadn’t taught me how to cope with was the slide back out of performance space. I was great at getting into a character, and I sucked at getting out of character.
I started participating in live-action role playing games when I was 15. Learning how to cope with that bleed of emotions from the game into my real life was hard, and learned mostly by trial and error. I was surprised when I began experimenting with leaving game at the end of the night was mostly about reversing the process I’d used to enter the game.
Taking Off The Mask
Most of my game clothes were things I’d wear to work or around town. I’d mixed and remixed outfits, added jewelry I’d rarely or never wear outside playing those characters, and carefully developed the ticks, likes and dislikes of my character during their creation and through the course of play. Leaving their headspace was a psychological (and physical) strip-tease. Jewelry was put away, layers of outfits were shed and makeup was scrubbed off hastily in the car after game was called. I played the opposite music on the way home that I’d driven into game listening to. If listening to Britney Spears meant I could leave behind the pain and suffering of a woman embraced in 1948, then I knew what I had to do. Jettisoning as much of the physical weight of playing my character as I could helped me get back to reality as quickly as possible, reversing the process I’d put such pain staking energy to at the start of the night. Putting the prop cards and character sheet away were one more way of psychologically undressing and compartmentalizing my character.
The Same Old War Stories
If I had the money, and was willing to be a zombie the next day at work, I’d duck into Afters. Once game had been called we’d spend a half hour debating which Denny’s we were going to based on who still wanted to go and how far away all of us lived. Having coffee and badly seasoned fries after game was an opportunity to debrief. If you had a boring night, you could vicariously enjoy your friends brave and/or incredibly stupid adventures over the chipped Formica table top. Though the experiences we’d all had were fictional, talking them out with each other helped us integrate our nights, separate out the feelings of our characters from our own, and have one more opportunity to share the story we’d just told. Once we’d put away the new/old stories, we’d talk about our jobs, spouses, and hobbies outside of game. Which admittedly, were usually other games.
Home Again, Home Again
Going home after game was the thing that helped the most with putting my character back in the box for the week. One shower, cup of tea and change into pajamas later, there was no trace of the bespectacled vampire I’d been playing that night. I was once again free to be a 20-something klutzy college student who had to work in the morning. Before bed I’d talk to friends over messenger about our plans for the week, my current grad school assignments and anything that had nothing to do with game. Emotionally and physically transitioning yourself out of game is important, especially with the kinesthetic and somatic elements live-action possesses. What you need to curtail excessive amounts of game bleeding into the everyday you is unique to you. Maybe you just need to sign out, peel off your name tag and go home to your cat. Don’t feel weird if your trip out of character only takes five minutes—or fifty. Have fun, relax, and enjoy being you till the next you’re not-you.
Have your own tips and tricks for easing out of character and back to the day-to-day? Feel free to share some in the comments section.