LARP is an acronym for live-action role-playing -- like Dungeons & amp; Dragons but acted out in real life -- and the documentary Darkon makes LARPing look like the most fun in the world. It's not that the documentary advocates the hobby -- it's sympathetic to its subject, like all good documentaries, but keeps its distance. Rather, Darkon scrutinizes a large group of people living in the Washington, D.C., area who get together on weekends to enact battles in the imaginary realm of Darkon. These gamers speak so well for their hobby that it's hard not to feel the fun they're having.
Directors Andrew Neel and Luke Meyer focus on two key figures in the Darkonian saga -- Kenyon Wells, the leader of the dominant power of the land, and Skip Lipman, a warrior who rallies the game's various factions into open rebellion. Both Wells and Lipman speak frankly about the real-world forces that prompt them to pick up swords and take out their frustrations in fantasy. Wells, who is a business executive during the work week, confesses that the leadership he undertakes in Darkon enables him to better play his day job's corporate game. Lipman, a stay-at-home dad with a perpetually disordered household, presents himself frankly as a tormented soul who is able to gain a handle on his failings by playing the game.
Quarrels and alliances in Darkon extend into the players' lives, and friendships are shown growing and decaying. But the documentary also reveals a sense of kinship that the game's players confess to missing in the real world. As the film's credits roll, the "people of the realm of Darkon" are thanked. Spanning the screen several times over, the list includes males, females, ethnic names and entire families of patronymics. It's a telling portrait of how a diverse community comes together, forged with ideals, imagination and a few well-swung swords. (Not Rated)