Exploring self-discovery and empathy through LARP

by Mafalda Morganti


In the journey of human existence, there are two profound aspects that intertwine to shape our experiences: self-discovery and interpersonal relationships. Understanding yourself  is a quest that spans  over life. It involves unveiling the layers of conditioned beliefs, societal expectations, and personal biases to reveal the essence of your  true identity. As we embark on this inner journey, we uncover our values, passions, strengths, and vulnerabilities. This self-awareness becomes the foundation upon which we build our interactions with the world around us, especially in the realm of relationships.

In her book “Daring Greatly,” Brené Brown champions authenticity as the cornerstone of meaningful relationships. When you’re in touch with your true self, it’s like embracing vulnerability, which acts as a catalyst for genuine connections. Embracing your own vulnerabilities and struggles fosters empathy, allowing you to meet others where they are on their journey. In this shared space of vulnerability, relationships flourish and deepen.

Research on mindset theory highlights how embracing a growth mindset through self-exploration leads to an increased willingness to learn from others’ perspectives, which is essential for a community to thrive. At the same time, self-discovery also equips us with the vocabulary to communicate our thoughts, emotions, and needs effectively. When we are in touch with our own emotions and triggers, we can better express ourselves and understand others in a non-judgmental manner, reducing misunderstandings and conflicts.


While there are many roads towards  self-discovery, Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) stands out as a powerful tool that transcends traditional forms of self exploration. In a LARP setting, participants assume roles in a fictional world, embodying characters with distinct personalities, backgrounds, and motivations. You’re not just yourself, you are a  character in a story – a wizard apprentice in magical land, a member of a rock back in the 70s, a ruthless politician, a humble medieval peasant.

This immersive experience provides a safe space for individuals to explore aspects  of themselves that might be dormant or unexplored, like a playground for your inner selves and in this playground we can explore some of these facets:

  • Dare to be different: LARPing is like trying on different outfits, but with personalities. You can be the shy introvert who suddenly becomes the charismatic leader. It’s a safe way to confront your fears, test limits, and embrace qualities you might not express in your everyday life;
  • Power boost: Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” comes to life in LARP. Just as heroes embark on transformative quests, LARPing offers you a unique journey of self-discovery. By taking on roles that mirror archetypal characters, you journey inward and outward simultaneously, evolving as both the character and yourself;
  • Seeing the world through others: LARPing is about more than just you. It’s like a crash course in understanding different viewpoints. When you become a character with unique beliefs and experiences, you learn to empathise and respect diverse opinions in the real world too.
  • Feel all the feels: Life isn’t all rainbows and sunshine it rather resembles more a  rollercoaster of emotions. LARPing allows you to ride that roller coaster in a controlled environment, providing an outlet for emotional expression that might be restricted in conventional settings, allowing people to freely experience and express emotions, meaning  fostering emotional intelligence.

Teamwork makes the dream work: In LARP, it’s often all about teamwork and many LARP scenarios involve collaboration and problem-solving within a group. Whether you’re storming a castle or solving riddles, you learn to collaborate.These experiences strengthen teamwork, communication, and negotiation skills, which are directly transferable to real-life relationships.


With its unique ability to blend creativity and introspection, it is clear that  LARP can stand as a bridge between the realms of imagination and personal growth. By empowering people to sculpt their identities and cultivate relationships built on empathy, authenticity, and collaboration it can indeed emerge as a valuable resource in the youth workers’ toolkit.