Playing to Experience Marginalization: Benefits and Drawbacks of ‘Dark Tourism’ in Larp


  • Diana J. Leonard
  • Jovo Janjetovic
  • Maximilian Usman



role-playing games, larp, marginalization, privilege, identity, perspective taking, empathy, stereotypes, dark tourism


Role-playing to experience marginalized lives impacts players and their communities for better and worse. Players may achieve greater empathy for marginalized people (Galinsky and Moskowitz 2000; Greitemeyer and Osswald 2010) or undergo meaningful psychological change via intentional and unconscious self-exploration (Bowman 2007). However, not all of these stories have a happily ever after. This article examines the ways in which such role-play as a marginalized character can also have unintended negative consequences. We relate this larp activity to the phenomenon of dark tourism, in which privileged individuals voluntarily enter disaster zones due to a mix of motives that include voyeurism and vicarious danger exposure, carrying with them a mixed bag of intentions and outcomes. This review aims to answer the following question: What are the positive and negative outcomes of role-playing as a marginalized character? We will explore individual and collective outcomes of this type of experiential learning and make recommendations for designers and players to better achieve desired positive outcomes and limit the negative ones. Our work draws on research from games studies, experimental psychology, pedagogical studies, and the emerging literature about the motivations and consequences of tourism that seeks to touch on pain, trauma, and even death (i.e., dark tourism).




How to Cite

Leonard, D. J., Janjetovic, J., & Usman, M. (2021). Playing to Experience Marginalization: Benefits and Drawbacks of ‘Dark Tourism’ in Larp. International Journal of Role-Playing, (11), 25–47.