Live-action role-playing, or larping, can be just a nice way to spend a weekend. But especially in parts of Europe, it's also an educational tool — and that doesn't necessarily make it any less cool. On February 4th, a retired German destroyer will become the site of a five-day, 80-person larp based on Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica. In Projekt Exodus, the ship will be temporarily redubbed the Hesperios, a space freighter that picks up an escape pod and is — through events unknown to us — drawn into the war between human and Cylon.
If this sounds familiar, it's because Projekt Exodus is very similar to The Monitor Celestra, a highly successful 2013 larp set on a Swedish battleship. It's also supported by a significantly older BSG larping group called Twelve Colonies. The team behind Monitor Celestra at one point hoped to host another run in the US, but that seems to have never panned out, so this may be the closest we'll get to a successor in the short term.
Larping: the next step in ahistorical reenactments
Unlike Monitor Celestra, though, Projekt Exodus is explicitly educational. It's designed to "analyze the narrative structure" of Battlestar Galactica, and more specifically, to explore the political issues the show raised — questions about freedom, safety, and humanitarianism. By spending multiple days immersed in a character, playing out a fictional series of decisions, "the players will get to experience problems of our society from a complete new viewpoint," the organizers say. "They will be confronted with [a] new situation and impressions that will leave a lasting mark on their thinking." Besides the actual role-playing, the larp starts with a long workshop that helps players get into character, and it concludes with a day of analysis.
According to the organizers, it's being funded with money from the German Federal Agency for Civic Education. The agency is devoted to fostering political and media literacy; among other things, it's published comics, set up training program for local journalists, and funded international exchange programs. Other national governments have supported role-playing as an edifying activity as well; in Sweden, grants are available for larp and gaming hobbyist groups, and American historical reenactments can edge into larping territory.
Want to sign up for Projekt Exodus? Too bad — it's all sold out (and even if it weren't, you'd have to speak German to participate, locking out most of us here at The Verge.) But if you're near Wilhelmshaven on February 8th, you can visit the "Spaceship Doors Open Day," seeing the ship in full set dressing and with some of its space-faring crew members on board.